Brand Spotlight: Interview with Jamie Leilani Pelayo, Nature of Things
What’s your backstory?
I have worked primarily in the luxury fashion and beauty space in various roles from PR to partnerships and content creation, working with high-profile publications like Vogue, PopSugar, and Los Angeles Times, as well as in-house at Sephora and Violet Grey. Later I launched my own production company that produced photo and video for the likes of Estee Lauder, Fenty Beauty, Vintner’s Daughter, Supergoop, and more.
What led you to create the NOT brand?
I met my co-founders shortly after JP and Kendra had partnered to start a brand that would be centered on CBD wellness. It was important for us to broaden the approach to encompass the foundation of plant medicine and herbalism so that we could help to normalize the ingredient and also not be pigeon-holed as a CBD brand because we are so much more than that.
As the Chief Brand Strategist, I oversee the brand experience for NOT, from market positioning and packaging development to creative direction for our visual identity. While Kendra, who leads our product development, has a background in herbalism and energy medicine as well as CBD formulation, I had recently begun studying plant-based medicine and folk herbalism myself and was curious about where this could lead if we looked at CBD for its wide-ranging benefits, and not purely the trend that was emerging at the time.
Our brand speaks to the truth of our nature. It was inspired by a poem called De Rerum Natura which written by Lucretius, a Roman philosopher, and his musings about Epicureanism, and his belief system that pleasure is the greatest good. “True pleasure”, Epicurus explained, “is modest in nature and earthbound.” He believed that true pleasure in life was derived by eliminating fear and pain and it became the foundation of the brand and product formulas to target the modern-day sources of fear (stress or anxiety) along with pain (inflammation).
I find it interesting that you (and your partners) have chosen to remain ‘anonymous’ in your brand story…why is that?
We aren’t choosing to remain ‘anonymous’ by any means, as we take turns speaking about the brand to help with the education and general promotion of what we stand for. Rather than having its success determined by the marketability of a face or a name, we wanted the brand and the products to stand on their own merits, rather than being driven by a founder story alone. There is real industry expertise behind it both in terms of our own experience and that of our partners, but we felt that the products could really speak for themselves.
What is on the product development horizon?
We’re about to launch our Skin Smoothing Stones for both face and body, which are beautiful artisan-made French White Clay manual exfoliators to use in the bath while soaking in our bath immersions. The rest of our launches were pushed back slightly due to COVID-19 disruptions, but we are excited to be working on a few products to round out our bath series later this year and have some really incredible unisex facial skincare products that will be launching in 2021.
It’s difficult to choose just one! We really have two heroes given our two main product themes. Our relaxing Restorative Floral Bath has become a cult favorite with celebrities from Madonna to Hilary Duff, which inspired many bath selfies over this shutdown period. Our Superlative Body Balm is an incredible natural and highly potent pain relief balm that we’ve received such incredible feedback on from our clients saying that it has helped them manage acute injuries and chronic pain conditions from arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Given that the cornerstone of your brand is rooted in achieving balance through the pleasure of selfcare – which is so timely in this period of deep anxiety and social isolation – have you experienced an uptick in web traffic and sales?
We definitely have. It’s been interesting because although we just really hit the market in November of last year, we’ve been able to build an audience quickly and sustain sales over the closures although we’d only been around for about four months.
I think much of this is being driven by the fact that people either have more time for self-care or really feel that they needed something to take the edge off. Prior to COVID-19, we had been focused mostly on traditional retail partnerships, because we felt that education and trial were very important for the client to understand our brand. Of course, with many of those partners closed even now we had to shift our focus to our own channels, including a beautiful redesign of our website.
Has the COVID-19 crisis changed your distribution strategy?
Like many companies, the current crisis has forced us to regroup and shift gears.
Our first hurdle was that our beautiful glass packaging is created in Italy, so that has delayed our launch schedule for our facial skincare range which we had hoped to have out this summer.
We were fortunate that we made a great amount of progress with onboarding with some of our favorite retail partners before the lockdown set in and expanded our partnerships with Detox Market, Neiman Marcus, Revolve, and Vince.
International has also started to pick up. We launched Niche Beauty in Germany (shipping to all EU) during COVID and just launched in Hong Kong with Joyce Beauty and Lane Crawford. We have commitments from Liberty and Harvey Nichols as well, which we have been given the green light to publicize. So while I think the US market will continue to reel from COVID and the BLM protests, which have also shifted consumer habits and interests, there is a real opportunity to start making inroads overseas.
Besides managing the brand and navigating through these unsettling times, what other projects are you working on?
Right now, our priority is to continue to develop products, educate consumers on the brand, and to drive trial of the products. We’ve organized first responder product donations and also participated in charity auctions benefiting healthcare workers and the equality movements (Pride and BLM).
We believe there is a much greater opportunity than we originally imagined to be of service to the client in helping them find some balance by incorporating purposeful daily self-care as they greet or end each new day in these times of uncertainty.