For Francoise Decatrel, bathing is a channel to inner peace.
The onetime textile designer and corporate real estate agent had long been obsessed with Japanese culture. After a windfall, she rewarded herself with a trip to Tokyo and Kyoto, where she discovered Japanese bathing rituals—an almost meditative experience.
Despite her real estate success, Decatrel knew she needed to find a career for which she felt more passion. One evening, during a soak, she realized what she would do: She would bring Japanese bathing to the Western world. In 2014, she launched Amayori, a luxury bath, body care and aromatherapy product company.
Here, Decatrel explains why a simple bath can have such rich benefits:
Live The Process: How did you come to develop an interest in wellness, aromatherapy and bathing?
Francoise Decatrel: I was born in New York and raised mostly in New Jersey. When I was 17, I left home to travel the country. I lived off-the-grid for awhile on a beautiful beach in Northern California and then followed the Grateful Dead for a few years before returning to New Jersey. Eventually, I moved to New York to attend FIT and study apparel design.
I have always been into aromatherapy and have made my own natural body care products for as long as I can remember. Bathing has always been about escapism for me. When I was young, I would take baths and pretend I was Cleopatra.
I have been into wellness since I was a teenager. Living a natural, aware lifestyle has always been very important to me. My favorite job when I was teen was working at a health food store. I learned so much. My heart still swells when I smell dry whole grains and chamomile essential oil.
My bathing history now all makes sense. When I was in my early twenties and at my first job in the city, I wanted my life to be different than it was. I was so envious of the slightly older women with whom I worked. I dreamed of having a beach house in Maine and spending summer weekends away, but there I was in my tiny studio on the Upper West Side instead. I went to a dollar store one day and bought a shower curtain that was a huge photo of a lighthouse and the ocean. I had this wonderful bath gel that smelled exactly like the sea. I would take Saturday morning baths and put on a wave noise machine in the background, shut my eyes and, suddenly, I was at my fantasy beach house. I did this for over a year. I would have laughed if you told me then that I would eventually start a bathing rituals company, but, looking back, it makes so much sense. At a time when I felt I was lacking, I was walking towards my destiny and I didn’t even know it. That is a huge lesson: Everything we experience is preparing us for our greatest good.
LTP: How did you know you were ready to leave the corporate world behind?
FD: I was never happy in the corporate world; it wasn’t for me. I disliked it enough that I thought that I didn’t want to work in general. Now, I jump out of bed every morning. First, I was a textile designer, which was creative but still didn’t make me feel alive. After that, in real estate, there was freedom and money, but it didn’t resonate with me. My life consisted of working hard, getting frustrated, closing deals and then going shopping to reward myself at Hermès or Tiffany’s. That’s what bought me happiness. Don’t get me wrong: I still love beautiful things, but not as a Band-Aid to an unfulfilled life.
I realized how disconnected from myself I had become. I wasn’t sure of my next move, but I made a conscious decision to be open to what the Universe put in front of me. Also, after working as an independent contractor for so many years, I knew that I wanted to run my own business.
All that said, those previous jobs prepared me for Amayori: My textile design background has been essential to building the brand. I have never hired anyone to do creative. I know exactly how I want things to look and am blessed to have the creative and technical skills to manifest that vision.
Real estate taught me so much. I learned how to work hard and be completely self-reliant and accountable. I have negotiated multi-million dollar deals for tough clients with tough agents. I never thought I would be able to do that and there were moments when I wanted to cry. But now it takes a lot to intimidate me. I learned that challenges can be handled and, if they can’t, you should move on quickly. I also learned to listen to my gut instinct. It took me many years to learn to listen to my instincts about people without doubt. Now, if I get any sort of bad vibe, I walk.
LTP: What led you to travel to Japan and what exactly did you discover there?
FD: Traveling to Japan was a lifelong dream. I suppose it started when I lived briefly in San Francisco. Japantown became a haven for me. I loved reading about Japanese culture and became fascinated with geisha. I could never understand why I was so passionate about something so foreign or what I would do with that passion.
I had a particularly amazing month in real estate and booked a long trip to Tokyo and Kyoto. Japan was even more incredible than I expected. Everything is done so beautifully and with intention. I was also blown away by the love of quality and craftsmanship. There are artisans who do one thing and dedicate their entire lives to it. I have always been passionate about beauty in all things, and I love how Japanese culture makes beauty—and the appreciation of it—so important.
Bathing in Japan is an art and is viewed as being separate from cleansing the body. With roots in Shintoism, bathing is about purifying the soul. It is viewed as a way to relax and wash away the cares of the day. Typically, a day will end with a long soak in an “ofuro” or deep soaking tub.
Japanese bathing rituals begin with showering. Showers are usually situated near the bath or the body is cleaned using splashes of bath water poured over the body with a hinoki wood bucket.
The soak is all about enjoyment with the intention of letting go of the day. Many Japanese baths are made from hinoki cypress, which is an amazing wood that is not only anti-bacterial but also has a relaxing, entrancing aroma. The scent and experience are otherworldly.
