For any entrepreneur, launching a brand from the ground up is an incredible achievement. However, creating a brand that can stand the test of time is something that only a few are able to do.
Raymond Cloosterman, the founder of Rituals, is one of those few.
After forging a successful career in the beauty industry at Unilever up until 2000, Cloosterman felt there was something missing in the space. “I got an idea to start my own lifestyle brand with a completely new perspective on beauty,” he tells Emirates Woman.
This is when Rituals Cosmetics was born 21 years ago, to change the mundane every day and inject more meaningful moments into people’s lives.
How did Cloosterman and Rituals do this? By reinventing the ordinary products everyone uses every day, be it shaving cream, shower gel and more, to transform them into something special.
Over two decades on, Rituals continues to enhance the everyday routine of its customers with its full range of products including body care, skincare, perfume, at home and more.
To mark its 21-year milestone, Rituals recently relaunched its extensive range of At Home products. All six of Rituals’ classic fragrances, including the Ritual of Sakura and to the Ritual of Hammam, have been revamped and are now available in a new ribbed glass design.
“We’re proud of the sustainable improvements of the Home Collection next to the marvellous redesign it has undergone,” Cloosterman explains.
“These improvements include the introduction of all-glass fragrance sticks bottles, making them fully recyclable and our refill bottles are now completely transparent. Next to the fact that this reduces coating, it also makes it easier to recycle the bottle with the right glass colour. Next to making visible improvements, there are also lots that won’t be detected right away.”
To delve more into the history of the Rituals brand, which spans over two decades, Emirates Woman sat down with the founder of Rituals Cosmetics founder. He not only revealed the ins and outs of what his journey has been to create a global brand loved by so many, but also what the future holds for Rituals.
Can you talk us through your career thus far? How did you find yourself stepping into the beauty industry?
In early 2000 I was travelling the world for Unilever searching for new insights to strengthen our presence within the beauty industry. After 10 years of operational jobs, running companies, this was a journey of discovery. Meeting various trend gurus worldwide, shopping in cities all over the world, talking to perfume houses and other inspiring people. During that journey, I got the idea to start my own lifestyle brand with a completely new perspective on beauty. That’s where I decided to resign and start Rituals Cosmetics. A brand anchored around the idea to change every day routines into more meaningful moments. Based on the insight that we are living life more and more on automatic pilot and people have forgotten to enjoy little things in life. That is basically where Rituals Cosmetics wants to make a change. In 2000 we founded the brand with one store in Amsterdam. Together with a creative team of professionals from around the world, including an anthropologist and leading perfumers from Paris, I started my mission to transform ordinary products like shower gels, shaving foams and home products into a unique experience, inspired by the wisdom and ancient practices from Asia. Today we have over 850 stand-alone stores and we are the fastest growing beauty brand in Europe.
What was the inspiration behind launching Rituals?
As previously mentioned, people all over the world live their lives at high speed and do things on the automatic pilot, so I was looking for a way to change that. I believed and still believe that this can be achieved by turning everyday routines into meaningful moments. In practice, this meant that I wanted to reinvent ordinary products, such as shower gel and shaving cream, and transform them into something special. I had been working in this business for 15 years and starting for myself was the only possibility to change things and do it completely differently. I decided to take a step back to look around and find inspiration all over the world. I then realized that in the Western world we are always striving for innovation and renewal without looking back at all the wisdom the past has brought forth. Different ancient traditions for example cherish and honour these pearls of wisdom by keeping them alive. It was then that I understood that I had found my niche.
Last year, you celebrated 20 years of the brand. How have things evolved since you launched in 2000?
It has not always been easy, but it is great to work with an international team of top talents full of passion for the growth of our beautiful company. We have grown very quickly from a small company in Amsterdam with 3 people to an international company operating in 33 countries with almost 1000 shops.
We have had the opportunity to experience an amazing journey with the company over the past 20 years – from opening the first shop on Kalverstraat in Amsterdam to opening the most beautiful shop in Kuwait last week.
The first few years were a wonderful but challenging start, even with all the excitement and uncertainty. We always believed the idea was strong enough to make it but customers needed to understand and find us From the tough years when we were busy proving that the idea really worked (and every year the question arose: will we make it to Christmas again?) to the success period as of 2008, after which we grew really fast. From then on, a lot of things happened naturally, people fell in love with our brand and we got traction in many countries. I’ve always been grateful to work with friends on a dream of our own.
When I look back now, we had a lot of fun working all those years. I was just as happy during the first few years as I am now because it is a thrill to experience such an adventure with this beautiful team of people, with all its ups and downs. The crisis in 2008 and 2020 have not changed that. The economic crisis played right into our hands with our luxury concept at affordable prices. This crisis in 2020 has only made us stronger.
2020 certainly did not go as planned. 2020 was to be a year full of highlights for Rituals: one billion euro turnover, more than one thousand shops, the twentieth anniversary and the opening of our first world’s largest flagship store. At the beginning of March 2020, I was still happily saying that it would be a fantastic year and two weeks later we were on another planet. We had to make major adjustments and really get back into business and develop/discover new business models. We had to go back to the basics. It has brought us very close together as a team and the company is fundamentally even stronger.
