Samuel Leetham and Saasha Burns are literally glowing. Despite the rain and cloudy day outside IFC Mall, the Australian social media powerhouses have evidently brought along their native land’s sunshine.
Dynamic social media duo and Saasha and Sammy are here in Lane Crawford to launch their amazing all vegan non GMO supplement line Bear. Catch our exclusive interview with the Australian influencers soon on STYLE. Photo #: @liyinglimmm
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Commanding a substantial following of wanderlusters on Instagram with her nomadic lifestyle, Burns is a familiar face on the fashion circuit. Not only does she run a popular style website of her own, Straat Stories, she also contributes to Vogue Australia. Her latest venture BEAR, a sexy line of essential daily vitamins she co-founded with her husband – partner in business and love – Samuel Leetham, has brought her to Lane Crawford, where the brand will be sold exclusively under the wellness umbrella.
Those who think the couple are mere pretty faces should think again – Leetham and Burns both show an impressive knowledge of nourishment and an awareness of environmental sustainability, all of which is reflected in BEAR products.
The BEAR brand uses essential daily vitamins that are formulated for different aspects of lifestyle – from Perform that contains B12 to enhance mental performance, Restore to rejuvenate with ginkgo and Vitamin K2, Explore with Vitamins C and E to combat oxidative stress, to Protect, which comes with Vitamin A and Echinacea for an immunity boost, BEAR is designed to be taken only once daily, and is formulated with completely vegan, GMO-free and organic ingredients.
“We have this philosophy of bringing the best of modern and traditional medicines. We are launching a new product soon that really started from the idea of waste,” reveals Leetham. “In Australia we waste 500 tonnes of bananas every month because they don’t fit the perfect size for supermarkets. So we are working with farmers to come up with a way to get nutrients from green bananas. We can’t wait to launch that.”
The brand has certifications for sources from suppliers across the world, including a globally certified organic farm on a Tibetan plateau and a family-run organic farm in Byron Bay, in New South Wales.
A post shared by Saasha Burns (@saasha_burns) on Jul 11, 2018 at 3:06am PDT
Tell us more about your story. Why do you think you needed to come up with a supplements brand in a market that is deemed oversaturated?
Leetham: Supplements happened for us organically. We were totally blown away by supplements as a category in the industry. We had an idea three years ago when Saasha and I were in the chemist, and it was like a tidal wave of brands. There are so many on display, and the brands had so many SKUs. We walked out of the chemist without getting anything. We were so overwhelmed, and at the same time underwhelmed, with what was on offer.
It got us thinking: why do we invest in good skincare brands like Byredo and Aesop, brands that we believe in for their quality and philosophy, when supplements come in plastic and the labels shout at you?
Burns: You always look for something that is on sale. It’s crazy how we can spend so much on skincare and high-quality products, but not so much on supplements.
SL: There was an imbalance. Initially it started as a question: could we create something high-quality, vegan, GMO-free and organic? Then we got excited. We believed we could do so much better. We then got together an amazing team of naturopaths, pharmacists, doctors and medical professionals in Australia, as well as a world view with professionals from Europe, absolute thought leaders to guide us on what were the best-quality ingredients.
A post shared by B E A R (@bear.ltd) on Jul 5, 2018 at 11:07pm PDT
Even today, people still don’t understand that you can have high-quality B12 and mediocre B12. Many people just see it and think, ah I can just take it.
SB: See, it’s exactly the same as skincare. You can buy a supermarket brand vitamin A, or a high-quality vitamin A.
Tell us more about BEAR’s journey.
SL: We spent two years reviewing thousands of ingredients. Once we’d found the ingredients we loved, we started talking to the farmers about harvesting them, and because we are going through a global sustainability certification called B Corporation, we asked the farmers about how they treat their employees. So we’re not only looking at the quality of the ingredients, but also how they run their businesses, and it was an amazing process that took two years to come up with these four formulas and uncover these traditional ways of doing things in this industry.
A post shared by Saasha Burns (@saasha_burns) on Jun 28, 2018 at 1:48am PDT
When you started BEAR, was there anything in mind that you thought must make a difference?
SL: Few things we disagree with, but the big one is multivitamins. We had the term. It’s traditionally split by gender. It’s entirely marketing. Men and women don’t need different foods. There is no scientific evidence to support this. So the first thing we did was to create a gender-neutral brand and product. Each of our products is built around a lifestyle.
