Soap is not just soap anymore. It has become an experience, a luxury item, coveted for various healing ingredients and the most sought after scents. Yet it still remains one of the most affordable products in skin care. Long gone are the low sud, skin stripping properties. They have been replaced with a variety as long as your imagination allows. Soaps to brighten skin, exfoliate, hydrate, treat blemishes, soothe irritation, leave a shimmer and the list goes on.
Vilia Soap has been a labour of love for its creator Staci Hamalis. Born and raised in Michigan, USA she met her Greek husband while working for the same company in 2010. Although based in different countries at the time, they fell in love and were able to live together in various European cities.
Travelling to Kavala every Easter, summer, November (to help pick olives and make tsipouro) and Christmas, Staci also fell head over heels in love with Greece and its traditions, culture, lifestyle and people. Her experiences led to the creation of Vilia Soap, 100% natural, effective and handmade soaps which use 100% Extra Virgin olive oil as the base, coupled with a variety of beneficial ingredients including lavender, chamomile and tea tree.
Greek City Times recently had a chat to Staci about falling in love with Greece, finding inspiration in the abundant herbs and plants on offer, her luxurious body products and Vilia Soap’s commitment to charity.
In 2015, we decided to move to Kavala and stayed there for 2 years, (we are now back in Chicago- the city where we met!) With my husband’s business, he was able to work anywhere and we had been talking about the idea of Vilia Soap for a couple of years. The consulting life took me away from home due to a lot of travel and we wanted to move away from that lifestyle, especially since we were getting married. So, we decided to take the leap of faith and move to Greece and start Vilia Soap in 2015. After our US wedding, we moved to Kavala and had our traditional Greek Orthodox wedding!
I really enjoyed our time there learning about the Greek culture and really being submerged into the everyday Greek life – like going to the fourno (local bakery) for my fresh bread and tiropitakia (cheese pies) and going to get fresh fruits and veggies at our local laiki (farmer’s market). I enjoyed learning about all of the customs and traditions (especially those around Easter – which has now become one of my favorite holidays). I am still attempting to learn the language and did pick up some words while living there. I also met some amazing Greek friends that welcomed me into their town and they have become some of my best friends.
Tell us the story behind Vilia Soap?
During one of our trips in 2012, my father-in-law, who is a retired chemist, taught me how to make my first batch of soap, using the olive oil from the family trees. In 2015, I saw a gap in the market with the increasing demand for natural bath & body products and I left my global consulting career to start Vilia Soap. I loved the effectiveness of olive oil for the skin and I love that Greece is so inspiring with all of the natural herbs and plants so I wanted to share my experiences through my products!
The word ‘Vilia’ is from the Greek word ‘voukamvilia’ – the famous flower in Greece. While vacating in the Cyclades I came to know this beautiful flower and how it could decorate an entire street or building. Our signature packaging includes the voukamvilia flower which was illustrated by one of my amazing friends, Antonia Kaplani, a local Kavala artist, exclusive for our products!
Tell us about the Vilia Soap range?
Currently, we have 9 different types of soap that target all skin types and skin conditions (i.e. dry skin, acne, oily skin, rosacea, eczema, etc.) I currently make all of the soaps using 100% Extra Virgin Greek olive oil, imported by a local Chicago family (Spartan Valley Olive Oil). The soaps are 100% natural, effective, and handmade in Chicago, using the traditional cold-process method. I use the family soap recipe that my father-in-law uses as a base, but have put my own twist on each scent to target each skin type, using inspiration from ancient Greek traditions and herbs, flowers, and fruit that can be found in Greece.
In September we also launched body oil, body balm (my spin on the traditional keralifi), and candles. When living in Greece, I came across different types of balms. The traditional keralifi is made with local olive oil, beeswax, and st. john’s wort oil. Keralifi is a staple in the Greek homes and seriously magic in a jar. There is a reason it works! Each product has two scents that are Greek-inspired, like the Fig & Vanilla and the Jasmine & Lily. There’s also a Mint & Vanilla lip balm which has been very popular due to its nourishing properties.
What is the best thing about your products?
That they are safe and effective. They are not filled with chemicals and they go back to basics with traditional ingredients that actually work and they smell lovely of course.
What influences and inspires you?
I am influenced by traditional Greek apothecary and the natural plants and herbs in Greece. The scents like lavender, geranium, and rosemary inspired by soaps. One weekend my father-in-law taught me how to distill wild chamomile that he picked in the mountains- it is inspiring to be able to do that! I am inspired by ancient traditions, for example, clays were often used for bathing and charcoal was used in medicine. I love taking ingredients like these and using it in modern products today. Most of all my customers inspire me and keep me going! I have so many customers tell me that my Activated Charcoal & Tea Tree soap has cleared up their acne and my Geranium & Pink Clay soap has helped with their dry skin. I love when I hear that the Lavender & Oatmeal works for their children’s dry skin. This inspires me to move forward creating natural products that are effective. I love that my products all tell a Greek story – I really want others to experience Greece as I have.
When I founded the company, it was important for me to give back. After learning that there are 663 million people in the world (twice the population of the United States) that are still drinking dirty water, I knew I wanted to support clean water projects. A portion of our annual profits are donated to Charity: Water. You can learn more about our charity here- viliasoap.com/charity/ Knowing that the sale of each product can help, it inspires me to keep going!
Where can people purchase Vilia Soap products?
Our products are available on our website viliasoap.com and we ship all over the world. You can also find our products in various stockists in Greece and the US.