Due to the pandemic, there’s been a large shift in an emphasis on the home. Did you notice this in your customers purchasing habits?
In times like this, work-life balance is more important than ever. We want to change a house into a home, and we want to pamper ourselves. It’s all about rediscovering the magic in the every day, and Rituals is at the heart of this, with our philosophy centred on changing everyday routines into small meaningful moments. In that sense, Covid has strengthened the popularity of our brand and our products, and it’s clear in our results.
The demand for luxury home care products, including candles and fragrance sticks has grown, and the need to create an ambience to change a house into a home is more relevant than ever. By offering our beautiful fragrances in products for the home, created by the best perfumers in the world, has been pivotal to keep up with this demand.
You recently relaunched Rituals new and improved Classic Home Collections. Can you talk us through the revamped collection?
The extensive range of exclusive Home products relaunched this September. From the Ritual of Sakura, to the Ritual of Hammam, all your six favourite classic fragrances are available in this stunning new ribbed glass design. We’re proud of the sustainable improvements of the Home Collection next to the marvellous redesign it has undergone.
These improvements include the introduction of all-glass fragrance sticks bottles, making them fully recyclable and our refill bottles are now completely transparent. Next to the fact that this reduces coating, it also makes it easier to recycle the bottle with the right glass colour. Next to making visible improvements, there’s also lots that won’t be detected right away. For example, the closure of that beautiful gift carton is now made from carton, reducing the CO2 footprint of the pack. These improvements make sure that our products have a minimum impact on the planet.
We believe sustainability must be 360 degrees, that is why we’re taking a holistic approach. That’s why, next to ingredients, we closely monitor the impact of our packaging. This kind of research for products is called a life cycle analysis and includes water, CO2, energy, and material used.
Where do you take inspiration from when producing your collections?
I get my inspiration from so many different cultures, meeting new people from all over the world. Sometimes a piece of art can inspire me or something I’ve seen in a store. But most of my inspiration for Rituals collections, I get from the journeys I used to make to Asia, the Middle East and other continents in the world. In terms of products and formulas, we always look at how we can help people to improve their well-being in body, mind and soul. So we ask ourselves, ”What kind of product supports this?” and we also take into consideration what specific product or ingredients are key to translate specific rituals and routines. We always look at a variety of ancient and time tested rituals that give us inspiration for the creation of our products.
How do you incorporate the rituals products into your own home life?
Interior design is one of my passions. A lot of vintage objects in my home I bought myself; I think I’m one of the very few men that really loves to shop. Together with an interior designer we brought the contemporary style of the Belgian village and incorporated that into our home. Each room has a different atmosphere and theme: the dining room is blue with blue pottery from Asia. The kitchen has a warm orange theme with the lovely spicy fragrance of The Ritual of Mehr collection. Our living room is decorated in green. The colour green induces calmness, scientific studies support this fact, so it felt perfect for our holiday home both in winter and in summer. It is almost like bringing the outside, inside and the other way around.
At its core, how would you describe Rituals’ brand DNA?
It is our passion to turn everyday routines into more meaningful moments. By offering unique products, experiences and building a community we help our customers to navigate a journey of personal well-being.
We have our own unique fragrance signature – elegant and natural fragrances – created by the world’s best perfumers. We believe that we offer something unique for the region in terms of fragrance experience and we know from research that there is a huge consumer interest in this direction. So, therefore, we have decided to focus on our own approach. We always put our stores and customers first. And we try to surprise and pamper them through innovations, service and communication. We bring 200 new products every year. People fall in love with our philosophy, our stores and our products because of our award-winning fragrances. Rituals is the fastest growing beauty brand in Europe. We operate over almost 1000 stand-alone stores and we are present in 3000 luxury department stores and perfumery stores.
In terms of luxury, how do you think the UAE and GCC market differs from other places?
Middle East consumers strive for individuality. This translates into the habit of buying customized products in general and buying limited editions. We have experienced that limited editions and the more luxurious collections, especially for the various holiday seasons, are very popular. Especially fragrances are most popular. Rituals’ Eau de Perfume already has a bigger share in sales as opposed to other Rituals stores in the rest of the world. What we also see is that the Middle Eastern customer likes personalized products. We offer this by making the customer experience more personal and on the long-term in communication campaigns more personalized e.g. showcasing a personal routine of a real Arabic woman.
Finally, what’s next for Rituals?
The company is extremely successful in Europe, but we are not there yet in terms of achieving global brand status. There is still so much to learn and discover. Over the next 10 years, we want to take the brand and company to the next level. That means successfully expanding our territory outside of Europe. For example, growing in Asia, but also building a strong community and unique lifestyle around the brand.
In addition, sustainability is an important pillar that we are working hard on and we want to make more visible. When we started, we were the first brand to embrace the ideas of mindfulness and enjoying the little things. By now others are starting to copy that, everyone is on yoga and we are all trying to be more mindful of our time. That’s why we need to take it a step further, Rituals needs to elevate the brand and its philosophy to a new and inspiring level.
For more information visit rituals.me or visit Rituals stores across the UAE in The Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, Mirdif City Centre, Yas Mall, Bawadi Mall and Ajman City Centre.
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