For Red Flower founder Yael Alkalay, telling a destination’s story means capturing the scent of that place.
Davies + Starr Conditioner from Red Flower's Ocean range.
| Credit: Davies + Starr

“Travel is my greatest inspiration,” says Yael Alkalay, former Shiseido creative director and the founder of Red Flower, a beauty brand known for its international philosophy—which she attributes to her early exposure to different cultures. “Between my Argentine mother and Turkish-Bulgarian father, nine languages were spoken in my family and we each had four passports.” Since its debut in 1999, Red Flower’s travel-influenced products have attracted a cult following and are a favorite of many hotels and resorts, including the Cove Atlantis, in the Bahamas, and Miami’s Standard. Alkalay is a self-proclaimed hotel junkie. “My most memorable moments growing up were in warm, family-run Argentine inns or at grand hotels in Europe,” she says. “Hotels give a sense of freedom, that you’re someone else somewhere else.” So the entrepreneur’s latest venture should come as no surprise. She’s developing custom hotel fragrances; her first was a scented candle for Napa Valley’s Carneros Inn. “I asked local botanists, naturalists, and vintners to fill Mason jars with things that define the land,” she explains. “I received containers filled with wild roses, a beekeeper’s last bit of star-thistle honey, salt water signifying the fresh, briny taste of the air—incredible stories that helped me come up with the scent.” She’s currently working on a fragrance for the Jefferson, in Washington, D.C. “They want a scent tied to Thomas Jefferson’s vision, so I’ve been strolling through the Monticello gardens discovering what plants he grew there,” she says. “I’m always looking for that special item, that exceptional puzzle piece that resonates. It’s like searching for the Holy Grail!”

Komatsu, Japan

“I studied abroad and fell in love with my host family’s village outside Kyoto. Their 350-year-old house sat atop a tiny mountain, surrounded by rice fields, bonsai and wild persimmon trees, and kinmoxei, a peachy-scented orange flower I’ve never forgotten.”

Patagonia, Argentina

“It looks different from any place on earth—rocky and raw, with moss covering everything. I feel like Alice in Wonderland there!”


“Heaven for a tea fanatic! You drink tea in these exquisite little glasses while taking in the city.”


“The fjords there are some of the most pure, pristine places I’ve seen.”

Napa, California

“The way the sun hits the land, the intense scent of growing herbs, the dry landscape—it’s amazing.”