Leilani Bishop on health, beauty, and her latest venture.
Discovered on the pristine beaches of Hawaii, Leilani Bishop has appeared on countless magazine covers, in ad campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Balenciaga and Esprit, and on that iconic album cover of Hole’s Live. Her fresh sun-kissed face and athletic body epitomize the natural all-American girl, so it is not unusual that she has evolved into an entrepreneur within the health and wellness space. Today, Leilani is a mother, model, environmental activist, and entrepreneur. Most recently she featured in Ralph Lauren Polo's 2018 campaign with her son Cassius. We sat down with Leilani to speak about her fragrance line and most recent project, a natural beauty apothecary, Botanica Bazaar.
LM: After establishing a successful career in fashion, creating a happy family and setting-up a non-profit, Women for the World, you launched an entrepreneurial project Leilani Bishop Fragrances, your eponymous fragrance line. What inspired you to start this particular business?
LB: After modeling for other companies and having them be able to capitalize on my image and who I was [for many years], I was inspired to start my own business. I wanted to have a brand that exemplified what I was, and I've always loved natural beauty, scents - floral scents, in particular. I felt like there was nothing in the marketplace for what I wanted to wear in the world of fragrance. I also wanted really be able to help empower women through smelling and feeling good, but from a very authentic way.
LM: How did you select your fragrances?
LB: I created 3 different fragrances. First of all, Pikake because it is a Hawaiian Jasmine and it represents growing up in Hawaii. Then I created Orange Blossom that was inspired by my travels in Europe, and Lilac for the Hamptons. For me Lilac is Spring-time is the Hamptons. There are so many flowers, I could have really gotten into so much more, but I wanted to keep it succinct.
LM: How are the fragrances produced?
LB: I worked with a couple different companies. A perfume house in New Jersey and then a filling place in the Bronx. We just started off with the different fragrances that I liked. They are all natural in the sense that they don't have any toxic ingredients, but they are synthetic in the sense that a lot of these flowers have very short yielding periods or the oils don't exactly smell like the flowers, so we had to synthesize the scents. The Orange Blossom actually has some essential oil in it too. It is ethically produced and not tested on animals.
LM: We love this idea of “fragrance etiquette”. Can you tell us more?
LB: The French have a word – sillage – which means the degree to which a perfume's fragrance lingers in the air when worn. It literally means ‘wake’ or ‘trail’. The trail of a scent is a really big part of fragrance for a lot of people, but fragrances that have that - due to the related chemical compound - give me a headache. To me it’s important to smell the scent of a person when you lean into them, that’s when you smell them and know how they carry themselves.
To me it’s important to smell the scent of a person when you lean into them, that’s when you smell them and know how they carry themselves.
LM: It has been shown that fragrances are complementary to health and wellness with some essential oils being able to both protect your long-term health and relieve symptoms of common maladies. Was this a consideration when you were developing your range?
LB: I wasn't really in the wellness world when I developed these fragrances, but these facts are definitely very interesting to me and to a lot of the brands that I work with. Many people are using their skincare and fragrances to help their immune systems and their physical ‘wellness’. When I created the fragrances it was more about supporting your psychological well-being - to uplift you and your thoughts throughout the day. There have been polls taken about people’s reaction to flowers and almost 100% of people say they feel happier after they see or smell a flower.
LM: You recently launched Botanica Bazaar. Tell us a bit about it.
LB: Yes, I recently launched Botanica Bazaar, my baby. I opened it because after I launched the fragrance line, so many people wanted to know about my thoughts on natural beauty and about being raised in Hawaii in a very natural environment. They kept asking about my tips and secrets. My original plan was to have third party brands on my website, and eventually have a store. But an opportunity opened up out East with a friend of mine who has a background in retail. We both live out there year round and wanted to do the same thing – to create a really cool community store based on European apothecaries and pharmacies. It’s been really well received, and we are really exciting. We love our customers and everyone is super, super loyal. We are having a really great time. It opened 2 years ago.
[All the products] are chemical free. We use the EWG [Environmental Working Group] chart that measures consumer product toxicity. 1 2 3 is ‘Green’, 4 5 6 is 'Orange-Yellow' and 'Orange', and then above 6 is 'Red'. We try not to go above a 3. So we say ‘clean beauty’ or ‘natural living’, and 'organic' when we can as we have some small vendors who haven't gained the certification yet.
We have a pretty solid young customer base and a solid middle-aged base. So we definitely hit both markets, and that works as my business partner and I are both in our 40s and most of our employees are on the younger side.
LM: Botanica Bazaar will be opening in LA soon. Given the success you have achieved in NY, are you taking the same approach?
LB: So we're coming to the Pacific Palisades and it's going to be a really big deal because the developer, who also owns the Grove, the Americana, and a few large malls out in California, grew up in the Palisades. He really wanted to do something in this neighborhood for some time. So it’s been a long process but we are super excited, as they are great partners for us.
LM: What it your vision for this venture?
LB: Health and wellness is growing at the moment, especially the business side. You can see so much press and content being created. People are just flocking to gurus on Instagram and want to shop everything on Instagram. It seems that every time people are asked to create content for magazines, and such, there is always a health and wellness component to it. We really want to capitalize on that and promote these great brands we have found to everyone that wants a more healthy, beauty regime.
LM: As a busy mom and career woman, how do you stay healthy?
LB: Yoga! Lots of yoga. As much as I’m on the computer and the phone, my down time is so important. We need to relax more and I try to not stress over anything that isn’t really important. I’ve come to realize is that if I had all the money in the world, I’d just go live on the beach in Hawaii and I can do that already. I have a great life, and really appreciate the aspects of it that make it so. With that mindset I don’t really have to work that hard to make it better. Only if it’s going to make it MUCH better, you know? I’m satisfied with what I have and I think that attitude is really important.
Interview by Linda Mateljan