Abigail Cook Stone is the epitome of Girl Boss. The stunning female founder of cult candle brand Otherland does it all and makes it look glamorous. As a former art buyer for Ralph Lauren, she is extremely well traveled, having gone across the globe in search of gorgeous art and treasures to place in the brand’s stores and restaurants. She also has an MBA. Ultimately Abigail decided to combine her strong business acumen and tasteful eye to create Otherland, which brings the energy of art, design, and fragrance to every moment at home. The candle brand is experiencing huge popularity, likely because of its art-like appearance and divine range of scents.
Tell us about your original inspiration Otherland! AS: I’ve always loved candles! I studied art history in college and went on to work in Art Acquisitions for Ralph Lauren. On one of my artwork buying trips to Paris, I went to the famous concept store, Colette, and was inspired by their cool artist edition candles (I bought 4!). Later, while getting my MBA at Columbia I found myself burning candles every day--from my morning meditation to unwind after a long day of class.
I felt there wasn’t a brand for me--I preferred the fresh fragrances from luxury brands, but they were too expensive to burn every day and their minimalist black-and-white designs left me wanting more. On the other end of the spectrum, the more affordable brands had ultra-sweet scents and “cute” designs that didn’t fit my taste.
Thinking back to Colette, I saw an opportunity to build a modern brand with a focus on art--a consumable, experiential objet d’art (visual, olfactive, tactile)--while incorporating storytelling and community through digital channels. Hence, Otherland!
Everything from the wax blend to the USA made glass tumbler your candles come in is so meticulously thought out. Where did you learn such attention to detail? AS: Why thank you for noticing! My mom taught me everything I know about design; from the way I interpreted it (on our trips to the design floor at MoMA) to the way I experienced it in how she curated our home, her meticulous eye and attention to detail inspire me most. Knowledge aside, my mom left me with a saying, passed from her mother to her than to me, that inspires me in both my daily life and the way I design Otherland, “the extra verve of the added touch.” The Extra Verve defines an attention to detail that elevates something from good to great and makes something - or everything - about your everyday special; a commitment to quality through details - no matter how small.
How has your impressive background in Art and decorating informed your business versus your MBA? AS: Business school is my biggest asset when it comes to being savvy and operating Otherland on a daily basis. When it comes to building an authentic brand and creating a meaningful product, my background in art and design reigns. It’s what differentiates us from the rest of the candle market, and what we had to leverage overcome the obvious challenge of just how do you sell scent through the internet?
Our answer is through art and design. The world of Otherland is about color! pattern! maximalism! -- we want the candle to be a conversation piece that transforms your space AND mood. The product has to spark an emotional connection with the consumer, and we work with incredible artists for every new season to create that and tell each collection’s story.
Otherland is a fresh take on art; creating products that are as expressive and artistic as they are fun to collect and share. It’s a new way to both consume art and switch up the vibe in your space!
There's never been a more exciting time to be a female founder and entrepreneur. What does it mean to you to be a female founder? AS: To me, it is all about inspiring other women and creating a supportive community -- if I can do it, they can do it! Female founders like Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp from Birchbox, Lydia Gilbert and Nadia Boujarwah of Dia&Co, Audrey Gelman & Lauren Kassan of The Wing, and Emily Weiss of Glossier were my biggest inspirations, always giving me courage and confidence - I hope to do the same with the next generation!
What would your dream collaboration be for Otherland? AS: Colette in Paris was my dream collab but sadly they closed a few days after we launched. There are so many artists I’d love to work with, like Derek Adams! I’m also obsessed with Rihanna so I’d love to collaborate with her. Another direction would be with an iconic, everyday brand--perhaps Chiquita Banana or Orangina!
What are you most excited about for your brand in the upcoming months? What should we look out for! AS: Our first fall and holiday collection drops! I’m especially excited about one of our fall scents, Cardamom Milk--we’re making Pumpkin Spice a thing of the past! With fragrance notes of frothy milk, cardamom, and praline woods, it’s beautifully refreshing and elevated with a warm touch of spice and a tiny bit of sweetness. It’s the perfect seasonal upgrade to make your home feel cozy.