When Fabian Lliguin isn’t wearing his environmentalist hat, i.e. educating indigenous communities in the jungles of the Amazon Rainforest, he’s working out of his lofty New York City office in Soho, which serves as the headquarters of Rahua (pronounced “ra-wa”), a clean beauty hair and body care brand he co-founded with his wife, Anna Ayers, in 2008. The birth of the brand centers on an accidental discovery. As a former hairstylist, Fabian couldn’t help but notice the long, luscious locks of the local Amazonian Quechua-Shuar tribe, and when he inquired about their hair care, the women introduced him to the rahua oil they were making out of rare ungurahua nuts. After testing the oil on clients in his salon on Fifth Avenue, Fabian knew he had something special on his hands to achieve healthy, shiny, bouncy hair. Since then, Rahua has established itself as a global company with more than 24 skus, experiencing sales growth of 50-plus percent every year. The self-funded brand is a top seller in many of its retail partners, including The Detox Market, where Rahua is the number-one hair care brand, and Dermstore.com, where out of 61 hair brands, Rahua is in the Top 10, and the number two natural hair care brand out of the e-retailer’s 27 natural brands. Here, CEW Beauty Insider chatted with Fabian to learn more about the indie brand’s strategies, challenges and future plans.
Beauty Insider: Who’s your average consumer?
Fabian Lliguin: Rahua draws a wide range of consumers who are concerned about healthy ingredients, wellness and the future of the environment. The clean beauty movement is not a trend; it will only attract more consumers in the years to come. Based on analytics from our digital platforms, our customers include Gen Z-ers, Millennials through to Gen X-ers. We continually analyze consumer feedback to develop innovative products, identify strong needs and improve formulations towards clean and sustainable beauty products.
BI: How’s the brand responding to the clean beauty movement?
FL: As Rahua is known as being a sustainable, Amazonian plant-based, clean, gluten free, vegan and cruelty free brand, we are preparing for the demand of non-toxic, naturally-derived ingredients and clean beauty products that’s growing at a rapid pace by researching alternative plant-derived ingredients versus synthetics. The industry is witnessing the expansion of green beauty boutiques throughout the U.S. and worldwide and we will be ready to meet this consumer demand, particularly in the high-end market of those seeking an experiential beauty ritual. Due to requests, Rahua is exploring roll-outs of new countries and continents that we’re currently not distributed in.
BI: Where are the products currently sold?
FL: In the U.S., our retailers include clean beauty boutiques such as The Detox Market, Aillea and Follain. Luxury department stores include Barneys New York, ABC Carpet & Home, Space NK in Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. In Canada, Holt Renfrew. Very soon we will be in Hudson Bay Company. In Europe, the brand is available in Liberty, Harrods, Le Bon Marché and Oh My Cream. Online retailers include sephora.com, net-a-porter.com, and dermstore.com as well as rahua.com.
BI: Tell us about your marketing/communications plans.
FL: We continually inspire our customers with exciting new imagery and create new content to be used across all platforms, including our website, social media and PR channels showing how-to before-and-after makeovers. We use our website and social media to educate on protecting the rainforest, its ecosystem, unique plant ingredients, our sustainable Symbiotic approach and our support for indigenous peoples. New product launches are supported with media tours, press events and influencer/social media posts and digital ads. Additionally, our founders make personal appearances around the world, and our videos are legendary for their inspiration. For ecommerce at Rahua.com we provide e-newsletter introductory giveaways and cross-brand promotions. We also collaborate with retailers on in-store consumer promotions, providing hairdressing events such as braid bars and master classes.
BI: What’s the overall price range?
FL: Rahua is a luxury brand and generally our full-size products average from $32 to $62. However, we do have a Cream Wax that retails for $26, and a luxury Rahua Elixir, our pure Rahua oil, that retails for $175. Our most recent launch of Rahua Legendary Amazon Oil retails for $42.
BI: What upcoming launches are in the works?
FL: In January we will launch Rahua Smoothing Hair Balm, a compact, pocket-sized beauty must-have for quick-fix hair care solutions. It’s a lightweight and nourishing anti-frizz hair balm that moisturizes and smooths dry hair, as well as adding thermal protection. Next, Rahua’s cult favorite signature scent, Palo Santo, will be available in a roller ball perfume form, appropriately called Palo Santo Oil Perfume. Palo Santo, known as ‘Holy Wood’ has been prized by shamans since the Inca era for its medicinal and spiritual properties. Palo Santo Oil Perfume promotes positive thinking and a feeling of well-being. This fresh, sophisticated, earthy scent with sweet notes of citrus and gardenia enfleurage will be available first quarter of 2019.
BI: What major challenge is the brand facing as it continues to expand?
FL: Keeping up with demand. We realize that’s a good challenge to have but for us, selecting the right partnerships is very important as we seek long lasting, steadfast relationships with a likewise business model and philosophy.