Gorgeous locks frame the lovely face of Ann Wikström Mogliani, the queen of vegan hair products.
Against all odds Maria Nila’s founder turned her life around twice.
– I lost everything when my husband was swept away by the tsunami in Thailand, says Ann, now an exhibiting artist in Palma de Mallorca.
For many years Ann Wikström Mogliani led a hair and beauty care company in the south of Sweden. Today her company Maria Nila makes vegan,sustainable and cruelty free beauty products in a 4500 square meter hub.
The popular salon products are manufactured beneath a roof covered by solar panels. The factory has circular air condensation equipment, which saves a great deal of the invested resources. Every hour 5000 vegan hair and beauty units are manufactured there, generating less energy and emissions per produced unit than ever before.
The state of the art facility is a testimony to the strength and dedication of Ann Wikström Mogliani, who faced many hurdles to achieve the goal she and her husband Ulf set together. Their story began in Poland in the late 1980’s. The couple worked there together for four years, before they returned to the south of Sweden to establish their company in 1990.
– In the 80’s people were getting perms, and after that things really changed, says Ann.
– Suddenly people wanted lots of hairspray and wax in the 90’s. My husband Ulf and I wanted to create a clean brand. We were inspired by my mother’s paternal grandmother, who came from the north of Sweden. She belonged to the ingenous ”same” tribe in Lapland.
Trip to Thailand
”The mountain lady” – Maria Nila – gave Ann’s and Ulf’s company its name.
– We wanted to focus on a brand for people with a healthy lifestyle.By 2004 we had around 50 employees. My husband Ulf was the CEO, and I was in charge of economy and marketing.
The hard working couple needed a holiday and decided to go to Thailand. They went when the tsunami changed the lives of thousands of people in 2004. Among them was Ann. Ulf Wikström was not to be found, and eventually Ann had to return to Sweden. She remembers making a firm decision.
– I wanted to concentrate my life on what my husband and I had built together, she says.
– This sense of creating a routine saved me. I spoke to the factory staff and went to the office every single day. I let everyone know that I wanted to work really hard to make sure we met our corporate goals. The staff was amazing! I think that is why we managed to survive as an enterprise.
There were more challenges ahead, among them a big fire and a financial crisis, but in 2010, after Ann had taken over as the CEO of the company, things started changing for the better.
Maria Nila’s manufacturing began to soar, and by 2014 the company’s development had become a gigantic success.
– We became one of Sweden’s main brands for hair and beauty products at salons, and our market was growing in the US and in Asia too, says Ann.
Good business skills seem to run in the family. Ann’s son Marcus came back from his university studies with a lot of ambition.
– It was pretty obvious how good he was straight away, says Ann.
– Little by little I noticed that he needed space to develop as a businessman, and I began to wonder what I might want to do with the rest of my life. I had planned on going to Art School when I was young, but when I was 17 I had my daughter Marlene, and my artist plans were put on hold.
– All those years later I suddenly I felt I wanted the artistic part of my life back again – and in 2016 my son was ready to step into my shoes and become an amazing CEO at Maria Nila. To me it is a miracle that so much grief could turn into success.
Ann’s dream was to go to a warm place and settle down and become a full time artist.
– When I came to Mallorca I felt ”This is it!” There was no doubt at all in my mind. When I found my house I loved that it was in the old town and that it had a courtyard garden.
Ann bought part of an old townhouse in Palma.and managed to convince her neighbours to sell their apartments to her. Today she owns the building.The ground floor is looking stunning with its unusual creations in stone and wood, such as a very artistic table.
Tell us about the tree table!
– There wasn’t enough room for a large dining table in the courtyard unless we removed the tree, and I didn’t want to do that, says Ann.
– Now they coexist nicely, and the tree seems to live in symbiosis with the table, and there is enough space to have guests at the table too.
A small but lovely bar and a powerful wooden bench adorn the courtyard. At night the atmosphere is magical when all the ambient lights are on. In this creative environment, Ann has made a studio for herself, where she gives birth to bold and beautiful paintings and sculptures. Next door to her work space, a garage is being turned into a gallery. She paints figurative works of art with oils on canvas, and uses many different techniques.
– I have studied Toulouse Lautrec, Dali and Picasso, say Ann.
– Now I have come full circle, and am able to indulge in art, my earliest passion, and have changed my life around for the third time. I was lucky to meet a lovely sculptor friend, María Isabel Ballester, and we are very closely connected artistically. At the moment I am painting some of her wonderful sculptures.
Before the new gallery is ready, Ann’s paintings, one has a touch of Degas, another a hint of Gaugin, are being shown at María Isabel’s stylish gallery in Calatrava 1. Soon the two artists will be launching a project where the sales of their artwork will be donated to a mountain village in Morocco in need of a drinking water system. They will be travelling there to see the pump launched in a hole in the ground that has already been drilled.
Strength – better than money
– At María Isabel’s gallery I am currently showing the painting of Maria Nila, says Ann.
– My mother’s paternal grandmother, who took care of her reindeer in the mountains of Lapland, has been such an inspiration. Another artist friend and I painted her together.
The 1,2 metre tall portrait of Maria Nila’s wrinkled face is fabulous. The mountain lady’s face looks both striking and wise. In many ways Ann Wikström looks just like a smooth skinned version of herself.
– I like to think I have inherited some of Maria Nila’s strength, says Ann.
– I never thought further than one day at a time in hard times, and that worked for me during my most challenging moments. Strength is so much more important than money.
Ann has some important advice to others who have been hit by great grief.
– Live in the moment, she says.
– Don’t let your age stop you from fulfilling your dreams. I honestly don’t believe in saving up pension money for ”later”. Use the money while it makes you happy. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and not to be afraid. I love painting in Mallorca! My daughter and son bring my grandchildren to see me in the summertime. That, to me, is bliss …
Text: Charlotte von Proschwitz.
Photo: Thomas Engström.