Retailers Get That L.A. Feeling With Los Feliz Botanicals
Los Feliz Botanicals’ laid back SoCal approach to retail expansion is catching on like beach trips on bright sunny days.
Not in a rush to put products on every store shelf, married co-founders Josh and Krystal Quinn Castro have pursued a measured distribution strategy that allows them to retain full-time employment outside their Los Angeles-based natural fragrance brand as they build it. In the year since its launch, Los Feliz Botanicals has entered six retail doors, and recently arrived at Urban Outfitters and The Detox Market.
“There is a business myth out there that, if you want to make your own brand, you have to quit your job, move in with your parents, and flip burgers part time. There is a lot to be said for slow growth you can self-fund while maintaining your life,” asserts Krystal Quinn Castro, formerly senior director of wholesale at American Apparel and currently senior director of wholesale at Camp Collection. “We just hustle. At 5:30 p.m., I switch into perfume mode and work through the night.”
Hustling doesn’t diminish the cost of developing a new brand, however. Castro and her husband poured most of their savings into establishing Los Feliz Botanicals and regularly invest 20% of their weekly earnings into the brand to keep it chugging. Her aim is for it to be profitable within roughly five years.
The retailers that have picked up Los Feliz Botanicals closely align with the brand’s objectives. Castro is adamant about broadening the reach of natural perfumery and that can’t be achieved unless natural fragrances are accessible to customers on a budget. Instead of selling Los Feliz Botanicals’ fragrances in 30-ml. bottles or bigger, she chose 15-ml. bottles to moderate the prices of the fragrances. The brand’s five eau de parfums – Los Feliz, Huntington, Red Rock, Parade, and Yucca Valley – are $55 each.
“There is a business myth out there that, if you want to make your own brand, you have to quit your job, move in with your parents, and flip burgers part time. There is a lot to be said for slow growth you can self-fund while maintaining your life,” says Castro.
“There are a lot of natural perfumes using the kind of ingredients we do that run $100, $200 or $300. We wanted something that we could introduce to younger people that may not take the plunge into natural perfumes because of the money they usually have to drop on them,” says Castro, adding, “Urban customers are our customers. It’s young people who are up for adventure that like things that look good and are quality.”
Speaking of looks, Castro avoided the black and white designs commonplace in the natural beauty segment. Los Feliz Botanicals’ boxes and packaging for its Indio, Parade and The Sierras perfume balms feature vibrant photos taken by the Castros in L.A. or during the California getaways that often inspire its scents. The brand is named for the lively L.A. neighborhood where the couple resided when they started it.
Castro’s path to perfumery began eight years ago with a switch from conventional to natural beauty products. Her beauty overhaul went well with one exception: she couldn’t find a natural perfume she was mad about. “I really wanted to figure out how to make my own perfume so I could replace Burberry London,” declares Castro. She became quite serious about the quest to replace that favorite and create sophisticated natural alternatives to mainstream scents. She studied natural perfumery with fragrance legend Mandy Aftel and committed to producing perfumes containing natural essences.
“I love perfume making, but my real passion lies in the ingredients, and an appreciation for beautiful oils that come from nature and are just as fickle as wine or farmers market produce,” says Castro. “I hope people connect to the ingredients we use in Los Feliz Botanicals and share my appreciation for how incredible natural materials are.”
The Detox Market has been a go-to shopping destination for Castro since she transitioned to clean beauty. “Before we even launched, I said to myself, ‘One day, we are going to be in Detox Market.’ That was my goal,” she recalls. “It’s so beatifically curated, and we like to partner with retailers that have a similar level of aesthetics and customer service to us.”
Elena Severin, director of retail and a buyer at The Detox Market, lauds Los Feliz Botanicals for its wide appeal. “In my opinion, green fragrance can either smell like patchouli or it can smell a little too weird, and non-toxic fragrances tend to be on the pricey side,” she says. “What is so great about Los Feliz Botanicals is Krystal was able to create distinguished scents with a distinguished voice that are wearable and at a price point that most everyone can afford.”
“In my opinion, green fragrance can either smell like patchouli or it can smell a little too weird, and non-toxic fragrances tend to be on the pricey side,” says Severin of The Detox Market. “What is so great about Los Feliz Botanicals is Krystal was able to create distinguished scents with a distinguished voice that are wearable and at a price point that most everyone can afford.”
As Los Feliz Botanicals cultivates its brand inside The Detox Market and Urban Outfitters, it’s holding off from other retailers and concentrating on direct-to-consumer relationships. The comparatively high margins of direct-to-consumer sales interest Castro, but she’s also a fan of forging a deep connection with online customers. She leaves notes and polaroid pictures with every order. On the retail end of the enterprise, Castro explains the brand has hit pause on chasing stores as it tweaks its logo, revamps the website and evaluates bottle options.
“Every brand goes through a few iterations. You do the best you can with the money and resources that you have. I always knew when we launched that what we had was not going to be the final thing,” she says, noting several lessons gleaned from 13 years at American Apparel. “I learned to have confidence in your product and to not be afraid to dig in, and that branding is everything. With American Apparel, without the marketing and the branding, it was just a T-shirt company. Ethics, confidence and branding are so important.”
Featured image photo credit: Callie Ferman