Curious to know more about the man behind the Rituals brand? Raymond Cloosterman, founder and CEO, is a dynamic personality with an interesting story to tell. We sat down with him to discover how it all started, where he finds his inspiration, and of course, his own personal daily habits.
Rituals: A Dutch magazine named you Mr. Perfect, American Vanity Fair profiled you as the Dutch version of James Bond. Quite some shoes you have to fill. How perfect are you in real life?
Raymond: "Pretty perfect, if you ask me (laughs out loud). Ask my wife the same question and you’ll get a very different answer I’m afraid. It’s very flattering indeed but nobody’s perfect. If anything, I should be called Mr. Perfectionist. When you’re building a global brand like Rituals you have to strive for perfection: all the way, every day. And you have to do that with passion and a healthy dose of obsession. That is how I see it, anyway. At Rituals we love creating beautiful things that help change everyday routines into special moments. But really, it all has to add up: the perfumes, the products, the designs, the stores, the service, and the experience. If we can achieve all that and keep up with it, our mission is successful."
How important is appearance for you?
"Appearance is important to me, but it isn’t everything. I like to dress well and look good, surely. And wearing that new suit does give me a touch of extra confidence. But appearance is so much more than only physical traits. It is what someone radiates. I am naturally drawn to people who are optimistic and creative because they literally energise me. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside. But it never hurts to make a great impression with your appearance."
Where do you actually find inspiration to fuel your creativity?
"I find inspiration in travelling as well as exploring other cultures, meeting new people and visiting retail shops in every corner of the world. I am probably one of the few guys out there who actually likes to go shopping. Which is in fact an important part of my job; to recognise what people like and what is going on trend wise. To stay on top I have to understand, better than anyone else, what our customers want. And the best part of my job is that I am able to realise this with a team of very talented people."
Where do you begin and how do you arrive at the end result?
"The majority of our products are inspired by ancient ceremonies. When we discover a new traditional ceremony that we feel is worth sharing with people, we start extensively researching every aspect. Which ingredients did they use and why? How did they go about their routines? And so forth. We then introduce these ingredients to our perfumers. Together we translate this into a modern range of luxury products.
But we also get motivated by modern times. For instance, we realised that people spend a great amount of time and money on picking and designing a new kitchen and then purchase a not-so-great looking supermarket hand soap, which gets hastily thrown in a cabinet when friends visit. We felt we could do better and we did. By designing an elegant range of products that do not look out of place on your kitchen counter."
How closely are you involved with the development of new products and Rituals?
"We have a strong team of people working in our innovation department and I am very much involved because it is one of my favourite aspects in my job: helping to create and design products and stores. I work passionately for Rituals and for all the people who believe in it, trying to make a difference with special products and experiences. I know we are not changing the world, but I’d like to believe we contribute by making a difference in the industry."
Speaking of making a difference, sustainability is a major factor for many companies in the industry. How is Rituals answering this call?
"Sustainability is a very important topic for us, and we’ve made some significant strides in this area. We now produce an annual sustainability report which you can read here it provides clear insight into all the measures and efforts that we as a company take, and have been taking over the past 20 years. Not only to reduce our environmental footprint, but at the same time, to ensure we leave a fingerprint of wellbeing wherever we go. After all, our mission is as much about creating a path to sustainable wellbeing for the planet as it is about supporting your journey to personal wellbeing.
The need for improved wellbeing of both people and planet is universal and more relevant than ever before. We all want to leave the world a better and happier place for our children, compared to how we found it. We all wish to see nature, the environment and future generations flourish and thrive, and to enjoy a soulful life. To accomplish this mission, we all need to take our own responsibility. We all need to accelerate our efforts, take action and make steps, both big and small. Of course, this journey is an ongoing evolution. Within our annual report, you’ll discover our many other social and environmental efforts too. Our switch to green electricity contracts for all our own stores and how we avoid over 200,000kgs of packaging material annually, thanks to loyal customers using our eco-conscious refills, among other initiatives."
As the creative force behind the brand, you must have a set of routines you follow yourself. Care to name a few?
"I am a man of strong habits. I was brought up with the notion that small things matter. So, I practice the everyday things most people do: shaving, my cup of Earl Grey in the morning, a relaxing bath from time to time and I always drink a glass of white wine when I come home from work. On a more spiritual level when we travel abroad with the family, we always try to find an old church somewhere to light a candle for someone. It is a small moment of reflection; to be grateful for what we have and to realise what we have to give."
We always try to find an old church somewhere to light a candle for someone.
The Rituals philosophy is focused on relaxation and taking a step back to enjoy the little things in life. Do you actually practice what you preach?
"I have to admit, this one hits close to home. We are currently working very hard to further expand the brand into new territories, which means new countries and possibly even new continents. You can imagine that I have an overloaded schedule right now that can be best compared to a high-speed train moving at maximum capacity. Slowing it down is near to impossible. So yes, there is always room for improvement. And no, I haven’t quite mastered the art of practicing what I preach, just yet. But I learn and strive every day to balance things better."
Signature fragrances are a critical success factor for the brand. How important is scent for you personally?
"Scent is very important to me. How couldn’t it be, it is such an amazing sense. It can transport you back to places and times in your childhood or help you remember and relive special moments in your life, just like music does and I am a lover of music too. And let’s be honest, we all try to avoid places with an awkward smell. On the other hand, we start feeling very comfortable when a fragrance is appealing. Personally, I never leave home without wearing some perfume and I alternate my three favourite fragrances, depending on mood and occasion. They range from sporty and spicy to a classic fragrance that resembles cologne. "
The ultimate way for you to relax would be?
