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Denise Leicester, founder of Ila Spa, Soul Medicine and Ilapothecary is a petit woman with an incredible inner reserve & knowledge, as well as multiple professional qualifications under her belt. A former nurse, yoga teacher, healer and aromatherapist, she is also a singer with a voice of an angel and a tireless creator of products that have a potential to become instant classics. In early February she & her team hosted intimate gatherings to introduce the products, so they could be better understood and described, as well as the sound bath to complete the experience. To spend time with Denise is the best remedy for the mind, body and soul if you ask me, with the effect of her words & her singing lasting for hours, if not days.
“The Beat The Blues range has been created to help capture your inner smile, hope and joy as you connect with yourself and your purpose”. Denise Leicester
Joining the ‘Beat the Blues’ signature collection is the ‘Beat the Blues Shower and Bath Oil’ – an alchemical, mood-balancing blend of essential oils to revitalise and clear the mind, as well as the ‘Beat the Blues Pulse Point’ – a therapeutic, mood-balancing blend of essential oils that boost self-esteem, ease frustration, revitalise and stimulate happiness. There is also ‘Beat the Blues Room Spray’ that helps to clear the atmosphere and make your work place or home more peaceful energetically.
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My ‘getting-to-know’ the essence of Ilapothecary started with the filling in of the questionnaire for Denise. The statements I had to answer with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ were interesting, but a bit random to my mind, ranging from ‘I sometimes feel separated from within’ to ‘I can only accept factual ideas that can be demonstrated and proven’ and ‘I have swollen ankles and feet’. Deep analysis of not just your health, but inner world and the way your mind works. I sent it off to Denise and asked for advice on the treatment she thought I would be best suited to have. Truth be told, I was drawn to quite a few of them, from reflexology, to immunity to hormones and digestion. I was delighted when Denise suggested ‘Re-Balancing Reflexology’ with a ‘Kidney Pack’.
Tip: During winter, place a hot water bottle on the area where your kidneys are located, as it will help your body feel nurtured and relaxed.
I was asked to arrive ten minutes early, in order to settle, discuss questionnaire and have the treatment, but life had a slightly different plan for my journey that day. Even though I left home early, Circle and District lines, unknown to me in the beginning of my journey, weren’t running as planned. I waited, got impatient and dashed out from the tube station when it became blindingly obvious that the train I needed, will arrive well after my appointment was supposed to start. A taxi driver ( not Uber!) came to the rescue and when he deposited me outside Ilapothecary, I realised that if I took the tube, I would have gone to a slightly different address to what was in my confirmation e-mail. Stressed and tired, even though it was still morning, I opened the door, stepped into Ilapothecary….. and as if by magic, calm descended on me. From the moment my feet came over the threshhold. The place was sunny, warm, quiet and felt like an old, comforting friend, waiting to envelope me into a big hug.
Products with Purpose, treatments with Meaning
The space inside is divided into three areas – the front is dedicated to the store, with plants, jars, balms, tinctures and dry, as well as fresh, plants cleaning the air, while you peruse the selection. Its not huge in size, but its almost impossible to resist the explorer emerging to the forefront. A space to browse, explore, smell, touch. To ask questions and learn. To allow your senses help make decisions for you. What beckons you in, why? What product should you try, what role does numerology play in the creation of products?
Further down, up a few steps is the area where I sat down to discuss results of my questionnaire – take your shoes off, feel the wooden planks under your bare feet creaking a little under the wright, lengthen your breaths, have a cup of freshly made herbal tea, as you arrange your thoughts. Snack on a bowl of coconut chips & almonds, feeling like a guest welcomed by an indulgent and warm host.
Denise, a petite, calm woman with kindly inquisitive eyes, sat at my feet and told me that the results of my questionnaire, developed together with Dr. Zulia Frost, came back as ‘balanced’. She explained the balance of chakras and elements – Earth, Water, Wood, Fire and Metal and said that instead of a ‘cleansing’ treatment, my body would benefit from ‘rejuvenation’. She offered me insights on my stress and sleep levels (spot on). Recommended walking and visualisation. Advised on doing digital detox maybe twice a week (hm, that so far has proved tricky, even with an app now giving me details of my daily time spent online).
Denise is one of those people who are quietly observant and unassuming, yet she possesses vast knowledge of different professions and modalities, all of which led her down her life’s path, culminating in a way into something mesmerising – both Soul Vibrational Medicine Music and Ilapothecary. Having worked for many years as a nurse and being privy to her patients painful journeys of recovery and in some instances loss, Denise changed and transformed as both a professional, as well as a human being. Being a nurse is one of the toughest professions, as it’s not just about the knowledge and responsibility, its also the constant pressure that walks side by side with this very caring & noble profession. Having been right in the middle of it for years, baring its heavy weight on her shoulders, Denise wanted to turn her experience into something more joyful. She dreamt of creating something that will support people during the periods of transition and change and later help them lead a more balanced life. Each of Ilapothecary products not only help to make your skin and body look and feel better, they also come with in-built emotional support.
