Conscious Luxury from ruupaSunday, May 16, 2021
Island Magnolia boutique located at Harmony Hall, St Mary, is the go-to retail destination by those in the know for all things fab, haute and necessary. Little surprise then that it's where the Style Observer (SO) happens upon ruupa's Blacktie candle collection. The reed diffuser becomes our first purchase and after a four-day lockdown in the mountains it's safe to say that it became a mutual seduction. We've not looked back save to procure more and, well, the back story.
“This partnership of female-owned businesses happened very organically. Meiling introduced me to the intelligent, sophisticated and ever-stylish duo of Suzanne and Michelle Rousseau, who asked us to supply their beautiful Island Magnolia boutique at Harmony Hall, St Mary, Jamaica, with some of our products. Island Magnolia carries our Blacktie candle collection, our Noir and Blanc diffusers, and our Toile and Hotel collections. This was a tremendous opportunity which certainly helped us evolve as a regional supplier.”
— Narissa Lall, founder
Trinbagonian Narissa Lall is the founder of ruupa Candles and is delighted that we're loving her products. The surprise is her medical imaging technologist background in radiography and sonography. “It's a career that led me to professional stints in different parts of the world — including the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, and the British Virgin Islands — before I returned to Trinidad to assist with the operations and management of my family's manufacturing business (a foam and mattress production and distribution company),” she informs.
Lall comes from a three-generation-strong legacy of entrepreneurship, and while the family business was exciting work, she soon found herself longing for a creative outlet, and branched off to start a business of her own. “I used my childhood memories and experiences of my travels to be the inspiration for my products,” she said.
In 2012, the idea of ruupa was birthed and with it the first five candles were launched. She eventually increased her soy blended candle offerings from five to 18 scents, and was able to secure a few hospitality accounts that she's retained to this day.
“In 2017, I officially opened ruupa's Candle + Fragrance Boutique on Port of Spain's popular Ariapita Avenue, and extended the Home Fragrance collection to include reed diffusers and linen sprays. Within months, the brand launched its first Bath + Body collection of soaps and lotions, including body oils, body mists and bath bombs, in 12 distinctive scents that reflect our rich West Indian heritage, while incorporating interesting notes from global influences. The combination of science and art, with good, old-fashioned hand pouring, mixing and filling, is something that drove me to define and strengthen my business even more. For me, it is important to ensure that this Caribbean-born and-bred brand remains innovative, challenges the status quo, and is of a standard and quality that can hold its own with similar international mid- to high-end products,” Lall shared.
In 2019, to make the operations more efficient and cohesive, she relocated ruupa's Candle + Fragrance Boutique to Macoya, where the vertically integrated lab and production facility is based. By the time COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, the brand had to quickly adapt in order to respond to customers' changing needs, purchasing patterns and product preferences. Lall was ready!
“I added two new collections to our portfolio, one of which is our soothing boti-kar-i Aromatherapy Collection. It was important for me to create an exclusive line of fragrances dedicated to helping and supporting us all through these challenging times. The line also provided an opportunity for two amazing collaborations — the first with the iconic Trinidadian fashion designer Meiling, whose loungewear is exclusively available at our boutique, and the second with a local cocoa farmer, offering a divine cocoa wine under our label Santé,” she noted.
In the spirit of entrepreneurship and collaboration, these new collections would become the backbone of things that were to come that year. “By the time the 2020 Christmas season rolled around, a new concept of conscious luxury emerged, as these partnerships allowed us to offer customers a full experience of conscious and intentional choices — scents to create moods and mark special moments, no matter what the occasion,” Lall shared.
More would follow.
In addition to Meiling, ruupa has partnered with local ceramicist Vanessa Dalla Costa to extend the Home Fragrance collection by offering decorative tiles with scented oils, for home or on the go. There's also a collab with another family business, Smaks, which offers local bespoke teas — a lovely addition to the lifestyle brand. The Home Fragrance collection allows users to transform their living space into a sanctuary. Local designed cotton loungewear, coupled with a wide range of comfortable mattresses, pillows and accessories, afford a close harmonic connection — all available at the BedQuarters showroom in Macoya. It's all about designing your lifestyle; custom-creating what suits you best.
ruupa products are available in-store, online at myruupa.com and at select stockists, including BedQuarters and Spa Essencia at the Hyatt hotel in Port of Spain.
When asked by the Style Observer to describe her clientele Lall opines that they are people who purposefully choose the luxury of quality products. They are grounded, conscious, ambitious people who understand that success is tied to self-care, love, and trying every day to maintain mental well-being and a calm state of mind.
Keeping up to date with the industry is key to success.
Introducing products to the Caribbean and launching them in different regional territories offer a fantastic learning curve. Styles, preferences and purchasing power are just a few of the components that affect how customers see and select us as a West Indian branding and/or a luxury product. The greatest lessons I've learnt being in this business are:
• Do what you do well;
• Be flexible enough to allow your business to evolve along with your customers;
• Ask for help;
• Embrace competition because it affords you a healthy perspective; and
• Support your industry and other local/regional businesses by buying from them.
Lessons from the pandemic
Now more than ever, the role of products that have the ability to tap into people's emotions and well-being is important. Mental health can be positively impacted by the sense of smell. Business tycoon Warren Buffet once said that when the world is running away because the market is crashing, he is running towards it — meaning that opportunity, even in the smallest form, can be created when times are hard.
For a very long time, many in our region have looked outside our own borders when deciding where to shop/spend money, choose suppliers, or opt for quality products that offer value for money. One observation I've made since the pandemic hit is that, as manufacturers and entrepreneurs, we were faced with the challenge — and the opportunity — to supply in greater quantities, supply on time and supply to a high standard. The lessons of adaptability and seizing opportunity were critical in the height of the pandemic, and I'm really pleased to say that at ruupa, we did just that! We achieved so much in such a short space of time under the duress of the pandemic, and we continue to survive. I think it's fair to say that out of struggles, we rose!
Another great lesson learned was that we need to stand together as small businesses, and as a community of manufacturers in general, sharing advice with one another, improving our offerings, implementing trade and payment services, and finding innovative ways in which to present ourselves on the world stage.
ruupa Candle + Fragrance Boutique
Address: Western Industrial Estate, Lot #5
Trinidad, West Indies
Telephone: 868-663-4000 or 868-620-6560
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