Limited Edition Candles and Reed Diffusers
20 Years of Travel, Friendship & Business
John Robshaw and Therese Gibbons met 20 years ago when they were both launching their companies. John was starting John Robshaw Textiles, global bedding and textiles, inspired by India artisans, and Therese was beginning Alora Ambiance, the first reed diffuser in America, brought from Italy. They've come together 20 years later to launch this collection of reed diffusers and candles using Alora's most popular signature scents wrapped in John's notable prints and patterns. We asked Therese Gibbons, the founder of Alora Ambiance, a few questions below.
How did you and John meet?
Well, 20 years ago magazines still ruled when it came to discovering new products and stores - no Instagram, and people were still scared to enter their credit cards online (imagine!). And, combing through a mag, I happened to see John’s bedding in a “best of” section and loved it, telling my sister that we had to visit the “John Robshaw store” on our next NYC trip. Of course when we cabbed down to his Chelsea showroom we realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t a store, but John happened to be there and we gushed to him how much we loved his textiles and our friendship was born.
How did you start Alora?
My sis and I started Alora in 2000 after spending two years living together in Italy. We lived in a 150-year old villa overlooking Lake Como and were constantly inspired by the beauty surrounding us. Feeling the pull of home, we committed to starting our own business together, and began with bringing our own version of the “reed” diffuser to America.
In 2000, we moved home to our family farm in Southern Minnesota and developed a trio of signature scents and introduced the US to a brand new home fragrance category. By the end of 2000 we’d hand assembled 8000 diffusers and landed Alora in 12 boutiques across the country.
How did you know when you made it and that this was going to be a real business?
Easy. The minute we got the call telling us Barneys New York added our diffusers to their apothecary, we were off to the races. We’d hand-selected some great retailers across the country but landing a spot in Barneys truly was a stamp of approval. We’d have buyers call from stores across the country saying “they’d seen our product in Barneys and would like to write an order immediately”. Eventually Alora was in all the flagship and co-op locations and had great success there for 11 years.
Being on Oprah’s O List that same year was a pretty big deal too, people still call today asking what Oprah’s favorite scent is!
What have been some of the ups and downs of Alora over the years?
Gratefully, we’ve had way more ups than downs, with the greatest “up” the fact we’re a 20-year old business that people are still excited about and devoted fans of. Nothing better.
And we’ve had our share of downs. When the first knockoffs appeared it was hard, and vendor issues and the economy have kept us humble. But the biggest struggle remains the daily juggling of managing a business with the demands of motherhood. I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t do anything differently, but endlessly proud that, so far, I’ve kept all the balls in the air!
Favorite JRT product?
Impossible to pick one. I’ve been filling my home with his beautiful things since that day we met in his showroom! I recently recovered a vintage side chair with his Kukkuta Teak Fabric and it’s gorgeous - like a piece of art.
What's your favorite part of running Alora?
Hearing from our loyal fans, no doubt. Nothing makes me happier than an Alora devotee telling me they’ve tried the “others” and that Alora is hands down the best – that’s as good as it gets.
Any advice you have for someone who wants to start their own business?
Be open and trust your gut. Ann and I made an agreement from the beginning to always be open to ideas from others: whether it was entertaining a new vendor, a new product idea, changes to our website – we were humble and recognized that we were not experts in everything. That said, we’ve trusted our instincts since day one – from what to make, with whom to partner and where to invest. Definitely not always easy but it’s been the secret to our success.
Favorite places to go/stay in Italy?
If I had to pick one, it’d be Bolzano in Northern Italy at the foothills of the Dolomites. It’s surrounded by small mountain villages and has the most unforgettable views in all of Italy, which is saying something. We’d visit their Christmas Market to take in the amazing alpine decorations and stuff ourselves with the hearty Austrian-influenced food before a weekend skiing. A unique and tourism-proof gem and effortlessly charming.