For many years Denise explored the fields of homeopathy, aromatherapy, nutrition, counselling,complimentary medicine, naturopathy, formulation, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga and other disciplines. She learnt about plants and herbs, she experimented with oils, focussing on purity and potency. She worked with numerology, crystals and Native American healers. Explored the intricacies of inflammation in our bodies, as well as medicinal properties of plants, focusing on finding and creating modern natural remedies that address problems like anxiety, sleep, exhaustion & stress holistically.
There is much more to Denise’s life journey than just leaving one profession and moving onto another. She faced her own sickness, which took a while to resolve, especially when traditional medicine wasn’t very helpful. Denise is also very closely attuned to the inner beat of India and it is a place that she calls her spiritual home. She studied yoga and Marma healing in Kerala, exploring subtleties of body and mind connections, chakras and energy work, doing her own spiritual work along the way, filtering her emotions and letting them inform her work. As Denise continued to change and evolve, bubbles of emotions were coming to the surface and needed to be let go with grace and reflection. Her teacher also taught her a very valuable lesson that she shared with me – in order to be well, happy and balanced, we all need to focus NOT on what’s wrong with us, but what is right, allowing that to lead us forward on our spiritual journey along life’s rollercoaster. Once Denise learn that lesson herself, her health started improving. Not surprisingly India is incredibly special to her because that positive affirmation awoke the light in her and continues to keep it burning evenly, brightly and strongly.
A couple of months ago all this finally came together and Ilapothecary opened its welcoming door to the public. There is also an online store for those who can’t immediately come to visit or have a treatment in London. Denise works with two practitioners, Sophie and Pedro, who deliver treatments in the private room at the back of Ilapothecary, based on protocols developed by Denise, at times with their input. Sophie in particular, blonde hair and a peaceful smile on her lovely face, imparts calming vibes on you as soon as you start talking to her.
But it’s not just the protocols and products that play an important role at Ilapothecary. The labels of the products, perfectly executed in a subtle simple way, were developed by an ex-Mulberry designer. Each has a number, a name, an explanation of what it does, leading ingredients, as well as the full INCI. Products that can be purchased and are used during the treatments, explain the ritual behind each product, harnessing the positively healing energy of the people who craft and lovingly create them in Cotswolds, using a lot of British grown plants and herbs. Interestingly Ilapothecary is located at No. 99 on Kensington Church street and this number signifies a number of transformation according numerology. After having my first treatment there and now having used a few products ago home, I can sincerely say that indeed that is the case. If you have an open mind, are curious and ready for change, no matter big or small, those products, recommended to you, will certainly help you change the way you feel and see the bigger picture of the world. In a gentle, respectful way that feels as natural, as the warm sun shining in the summer and the moon emerging at night.
Now that you know a little bit more about Denise and Ilapothecary, let me tell you about the treatment I had. After I drank the warm herbal tea that Sophie made for me during my consultation with Denise, she took me to the treatment room that is separated from the store and relaxation area by the thick curtain that absorbs all the exterior sounds, offering your privacy, tranquility and rest. The room also has a beautiful skylight and you can see the birch trees and its branches swaying gracefully in the wind. Not many treatment rooms can boast about natural light, something that benefits not just you, but the practitioner that works on you, instead of being hidden underground or in a dark room all day long. That can affect both mood, as well as therapists own energy. Natural light in the treatment room also allows the energetic ebb and flow of seasons and hours of the day into the room, enhancing the treatment.
Francesca has two kids, an 11-year old daughter and a 7-year old son, so she has first-hand experience with the pressures they face daily, both at school and socially. Every week she read articles on stress, yet none really seemed to come up with effective and long-term solutions. Nowadays some of the schools put mindfulness and growth mindset at the centre of their approach to raising the new generation, but not everyone is lucky to go to such schools. So what to do, Francesca kept on asking herself? Working as a productivity consultant and keeping up with the modern technology advances, she knew that the destructive side needs to be tamed and good habits and routines that worked in the past and will work in the future need to be reinforced.
After doing a ‘Science of Happiness’ course in Berkeley, which looked into things like what practises make us feel better and how we can naturally engrain them into our children, Francesca pulled her sleeves up and starting putting pen to paper, or rather creating The HappySelf Journal. She spoke in detail to teachers and educators and consulted her own kids and their friends. She discussed content, colours (in psychology yellow is the colour of happiness), length of time a diary should cover and the ‘weight’ of the journal (mums are known for their practicality .) This summer the first copy of the journal went into print and and in the autumn it was launched.
HappySelfJournal came into my life via Instagram and within 24hrs of seeing it, I purchased a bundle of three. One was meant for my daughter (girls loves writing, for boys it comes into force a bit later, as calligraphy in early years definitely seems to be the quality more attributable to the girls), the other for my son and the third possibly for me?
As life would have it, after a particular intensive week in school, something made me pull our the HappySelf Journal and give it to my son in early October. And from then on, he just feel under its spell and pretty much every evening, after reading, he would giggle and fill it in. In his own time, on his own term, by himself. Relishing the moments of peace before bedtime, thinking about the day he just had. He also wrote about it in the weekly newspaper that he produces for his school, sharing something that helps him deal with the 11+ prep pressures that he and his classmates are currently under.
Then my daughter got her hands on hers, as a treat for her hard work at school. She carefully studied it and within days it became part of her own evening ritual too. When I asked her why she likes it, she paused for a second and replied that it helps track of the things that make her happy and in the future she could look back on the things that she did that made her happy. Her own reminder of the fun things. Pretty impressive answer for someone still very young, don’t you agree?
Now, what can you expect to find inside the HappySelf Journal? Without giving too much away, after all it will be much more fun for you and your child to discover it by yourselves,[...]
We live in the age when speed, technology and algorithms rule, yet having grown up as a child without computer, mobile and social media, I know that my generation has a different, possibly more grounding[...]
In the last couple of weeks I needed to restock on some supplements, fancied adding a new bag to my wardrobe and wanted to experiment with a new cleanser. I also wanted to get to know a fashion brand better and ordered a catalogue.
Cefinn is a fashion brand created by Samantha Cameron, wife of former PM David, mother of three and a woman who helped breath new life into Smythson. Popular with the fashion crowd and practical women who want to look stylish, but not overdone or too trendy, the brand recently announced via Instagram that their new A/W 2018 catalogue was hot off the press. I ordered one via Cefinn’s website and within two working days it landed on my mat. Elegant. Effortless. Everyday. Fast on its feet, attentive to customers, existing and new.
Organic Burst was one of the first supplement brands that really made an impression on my in the last decade of wellbeing evolution. Having been launched in London, it disrupted the way we viewed supplements, but just as it has build up a loyal following among customers and retailers, Katya and Dimitri, OB’s founders took the products off the retailers shelves and re-located to the US, leaving many, including myself, somewhat bewildered by such an unpredictable move. Having said that, Organic Burst still make their supplements and ships them around the world. It has a loyal following, supports its suppliers and workers, raising awareness of the working conditions and being a conscious, ethical and responsible brand. My recent order of ‘old’ favourites, Maca and Baobab, as well as Wheatgrass, have arrived within three days of my placing the order. Pleasing to the eye, beneficial to the body, quick on its feet, with regular updates on dispatch and estimated arrival.
DeMellier London is a brand founded by a beautiful, practical and creative woman, Mireia Llusia-Lindh, who successfully combines motherhood with work and remains charming and inquisitive along the way, treating her customers with the same charm and discretion, as she does her growing celebrity and royalty cleintelle. Having recently rebranded (original brand name was Milli Millu), DeMellier London recently launched Autumn 2018 edition of their in-house customer magazine. After exchanging opinions with Mireia, I ordered their new miniature bag The Siena (the brand uses inspiring cities from around the world as the names for their bags & mini leather accessories). With a chic gold chain and in a seasonal shade of purple, this bag arrived super quickly, lovingly and carefully packaged in a protective cotton bag, and even though I tend to favour large bags, this mini assistant now doesn’t seem to be far from my side.
By the same token I recently had super quick delivery from across the pond, from Beauty Heroes, following the issue that I experienced with my subscription box with the Royal Mail and my bookish Boxwalla. Each took less than a week. Interestingly and tellingly, it is often the smaller brands and companies that tend to provided efficient, attentive and speedy service, even though their budget and staff capabilities are limited.
Cult Beauty is a well-known beauty retailer, which regularly gets mentioned in the press and on social media. Recently there have been tentative mentions that founders are looking to sell the business – whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but if that happened, it wouldn’t be surprising, considering their growth and size. However, having been a CB customer from early on, nowadays I rarely place the orders. I do sometimes succumb to my ‘shopping’ impulses, when they are the only UK retailer to stock a brand, which was a case recently. I placed an order and it was dispatched two days later. The quoted delivery time is normally 3-7 work days. Other parcels arrived, but no the one from Cult Beauty. I e-mailed, I tweeted. I got a DM and exchanged e-mails. More time passed. No parcel. Again I chased. CB phone wasn’t manned, instead it had an answerphone on. Suffice to say that the parcel didn’t arrive within the time stated and neither did the replies from the customer service team within the 24-48hrs they quote. I also realised that this has been more or less the same pattern of service I have received on most of my Cult Beauty orders in the last year. But what made this particular shopping experience even worse, is that when my order arrived, it looked like this:
My writing of this post was driven by my own internal dialogue about customer care and loyalty and how important it is to customers, particularly when they have short attention spans, busy schedules and desire for instant gratification. Is it too much to expect a reply when the parcel hasn’t arrived on time? Or an update, if there is a delay in dispatch? Do we want to shop with retailers, who let us down again & again or do we take this as an opportunity to slow down, breath and practise being more patient? Do we raise a fuss or do we stay silent? Do we continue to support retailers which are driven by their own profit targets & agenda because they stock something that others don’t, rather than the desire to please the customer and provide him or her with courteous service and a feel-good experience, while achieving their business plan? All those questions floated around my head before and during writing of this post. Question is, what do YOU think and how do YOU differentiate retailers you choose to shop with regularly? Is customer service important or is it secondary, as long as receive what you paid for? What makes you reach a boiling points & walk away from the retailer for good? Please share what you think and what matters to YOU when it comes to the customer service you receive or want from online and high street retailers alike.