Red Flower founder Yael Alkalay’s experience with the power of scent is firsthand: She started her natural, luxury beauty business in 1999 after she recovered from a stroke. She remembers the sudden sensory burst of mint shampoo in her hair as the catalyst that started her on the trajectory back to health.
From their soothing storefront in Soho to the many spas and hotels around the country where you can find their botanically-based candles and bath products, Red Flower aims to offer a therapeutic approach to beauty, combining traditional aromatherapy and holistic health practices. “Red Flower answers the universal need to decompress and relax,” says Alkalay. “It’s a moment taken to reconnect and restore.” Her approach to both business and life focuses on positivity, a change from the status quo that’s just as a refreshing as a tour through the Red Flower store, sniffing everything in sight.
How do you deal with the constant sense of urgency that comes with being an entrepreneur?
I care deeply about every issue that comes my way. Learning how to prioritize is a necessary management skill. But I believe urgency is a self-induced pressure—real solutions come from a calm frame of mind. So I really try to bring a calm, grounded, and balanced perspective to running a company. Red Flower was created to address the very issues of stress and anxiety so I trust in the positive impact of lighting a candle and taking a moment to breathe and focus.
How have you grown personally and as an entrepreneur as you’ve grown your business?
I have always taken the long view, recognizing that to shift habits, push bigger ideals forward, and offer a product of devotionally high quality takes time and dedication. Being strategic, especially in the beauty business environment where independent companies are rare, is essential. But equally important is to be open, flexible, and to really listen. This comes naturally to me but has really taken on more value.
Really when you run your own company it’s like that—personal qualities and leadership qualities intertwine. Being a mother made me a better CEO and being a CEO in turn has required me to get out of my realm of comfort in so many areas. I strive in both to bring my whole, best self and give everything I can. And through this I have come to trust that my leadership is grounded in the very things that matter most to every constituent (shareholders, customers, team): transparency, fairness, perseverance, clarity, respect, insight, vision, belief, creativity. Everyone needs encouragement and a commitment to a higher purpose.
How do you leverage your influence and leadership to create a wider movement of change?
I believe that the daily decisions made at Red Flower culminate in a force for positive change. Everything from how we source ingredients and microbatch products to the respect and engagement we give every customer interaction fosters a deeper connection to the environment, the self, and the beauty that surrounds us.
Tell us a little bit more about the stories of the two brands in the trunk show.
Both of these brands are owned by women and focus on making ethical luxury goods. It’s important to us to partner with businesses that share our emphasis of natural inspiration and sustainable production.
Moyadi, founded by Barbara Fuchs and Nancy Shalala, will be showing in the U.S. for the first time. Moyadi’s collection of lotus scarves and stoles takes inspiration from the singular beauty of the lotus flower itself. Skilled Myanmar artisans weave pure lotus thread with fine silk on traditional handlooms: A single stole requires an estimated 10,000 stems of lotus. Lotus fabric production is clean, natural, and renewable—values embraced by Red Flower.
JLEW Bags, founded by Jamie Lewis, makes bags here in New York with an underlying mission to empower women. You’ll identify the collection through its clean lines, exquisite quality, unique functionality, and bold shapes, sizes, and colors. All of the bags are made by hand at a small factory in Brooklyn.
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