The Synesthete: An Interview with Redoux Founder Asia Grant
Jelly is a design column by David Eardley.
In the chaos of my life, one thing is constant: Every morning I wake up, wash up, and apply a range of facial products (niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, squalane oil, and SPF 40). Settling on a skincare routine was an important milestone for me as I rounded the 30-year mark, signaling self-knowing: what works for me, works for me.
As I’m (relatively) new to advanced skincare, I often feel overwhelmed by the options, the significance in their differences (what is real and what is Sephora’s hold on me?), and their varied branding approaches.
How does a body brand stand out in this world that is saturated by every single possible iteration of a product? Looking beyond the product itself and designing a larger concept to curate an aspirational world - this is the solution proposed by Redoux, a once-fledgling, soon-to-be-household-name skincare and scent brand founded by my friend Asia Grant.
With their latest release - a simple soap titled Bathhouse - Asia found herself shifting her attention to something wider than ingredients and packaging: What is the world you open up when you lather up? What is the Bathhouse universe?
For this interview, I asked Asia to speak on her design process for developing Bathhouse, and the atmosphere she sought to create within this neat little bar of soap.
You just launched your newest product Bathhouse a few months ago (I saw you at the launch party at Winona’s in Brooklyn). Tell me a little bit about your decision to turn a simple product - a bar of soap - into a full concept with an accompanying digital concept booklet.
I loved seeing you at the party, thank you for coming. ☺️
When we launched Redoux in 2019, it was with the intention to use scent to capture the memories of shared experiences. My co-founder and I knew we wanted to focus on skincare products and we didn’t have much capital to get started, so our options were limited from the start.
Soap ended up being the medium with which we deliver that experience since it was something that we could make at home, cutting out dealing with the manufacturers. It ended up being perfect because:
1. Everyone needs and uses soap to some degree
2. Most of it is pretty boring and conventional
3. It holds scent very well.
It’s been so much fun taking something mundane and exploring ways to make it a product that gets people excited. The concept book that we published for Bathhouse was the documentation of our creative process of how I arrived at the scent. So many people asked how I made the “529” candle that I thought it may be well received if we allowed people to peer behind the veil.
Due to my synesthesia, I can’t develop a scent without thinking about its associated colors, flavors, or sounds, so those elements are already documented throughout the process. My designer and I also have a romantic infatuation with book design, so it was a great way for us to explore richer storytelling elements. It’s very difficult to sell scents online - creating a world around it allows people to feel more comfortable and connected to it.
Why is curatorial world-building important to you as the head of a brand that focuses heavily on scent? Do you think the world of scents can live without this conceptual thinking?
For me, building and curating a conceptual world allows me to actually create the scent itself. My own personal world of scents could not live without this type of thinking because it’s the foundation of my creative process.
Experiencing scents is a form of travel, in some regards—either to locations, memories, or fantasies. Since there is a natural link between scent and memory that is visceral in all people, even if a world is not explicitly shown to someone, they will naturally create a scene in their mind. Creating the world lays the foundation for the imagination to build on once the scent is experienced.
There’s no denying that scent and interiors are forever intertwined. Can you describe an interior you're drawn to and what scents it evokes for you? I’d love to know your thought process as you do this.
You are absolutely right! To be honest, I struggle with interiors personally because there are so many different styles that I love and I am afraid to commit to just one out of my fear that I will get bored!
To overcome this to answer you, I first reflected on myself and asked "Where do I feel my best self?” There are a number of places my mind goes to—with specific people, at certain times in the past, doing certain activities. Then I thought about what qualities of those experiences overlapped, and I realized that during all of them I am experiencing a clear and present mind.
I feel drawn to a space that looks like it would allow me to easily experience a free, clear, and present mind. The most accurate representation that I have seen to date is J Balvin’s Japanese-inspired home in Colombia that he showed to Architectural Digest. To me, it smells like crisp air, clean woods, and new books.
Your concept book for Bathhouse makes use of the gentle greens and whites that were popular in bathroom interiors around the turn of the millennium - I’m reminded of Terence Conran’s book Easy Living, which was published in 1999, as well as the Kohler ads that I saw as a kid around that time.
If you look at the Kohler bathroom color timeline, the Seagrass Green/White Satin combination was in use from 1998-2005. This color combo figures heavily into the world you build for Bathhouse. What is your connection to this color? What does it convey to your audience?
The color chosen for Bathhouse is the color that I believe captures the energy of water. I love water so much because it is so healing and calming, while also energetic and life-giving. When I was in the process of developing Bathhouse, I would hike out to this local creek in the middle of winter and sit on a jetty of rocks just to record the water moving around it to capture the movement, sound, and colors. I’d spend around 20 minutes just enjoying being in the space and taking some time to meditate and center myself for the day. That is what I tried to capture in the color.
Leading up to the release of Bathhouse, we worked with a group of evangelist Redoux customers and asked them to complete an emotion wheel and tell us how Bathhouse made them feel after using it. It was meant to be a thought experiment and a way to see how people may feel the same or differently about something when presented with a constant. Most people said it made them feel calm, happy, and relaxed.
What colors are you drawn to next?
Now that we’re coming up to fall, I have a taste for taupe, cream, ivory, beige, and greige. That’s in my own personal taste and also what I think I want next for Redoux. When I look at these colors, they feel benevolent and present, like looking into the eyes of a living ancestor. I haven’t yet placed a scent to them yet, but it’s something I would like to explore over the next few months. Here are some examples: