One of the nicest things about attending the ISPA Annual Media Event is connecting with likeminded people. At this year’s event at Gotham Hall in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting Jessica Jesse, founder and CEO of BuDhaGirl. An innovative jewelry line with the tag line, “Mindful Glamour,” BuDhaGirl’s spa partners include Fairmont, Rosewood, and the Peninsula in Paris. I asked Jessica to tell me more.
Tell me a little bit about BuDhaGirl and how you got into the spa market.
We’re a weird little company—we combine science (we actually have a scientific board), contemplative practice, and fashion. Every BuDhaGirl product has a mindful glamour ritual when you’re putting it on. There’s a link to the product, a thought . . . it’s quite secular, we’re not preaching anything, the rituals are just little moments for you to have.
Although my background is in retail, I’ve always been a spa-goer and I could see this pairing between our product and the spa. BuDhaGirl is a reminder and an extension of the spa experience—a touchstone of what people go back to. It’s not about the jewelry, it’s a little memento. I thought back and realized that I’ve purchased some things at spas that I love—but they were very well edited, they understood. Nob Hill, for instance, was my go-to little shop for gifts.
“BuDhaGirl is a reminder and an extension of the spa experience—a touchstone of what people go back to. It’s not about the jewelry, it’s a little memento.”
One of the first [spa] people who reached out to me was Lisa [Michaelis, founder and CEO] at Live Love Spa. She looked at my jewelry and told me that I really needed to understand the spa industry, and she was the one who told me something interesting: retail is so neglected in the spa, it’s all about the treatments. But when the customer with disposable income comes out of the treatment, there’s a captive audience.
We began strictly as e-commerce, and it’s only in the last two years that we’ve opened up wholesale. Our partners include Fairmont, Rosewood, and the Peninsula in Paris. That’s the caliber of the places we want to be in.
You have so many beautiful bangles and bracelets in the line, is there a core product at the heart of it?
We started with the All Weather Gold Bangles, I wish I could take credit for them. I found them in Thailand. They’re originally only given during Lent. If you give alms or gifts to the monks, they’d give you these little bangles. I had a set, and every time I wore them, people would go nuts and ask me about them.
Then there was a crisis in my life with my son, and every time I put them on, I’d think of a blessing for him. My life was consumed with getting him healthy again. All of a sudden, I decided to see what that could look like in a business . . . the All Weather Bangles. Through my son’s illness, I began work with neurologists and psychologists, and I explained certain wellness-oriented things I was doing with my son, and one was this little ritual. The benefits of unplugging and performing little rituals will really help you.
Every product we have, you can swim in them, they’re waterproof, weightless, and soundless. It’s taken me four years to talk about the fun things these things have—but the most powerful is the shareability. If you buy a set of nine and someone says to you, “I love those, what are they?” and you give them one . . . there’s this whole tribe of women who pass these things along.
What are your thoughts about spa?
Spa is inherent to the culture—India, Turkey, Mexico. Here, as a society, we’re seeing the benefits of being in the spa, feeling rejuvenated, reintegrated a little bit. I think that’s great . . . that’s what BuDhaGirl’s mission is—take a moment for yourself, bring ritual into your life—that delicious cucumber water you had in the spa, treat yourself, make it at home.
The spa business is difficult. It’s hospitality, homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and more—there’s so much to control, and the personnel is very fickle. You’re dealing with artists, etc. I’ve met some spa directors who I felt like telling them,”Honey, you need the treatment, not me!” They’re so stressed out.
You don’t know what’s coming down the pike, so you may as well live every day really well. Take a moment, be really present . . . We are a pretty product. At the beginning I kind of had to apologize for it, that whole organic, Ayurvedic, holistic thing. What was available from a jewelry standpoint was a rock on a string. Those who wanted meaning, something more sophisticated and fashion-forward didn’t have it.
Are you working on anything new that’s especially exciting for you?
People love chakra colors, and we just came out with beautiful elastic bracelets that come in sets of color, they’re not just a mala bracelet anymore. We’re working on silicone bands with wording on them, so people can do madras with them. We love anything with flowers, and we’re also doing things with resin and leather. It’s fun to create all these things. I believe that the Universe made me do BuDhaGirl.