Secondly, we also disagree with the tactic in this category called bulking. So in a multivitamin, it would usually say that this has 50 ingredients in it, but only one or two would be at what they would call a “therapeutic level”, where the ingredient is more readily absorbed by the body and can therefore provide more immediate benefits. If an ingredient is not at the therapeutic level, there is no science, data or trials to prove that it benefits you.
A post shared by B E A R (@bear.ltd) on Mar 20, 2018 at 11:09am PDT
SB: Sometimes there are so many ingredients in the supplement that you have to take two to three tablets two to three times a day to get any benefit out of it. How many of us could remember to do that?
SL: That’s why it was really important for us to create something that you just need to take once a day because we all lead busy lives and that’s when it becomes sustainable. We have a founding philosophy that says, “Habits change into character”. If you can do just one small thing a day which is an investment in your health and well-being, it does become who you are if you do it every day.
Let’s talk B12. There is an ongoing controversy about B12 supplements, whether they are activated or active when packaged in tablet form.
SL: When we were developing the B12 for Perform, so many times we had a B12 with Cyanocobalamin, and going through the data and research information, we felt underwhelmed by its quality. Most supplements on the market would have that form of B12. So we started working with another laboratory, and they had this brand new bio-available form called Methylcobalamin, and that was what we ended up going with because its bio-availability is 2:1. Anything with Methylcobalamin can be broken down and absorbed by the body within an hour. We love B12 because it’s so good for your cognitive abilities …
SB: It’s so good for your skin, too.
How do you think these supplements will resonate with the people who live in Hong Kong?
SL: We actually built Perform for that high-stakes, corporate work life, but I think it’s great for Hong Kong consumers. You all work harder than everyone else in the world. Even when you’re not awake you think about work! Perform is built for that person, really supporting their cognitive abilities, helping with mild stress and anxiety, and helping you go to sleep better, as well as helping with eye health.
A post shared by B E A R (@bear.ltd) on Jul 14, 2018 at 10:42pm PDT
SB: Think about how simple it is to take a tablet a day with a glass of water. It’s not like going to the gym to work out on the treadmill for hours. It’s nothing extreme like that. I think taking supplements is part of a broader holistic strategy for your health. If you are investing in your health, this is something small you can do each and every day, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. It is a lifestyle and being more aware of making healthy choices in your life.
SL: Wellness, more broadly for us, has always been about physical health. I think everyone wants to achieve that, but you also want mental, spiritual and social health. All of those elements – that’s what wellness is. Sometimes for us, having dinner with our friends and family can be as good for our health as a couple of hours in the gym. I think that’s how we’re trying to bring the BEAR lifestyle to Hong Kong, and really encourage people to build up their health positively and not have a negative relationship with it. As soon as you think of going to the gym every day, you don’t want to do it. Having positive relationships with different elements of their health and well-being will make it sustainable for people. That is certainly the BEAR lifestyle.
SB: Yes, exactly. Switching off. We have definitely experienced burnout, and when we do get a break – for example, Christmas – we fall sick and become run down. It’s about creating a balance and a healthy lifestyle, and supporting your health throughout the years by starting from a young age so that you don’t have all these health problems later on in life.
I’m sure your followers and our readers would be curious about what your personal lifestyle is like. Have you always been conscious about health?
SB: We’ve always lived a healthy lifestyle, lots of team sports and being outdoors. Naturally, in Australia, we get the endorphins from sports and exercise. As we get older, we get less time to invest in our health, but I think it’s really important that we do.
SL: I think we were talking recently, that it was only in the last year that we really committed to presence. If we’re working, we’re just working; if we’re not, then we try not to think about work.
SB: It’s very hard.
A post shared by SAMMY 〰 (@sammy_leetham) on Jun 10, 2018 at 10:16pm PDT
SL: It’s very hard but presence is as much wellness in this day and age as never before because if you can compartmentalise your life, you can be more fulfilled, more engaged and much happier. So that’s what we are focused on, and not feeling guilty when we are relaxing.
I think it’s important not to compare our lives. Sometimes it is incredibly productive to be on our phones all the time – we are constantly learning and are able to connect to people from around the world – but we are also able to see other people’s lives, and are subsequently comparing our own to theirs. It is really hard that some people think that we are always on holiday, but what we put on social media is only one part of our lives. That’s what we do to inspire people to get out of their own culture and explore the world.