Project Description

After suffering a stroke and total sensory recall caused by a tear in her carotid artery while skiing in the French Alps, Yael Alkalay, then in her early twenties, a beauty industry creative and Columbia University MBA candidate, had an insight that would change her life, and the multi-billion dollar beauty industry, for the better. By reconnecting to her senses and potential through the power of touch and smell, Yael discovered the healing bounty in self-care and the science to prove that it could make you more beautiful, for life From early experiments with botanical extracts in her childhood kitchen to watching her mother boil flowers and blend essential oils, Yael was fascinated by the art of scent from the very beginning of her life. Her respect for the land and nature comes from her cultural heritage, which spans various centuries and continents. She grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts and descends from eight generations of Turkish grand rabbis, Kiev musicians, farmers from the pampas of Argentina, and her grandfather was the first dermatologist in Bulgaria. It is this patchwork of traditions and old-world influences that led to her lifelong passion for natural living and seeking out beauty across the globe.

Yael continued her pursuit of botanical practices in college and expanded her study of the art of perfuming and purifying rituals by traveling throughout Japan, where she visited traditional bathhouses and hot springs. There she worked as Creative Director for the iconic Japanese cosmetics company, Shiseido, and later returned to the United States to work briefly for Calvin Klein and get her M.B.A. at Columbia University. But it wasn’t until a life-altering accident during her twenties when she fully grasped her purpose. While skiing on vacation in France, she experienced an intensive stroke that made her realize how fleeting life is and how essential it is to live fully, with appreciation and awareness. After making a full recovery, the spark of Red Flower was ignited. Yael founded Red Flower in 1999 and opened a New York City boutique the following year. The line is entwined with her family’s history, from the ottoman tapestry patterns on the packaging to her dedication to making natural perfume. It is her spiritual and agricultural sensitivity, her cherished customs and her celebration of small moments that make Red Flower what it is today. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at