MILAN — Wa:it, the brainchild of engineer-turned-beauty-entrepreneur Raffaella Grisa, has launched in the U.S.
The Italian clean beauty label with a Japanese ethos has expanded in the market both physically and online by establishing a warehouse and logistics hub, entering 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 cater to American customers.
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The expansion was almost a year into making, said the founder, who addressed requests she received from distributors and department stores over the past 12 months. “But it didn’t feel the right way to approach the market for us: this brand needs to be understood first,” Grisa said.
Launched in 2020, Wa:it blends Italian and Japanese cultures into a concise yet holistic ritual, encompassing natural skin care products, fragrances and incense. In addition to high-performance, multifunctional and sustainable products for all age and genders, Grisa aims to share a philosophy rooted in the importance of self care and appreciating the present moment, having experienced the need to embrace a “slower life” firsthand.
For this reason, Grisa’s strategy in the U.S. is to rely more on spas where customers can indulge in the ritual and beauty protocol she fine-tuned with an expert facialist, as well as opting for a transversal distribution at wellness studios and concept stores.
“I want to bring forward the message of the brand in its integrity. It’s not just about fragrances or skin care but a concept of complete well-being,” said Grisa, eyeing clean beauty boutiques or locations in tune with the brand’s ethos.
For example, in Milan Wa:it secured a spot at hip Japanese concept store Tenoha, which rarely displays labels that have not been imported from the country. “It’s great for positioning, contributing to make the brand perceived as authentic,” Grisa said. Japan is also the first market for sales generated by Wa:it’s e-commerce, with the founder looking to implement a brick-and-mortar distribution in the country in the next two years.
In addition to Europe, the brand is available also in Australia, where it counts 45 doors between Melbourne and Sidney. “We launched during the pandemic and our distributors discovered it on Instagram and were fascinated by its philosophy and history,” said Grisa, noting that only a handful of the total units are perfumeries, and that instead she has opted for fashion or concept stores.
Taiwan is another key market, thanks to partnership with Hearth, which has 10 stores — six of which opened last year — and targets to reach 40 locations in the medium term.
“Wa:it is about a wellness journey that started with a fragrance, because I believe in the healing power of scents. For 20 years I couldn’t use any due to allergies or migraines and then I found the right one,” said Grisa, recalling the moment she stepped into a herbalist store in Bologna to discover a fig-based perfume. A year later she met the nose and cosmetologist behind it, Angela Laganà, who now leads the team creating Wa:it’s formulations.
Yet this discovery plays only a small part in the bigger epiphany Grisa experienced. After earning a degree in engineering in Turin, she built a career as a consultant for Italian companies that exported goods mostly in the Far East. During a trip in China in early 2010s, she saw the countryside covered in black plastic bags and had a nightmare imaging the whole world facing the same destiny. This prompted her to embrace a sustainable lifestyle in her personal life, which increasingly contrasted with the one she was conducting professionally.
“I was trying to live sustainably but at a pace and style that was the opposite,” she said. In 2018, a visit at the Meiji temple in Tokyo offered the pivotal moment convincing Grisa to turn her life around at almost 50, quit her job and embrace a slower lifestyle.
“Everything I’ve done before has been instrumental for this venture,” said Grisa, mentioning the contacts made in Japan and discovery of local raw ingredients that are at the base of every Wa:it product, like yuzu, Tsubaki, perilla — known as Japanese mint — and rice bran, among others.
Coming in sustainable packaging and priced between $35 and $175, items include the Ante scrub; the Ofuro thick cleansing balm; the B-Soffice moisturizing butter, and the Omni multipurpose oil favoring cell regeneration, in addition to the Hito and Haru fragrances. Made in Awaji lsland with all Italian natural ingredients, instead, Wa:it incenses target morning or evening moments with mood-boosting and calming scents, respectively.
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