MILAN – Wa:it, the brainchild of engineer-turned-beauty-entrepreneur Raffaella Grisa, has launched in the US
The pure Italian beauty label with a Japanese ethos has expanded the market physically and online by establishing a warehouse and logistics centre, joining the likes of Sommet Beauty in New York and design retailers such as Hello Again Décor in Miami, as well as launching a dedicated e-commerce platform tailored to serve American customers.
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The expansion was nearly a year in, said the founder, who addressed requests she received from distributors and department stores over the past 12 months. “But it didn’t feel like the right way to approach the market for us: this brand needs to be understood first,” Grisa said.
Launched in 2020, Wa: blends Italian and Japanese cultures into a concise but holistic ritual, which includes natural skin care products, fragrances and incense. In addition to high-performance, multi-functional and sustainable products for all ages and genders, Grisa aims to share a philosophy rooted in the importance of self-care and appreciation of the present moment, having experienced the need to embrace with “slower life” exactly.
For this reason, Grisa’s strategy in the United States is to rely more on Spas where customers can participate in the ritual and beauty protocol that she fine-tuned with expert facialists, as well as choose distributed across fitness studios and concept stores.
“I want to promote the message of the brand as a whole. It’s not just about fragrances or skin care but the whole concept of wellness,” Grisa said, hoping for clean beauty stores or locations that match the brand’s ethos.
For example, in Milan Wa:he managed to find a place at the hip Japanese concept store Tenoha, which rarely shows labels that were not imported from the country. “It’s great for positioning, adding to the brand’s perceived authenticity,” Grisa said. Japan is also the first market for sales generated by Wa:it’s e-commerce, with the founder looking to implement brick-and-mortar distribution in the country in the next two years.
In addition to Europe, the brand is also available in Australia, where it counts 45 doors between Melbourne and Sidney. “We launched during the pandemic and our distributors found it on Instagram and its philosophy and history were interesting,” said Grisa, noting that only a handful of the entire units were perfumed, instead choosing fashion or concept stores.
Another key market is Taiwan, thanks to the partnership with Hearth, which has 10 stores — six of which were opened last year — and whose goal is to reach 40 locations in the medium term.
“Wa: it’s about a wellness journey that started with perfume, because I believe in the healing power of smell. For 20 years I couldn’t use any because of allergies or migraines and then I found the right one,” said Grisa, recalling the moment she entered an herbal shop in Bologna to perfume a fig to find. A year later she met the nose and cosmetologist behind her, Angela Laganà, who is now in charge of the team that creates Wa:it’s formulas.
But this discovery plays only a small part in the great hospital that Grisa had. After graduating in engineering in Turin, she built a career as a consultant for Italian companies that exported goods mainly to the Far East. During a trip in China in the early 2010s, she saw the countryside covered in black plastic bags and had a nightmare of imaging the whole world facing the same fate. This encouraged her to adopt a sustainable lifestyle in her personal life, which was increasingly at odds with the one she was leading professionally.
“I wanted to live sustainably but at a pace and style that was the opposite,” she said. In 2018, a visit to a Meiji temple in Tokyo convinced Grisa to turn her life around at nearly 50 years of age, quit her job and embrace a slower lifestyle.
“Everything I’ve done before was integral to this venture,” Grisa said, citing the contacts made in Japan and the discovery of local raw materials that form the basis of all Wa:it products, such as yuzu, Tsubaki , perilla — known as Japanese mint — and rice bran, among others.
Coming in sustainable packaging and priced between $35 and $175, the items include the Ante scrub; the Ofuro thick cleansing balm; the B-Soffice moisturizing butter, and the Omni multipurpose oil for cell regeneration, as well as the Hito and Haru fragrances. Made in Awaji lsland with all natural Italian ingredients, instead, Wa:wakes up target morning or evening moments with a mood-boosting and calming scent, respectively.
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