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How Raffaella Grisa Created a Carbon Neutral Beauty Brand

With clean and sustainable beauty being all the hype the last few years, I want to take a moment and talk about slow beauty. Slow beauty refers to the philosophy and self-practice rooted in nature, health, and wellness, being mindful every step of the way. Ahead, we chat with Raffaella Grisa, beauty founder of the brand WA:IT, about how she found peace in mindfulness and eventually started her slow beauty brand to share her practices with the world. — Samantha


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By Samantha Wu

Welcome to The Close-Up, where we indulge in conversations with tastemakers, entrepreneurs, designers, and others paving the way in their respective industries. Focusing on the people at the forefront of innovative companies, join us as we uncover their style ethos, guiding principles, challenges, and insights that have made them successful in the worlds of fashion, beauty, art, and beyond.

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with sustainable beauty founder and engineer, Raffaella Grisa. Diving deep into her engineer’s background, Raffaella walks us through the attributes of her fast-paced engineering job that influenced her decision to start WA:IT beauty — Europe’s first carbon-neutral brand rooted in mindfulness and sustainability. 

Samantha Wu: Do you mind telling me more about your engineering background and what inspired you to start WA:IT?

Raffaella Grisa: I graduated from the Polytechnic School in Torino. I'm a mechanical engineer. I spent almost 20 years in my previous job. My previous job took me toward the Far East. I was in Japan for my previous job. I know Tokyo very well because I traveled between Europe and Asia twice a month. I was walking around, and I found myself in the parks surrounding the Meiji temple, surrounded by nature and at peace with the universe. Something very strong and deep happened to me at the time. I felt in symbiosis with nature, with the universe. I was conscious that my previous life [was at an] end in that particular moment. I had a vision, and the vision was, of course, my brand.

This took more than a year and a half to finish my previous job and start to transform the vision into something real. Everything was so clear in my mind. Even though I didn't know anything about the beauty business., I had the vision and I wanted to keep the integrity of my vision.

The Japanese wa, meaning peace and harmony, was what I found that day in the parks in Tokyo. It's my Japanese side, my inner side is more Japanese. I'm very close to Japanese philosophy and Japanese aesthetics. And I-T of course, because I am Italian and the brand is 100% made in Italy. When I put together wa plus I-T, I said, "Gosh, it makes sense in English too. It's ‘wait.’” When I changed my life, I had to stop, to wait, to look inside me, and to rebuild my path. I think that the name of the brand describes everything.

SW: Given you are the only 100% carbon-neutral brand in Europe, can you tell me more about the practices your company has in place?

RG: My brand was supposed to be launched in April 2020. It was the worst moment to launch a brand. I always think that in the worst period, you can have the best opportunity if you can grab that.

I was attending an online webinar promoted by Georgetown University. I have to thank my engineering background because I'm always curious. A couple of days after the webinar, I was contacted by the professor. She asked me to participate in a summer project on sustainability involving students all over the US. It was very enriching to me as a person. At the end, we actually got a great [sustainability] score. After that, this very tiny and just-launched Italian beauty brand became a case in sustainability courses in several US universities.

In September 2021, I was contacted by Cornell University. They were preparing a carbon calculator for beauty brands, and they asked me to be part of this project. We got one number that indicated the brand's carbon footprint, and it was very small as compared to similar-sized beauty brands. I try to keep sustainability in mind at every step. From the sourcing of the raw materials to the manufacturing, from formulation to the search of suppliers and the distribution and transportation.

We are the very first European beauty brand achieving this status. I'm so happy because I strongly believe in sustainability.

SW: Can you tell me more about what your personal practices look like since starting your brand?

RG: There is a less rational side and more heart in my decisions. I'm the first tester of my brand because I use very few products. I start in the morning with HITO, the perfume just to start. This is on my bedside table. Normally, in the morning I need to be connected with myself. So first of all, HITO. Then I practice a little bit of yoga. In the morning, OFURO on my face. I put some oil on my face and on my hair. And I feel well, so I can start my day.

I try to follow the rituality. The rituality is not just layering products, but to be conscious of the action we're making. Washing my face is part of the ritual. Normally we act in a very mechanical way when we wash ourselves, [but] in this case, it's part of being conscious. One thing I'm trying to do is to keep the authenticity of my vision every day.

SW: What is your favorite product or ritual? And what do you suggest our readers start off with first to be exposed and experience your brand?

RG: One is HITO, because everything started with HITO. HITO was the very first product I launched in 2020. It gives me the energy to start my day. But not the physical energy, the mental energy.

The second product I can tell you is OFURO, the cleansing balm. I love the product so much because before I started my brand, I used to use many, many products for my face. Then I started thinking, the skin has the largest organ of human being. When we treat an organ, we treat it as a whole. Why do we not act in the same way when we treat the skin?

The third is OMNI. I always put some drops of OMNI oil on my skin. When you see your skin glowing, you feel better.

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