As I was soaking in a beautiful bath at my ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in Gion, I realized this was an experience that I did not want to leave behind. I thought it would be magical if I could create these rituals at home through experience, scent and products. One of the innkeepers gave me a small bottle of hinoki essential oil, which led me to create Amayori’s first fragrance, Hinoki Onsen.
LTP: How did you come to found Amayori and what makes it unique?
FD: I returned to New York and yearned for the inner peace I felt in Japan. Real estate was really wearing at me. Taking my Saturday Hinoki Onsen bath became my new ritual. I’ll never forget this moment: I was lying in the bath and I asked myself, “If money was not an issue, what would I want to do every single day?” My heart answered, “This.” I got out of the bath and ran into the living room and told my boyfriend that I had an amazing idea. The moment of realizing my destiny was powerful beyond words and akin to finding a soulmate—pure energy. Everything I had ever experienced in my life, good or bad, suddenly made perfect sense.
Amayori officially launched a year and a half ago. The line consists of a full-range of natural bath, body care and aromatherapy fragrance products designed to be used together to create the Japanese bathing ritual experience at home. We also have a series of products that can be used out of the bathroom such as Aromatherapy Perfume Oil and Aromatic Sake Mist. We all need to relax during the day; these products can create a world of beauty and relaxation wherever you are. Though I would love to get every woman into a bath with our Luxury Bath Salts, I realize that many people (especially in New York City) may not have bathtubs. So, we have a product called Shower Mochi, which is our shower alternative to a scented bath. Shower Mochi is about doing nothing but shutting your eyes and breathing in aromatherapy fragrance.
All products, except for our Luxury Body Wash, are 100 percent natural. We currently have five core fragrances and feature limited edition seasonal fragrances throughout the year. Each tells a story of Japanese bathing rituals and has a purpose. The stories are meant to get you into the zone and take you away to another place.
Essential oil quality is of the highest priority. We only use the best and it shows. The bases of the products draw on the wisdom of classical Japanese skincare and utilize ingredients such as organic camellia oil, sake, rice bran oil and green tea extract.
I make products the way I would use them. For instance, our Luxury Bath Salts come in 4 oz pouches for a beautiful, luxurious experience. None of this “toss a handful in” stuff—a handful is not enough if you want to benefit from the nutrients of the salts. I want every experience for every woman to be so special that Amayori becomes part of her daily routine.
Amayori is special to me for so many reasons but I love that the line is comprised of products that are about how women feel. We are so focused on how we look and often our souls and emotions come secondary. It is my greatest joy to get emails from customers around the world telling me how Amayori is helping them relax. Amayori is about ending the glorification of being busy and nurturing our minds, bodies and spirits. I also love that I can share something so special from across the globe that many people may not have otherwise experienced.
We have a new fragrance launching in early October called Rotenburo Air, which is inspired by the outdoor rotenburo baths of Japan. It is an aromatherapy fragrance for rejuvenation and is breathtaking. It perfectly captures the “ahhh” of a deep breath of fresh, clean air with Japanese Yuzu, Omani white frankincense, white pine, hemlock spruce and much more.
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
FD: Happiness to me means living your truth and living a life that is 100 percent in tune with your soul. If you can find a passion, work environment, relationship, social life etc. that allows you to truly be yourself, then you are living your life as it is meant to be lived and the Universe will always support you.
Aromatherapy is a big part of my life and I use it throughout my day. Aside from Amayori’s products, I have a huge library of oils that contains anything from gorgeous Australian Buddha Wood to a rare frankincense that was created as a gift for the Sultanate of Oman.
Eating well is very important to me too. I eat fairly low carb and stay far away from processed food. I do cook a lot of Japanese food and, in fact, have come up with my own Stevia-sweetened version of my favorite Japanese dessert, Mochi. These days, I love having miso broth for breakfast. It really gives me energy and grounds me.
I am certified to teach Kundalini yoga and pull elements of it into my life through music, mantra or a quick meditation. For exercise, I have been in love with Ballet Beautiful for the past few years. It’s so quiet and elegant.
Green tea and supplements are also a big part of my life. Lately, I buy the most exquisite jasmine green tea pearls from a little shop in Chinatown. I also have been drinking Genmaicha, which is low in caffeine and perfect for after a bath at night.
LTP: What does it mean to you to “Live The Process” and how can we all do that more each day?
FD: To me, “living the process” means being true to who you are. Figure out what it is that you are meant to do in this world and then begin to live it. We all have our gift and passion. Even if you don’t know where to start, just begin and the rest will fall into place. Throughout the day, ask yourself, “Am I living in my truth?” We know when we aren’t. Stop wasting time. Always be honest and genuine with your soul. It’s really quite simple: All you have to do is be yourself. We gravitate to things for a reason. If you love something with all your heart, don’t ignore it. Make it your life.