‘Rituals was a hobby that got out of control’: Raymond Cloosterman’s rather modest assessment of the luxury lifestyle company he created in 2000 is something of an understatement. In the 15 years since its inception, Rituals Cosmetics has developed an impressive product range, with everything from body and facial products to scented candles and perfumes, and even a washing-up liquid. The company now has more than 400 standalone stores around the world, is stocked in over 1,200 luxury department stores and perfumeries, and is the toiletry brand of choice for more than 900 hotels and many airlines.
The company’s products take inspiration from Eastern traditions, and are designed to help people rediscover the magic of the everyday. ‘We’re living life on autopilot and we’ve forgotten what it is to enjoy the little things in life,’ Cloosterman explains. ‘There’s a strong need, on a global basis, for people to bring back these small moments of happiness during the day and to make them take a step back for a minute.’
Before launching Rituals Cosmetics, Cloosterman spent 13 years climbing the corporate ladder at Unilever, where he occupied a series of high-profile positions. It was while he was looking for new business insights that the idea for Rituals Cosmetics struck: ‘As a result of this three-month journey I came back completely hyper with many new ideas – I was so enthusiastic that I decided to resign and start my own cosmetics brand. Some of the insights from that journey still impact on the brand today.’
Every product in Rituals Cosmetics’ extensive range has a story to tell. Cloosterman and his team travel extensively to discover ancient rituals from Eastern cultures, which then inspire their perfumers and developers to create product lines that are relevant to modern life. Take the Tao line, for example, which is based on the Chinese idea of yin and yang and is designed to bring tranquillity to hectic modern lives. ‘We’re so connected these days, we’re working 24/7, we’re available 24/7, that people are looking for ways to escape from that,’ says Cloosterman of the collection. ‘Silence is the new luxury.’
At the moment, Cloosterman’s favourite line is the masculine Samurai. It’s inspired by the pre-battle rituals of the Japanese emperors’ elite soldiers, who were expected to look immaculate before any fight. ‘There are a few very innovative products in there that I love,’ Cloosterman enthuses. One such is a three-in-one shaving cream that is unusually rich, hydrating and soothing: ‘It’s my shaving secret!’
Rituals Cosmetics has wide appeal, attracting old and young, men and women alike. ‘I wanted to create a brand that had nothing to do with the old-fashioned way of segmentation, of trying to put people in a box,’ Cloosterman explains. ‘It’s more about trying to speak to people with a certain mindset – they’re very critical in terms of quality but they treasure life and like to enjoy the little things in life.’
It’s a philosophy that fits well with modern lifestyles and the growing trend towards mindfulness and wellbeing. ‘There’s an increasing need to create a safe place for yourself, to escape from the pressures to perform as a mother, a manager, a friend,’ Cloosterman agrees. He finds an escape in travel – ‘I love to travel, I love to explore, I’m curious’ – and recent trips have seen him find inspiration in Thailand, get away from it all on a family trip to the Idaho wilderness and speed through the streets of Paris on the back of a motor taxi.
Even so, Cloosterman’s passion for work always brings him back and he finds the creative side of his role especially thrilling. ‘It’s an amazing process, very rewarding,’ he explains. ‘It starts with a cup of tea at the kitchen table and a year or so later there’s a beautiful range of products.’
Cloosterman admits that the company spent some years nurturing the brand and improving its products and concept before it found its niche, but in the past seven years it has been gaining international traction and expanding every day; on average the company opens one or two stores a week in locations around the world. ‘We’re growing by word of mouth, friends telling friends – that’s how we became successful across Europe,’ he notes. ‘When people discover us, we try to surprise them in terms of quality of design and fragrance so that they become addicted!’
The company, often described as a young brand with an old soul, looks set to continue to grow and thrive. ‘There are a lot of paradoxes in the concept that makes people fall in love with the brand,’ Cloosterman concedes. ‘The paradox of old stories and new technologies, of East and West, of the very exclusive and yet accessible – all of these things come together.’