"I relax with a glass of good wine by the fireplace in the company of friends, watching a movie on the big screen in a dark cinema and of course visiting our house in Knokke by the sea. The drive up there is only one and a half hours, but I find myself in a completely different world."
Your favourite holiday destination?
"We try to visit many different places in the world with our kids and every journey is different and special in its own right, so I honestly can’t pinpoint one single destination. Our best holiday memories range from climbing and hiking in the mountains to travelling around Thailand and sleeping in little palm tree houses on a lake."
Your favourite city in the world?
"I prefer dynamic places like Tokyo, Bangkok, Paris and Barcelona. But New York takes the cake every time. The first time I landed in NY was over 15 years ago and it was a decisive moment for starting my Rituals journey. I walked for days; window shopped for hours, took it all in and came back with lots of energy and a final decision. I had to give it a go. Opening our Rituals store in Soho in November 2017 was a major personal highlight. I remember looking through the window of the Fresh company years ago, in total awe and admiration of this cosmetics brand. And now we’re located next door. Yes, that’s a big thing for me."
Anything on your bucket list?
"I think I started living this “try-before-you-die” concept long before it was called the bucket list. For over 25 years now I’ve set myself a goal each year to have at least one “once in a lifetime” experience. So far, I have run marathons, did skydiving, bungee jumping and went nature hiking in the middle of nowhere, just to name a few. Still on the list are, but I don’t know if I’ll ever make it, learning to kite-surf before getting too old, helicopter skiing in Canada and taking lessons at Nick Bolletieri’s tennis school to practice a double handed back hand, 20 years too late."
Best Book top 3
"I don’t read a lot of books anymore but I found these recent reads very inspiring: Steve Jobs, the biography, Howard Schultz and Mr. Amazon by Brad Stone."
Best moment of my life…
"Was getting married to my wife Colette and starting a family together."
What is your proudest moment professionally…
"Both the opening of the first store over 20 years ago and the opening of our flagship store, House of Rituals – this was the cherry on the cake after many years of hard work, completing the circle. Those moments fill me with pride, that we created this great company and culture. It is all about people in the end."
Your all-time favourite quote
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” by Walt Disney. I think that it is our ability to dream and our determination to follow our dreams that make the difference for a creative entrepreneur. I have various quotes that mean something to me embroidered onto my shirt in a secret place. Call it a custom if you like. I started doing this in 2000 to motivate me in challenging times and I still do it today."
I am a man of routine. I was brought up with the notion that small things matter.
I don’t like people who are…
"Jealous, judgmental, negative and pessimistic."
What are your most positive traits? What personal traits would you consider negative?
"I would say the fact that I’m an optimistic dreamer is quite positive. I’m also creative and a go-getter. On the negative side, I can be impatient and unstoppable — as well as a bit lazy at times."
Name the 3 people you admire most and why
"My wife Colette, my mother, and inspirational people like Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz. I admire people who have dreams and a vision, who lead through inspiration but who are also focused on getting every detail right."
Name one event that changed your life
"I was 9 years old when my father tragically lost his life in a car accident. This made a huge impact on me. I realised at a young age that life is precious and that it may suddenly end at any given moment. So, you owe it to yourself to make the most of it, and to do it now while you still can. And you owe it to yourself to enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were big. Ever since, I take nothing for granted and I live more in the present. The whole experience is an important driver in my work for Rituals."
Do you believe in reincarnation?
"No, I don’t. I believe in getting the most out of this life and I believe in leaving the planet a little better than how I found it. Everyone can contribute whether it is by building a business or caring for others."
What is your definition of success?
"The definition of success for me is being happy, living a fulfilling life and doing something positive with your talents. Because everybody has a talent for something."
Your personal favourite Rituals product: you may only pick one…
"That has to be the shower foam (in The Ritual of Mehr scent). It is the one product that launched it all; it kept us alive in the first years when not all went smoothly. The shower foam embodies our unique philosophy. It was a reinvention of the mainstream shower gel into a never-before-seen shower foam explosion with an addictive fragrance."
Where will Rituals ideally be in 5 years and 10 years?
"Building a brand often takes a lifetime. We still have a long way to go and many things to learn in a world that changes frighteningly fast. I hope in 25 years the whole world has discovered our beautiful brand. And I hope that you will find us on every street corner in luxury malls and department stores from the Far East to South America."
"The real thing."
"As a family we have this special ritual. Wherever our travels take us, we always try to visit a church for a moment of reflection. Lighting a candle in this place of serenity, taking time to pause and think about others, looking back and being grateful."
"Focus on collecting memories instead of money and power."
"Always beats greed or revenge. The ultimate inner drive, passion makes the world go round, and is the biggest accelerator behind progress."
"Curiosity, intuition, true listening, and seeing."
"I worry about the polarisation in the world right now. This continuous need to judge and condemn others. Everything is so heavy and people can be so confrontational these days. Let us all be a bit more compassionate and have more respect for each other’s differences."
"Celebrate each day as a new beginning."
"Be a ‘yes’. Because optimists rule the world."
"My mother is kindness. Always supportive, positive, and never judgmental."
"I am a true believer in mindfulness from day one, but not very fantastic at bringing it into practice. I am finally starting my first meditation course after 20 years."
"Do not take anything for granted. Be aware of what you have: your family, your friends, your talents."
"The ultimate foundation of friendship and relations. It allows you to make a new start – this is also a bit instilled by my Catholic upbringing. Forgiveness is the best medicine."
"The natural glue of all things good. My wife, my children, my friends."
This is an excerpt from The Book of Rituals available to buy here. A collection of inspirational articles, unique art work and wellbeing wisdom, this beautifully designed coffee table book is the ultimate guide to soulful living - and the ideal gift for you or a friend.