In today’s turbulent climate, war, weapons, poverty and political corruption symbolize far too many nations. But for one string of tropical islands, sand, sea foam, fantastical flora, and a line of spa products captures national identity.
Pure Fiji was founded in 1995 as the vision of Fijian mother and daughter, Gaetane and Andre Austin. In less than fifteen years, the company has become practically synonymous with the Fijian Islands. Pure Fiji’s products, which are made from native ingredients, are featured in nearly every upscale resort in the Island chain. They are displayed prominently in Duty Free shops and are given as thank you gifts from the government to visiting dignitaries and other VIP’s. A tour of the company’s factory is recommended on most tourism and guidebook “must do” lists.
I’ve been fascinated for several years by the national identity attached to Pure Fiji. On a recent trip designed to escape winter weather in the tropical island chain, I made it my goal to discover the magic of Pure Fiji for myself by visiting some of Fiji’s blossoming spas and experiencing the products first hand.
The first thing I noticed about Pure Fiji products is weight. The base ingredient in the skin care line is the ubiquitous native coconut. To Fijians, the coconut palm is the “tree of life.” (The tree, which grows heartily in even the most challenging tropical environments, has dozens of uses to the locals, from food to rope to roof thatch.) Native coconut was the inspiration for Pure Fiji. The Austins set out to found a company that could bring Fijian products to the world and realized that widely available pure, virgin coconut oil would be the perfect base for a line of high quality bath and body products.
But the secret to Pure Fiji’s superior spa products is not just in the local coconut oil. It is also in the naturally extracted scents of native flora that give the soaps and lotions their distinctive aromatics. Pure Fiji’s body products come in seven different signature fragrances. The scents are almost hypnotically attractive, with popular aromas including coconut, frangipani, and the newest fragrance, mango – released in 2008.
On my visit to one of Fiji’s newest spas, Bebe at the Outrigger On the Lagoon, I asked spa manager Praveena Dewar why the newly opened spa chooses to feature Pure Fiji as its exclusive body line. Dewar replied that she’s never seen guests respond more positively to any body care line. Her description for the Pure Fiji line is simply, “effective on the body.” She elaborates that not only are the oils and lotions extremely hydrating, not to mention a great weight for the therapists to use, she swears that the Pure Fiji fragrances are “excellent for reducing stress.”
Having experienced my share of aromatherapy, I was skeptical that the seven different Pure Fiji scents all offered by Bebe in various treatments could possibly all be effective at reducing stress. But I did have to wonder about the cocoon of wellbeing I experienced the moment I stepped off the shuttle cart that transported me from the main resort up a steep hill to the Outrigger’s spa. I credited it to the spa’s tranquil, hilltop setting, overlooking the South Seas, not to mention the facility’s sparkling newness. (Bebe is not just the prettiest spa I experienced in Fiji, it is one of the most attractive small spas I’ve visited anywhere in the world).
But the allure of Bebe is more than the setting. After my massage with the coconut lotion, I was moved to new heights of relaxation. (As a type A personality, my mind rarely settles). But post Pure Fiji massage, my mind had boarded the slow train, where I remained in a calm glow for the rest of the day. And my mother, another type A who was traveling with me, was equally meditative after her massage with the mango-scented oil.
Kaye Lepper, Spa Director at Namale resort, (owned by American motivational speaker Anthony Robbins), is a devout fan of Pure Fiji products. In fact, Kaye has worked with Pure Fiji since the products were introduced to the local resorts in 1996.
She explained how Pure Fiji’s rapid rise in notoriety is due in part to Andre’s experience and relationships in the hotel industry. Prior to founding Pure Fiji, Andre was an international hotel executive. Using her connections in the local hotel industry, Andre made it the company’s focus to provide products for Fiji’s upscale resort industry.
Sometimes success is in the timing, Lepper elaborates. Because Fiji was slower than most resort destinations to start on the resort spa trend, prior to the existence of Pure Fiji, hotel spas really didn’t exist in this tiny, Pacific nation. As Andre Austin began to make the rounds touting locally made spa products, the local hoteliers were only starting to consider the importance of the spa experience.
But like many Fijian spa directors, Lepper is drawn not only to Pure Fiji’s native-made products but also to the company’s native mentality. Pure Fiji is heavily involved in environmental and community outreach throughout the Islands. Pure Fiji is among the first South Pacific manufacturers to focus on reducing its carbon footprint. Coconuts for their skin care product’s base are wild harvested to reduce impact on the landscape. Pure Fiji’s packaging bottles are PET and their gift packaging is made by hand from natural fibers. The company also focuses on improving lives in the local communities by offering scholarships and assisting local craftsmen with business mentoring.
I wondered, walking into the spa at Namale, if the Bebe experience could be repeated. Once again, I found myself standing inside an absolutely beautiful spa facility. (Beauty, I discovered, is a Fijian trend. Emphasis, in Fijian spas, tends to be on the beauty of the Islands. Many incorporate outdoor elements to celebrate the natural setting and all strive to incorporate traditional, native touches). At Namale, a sugar scrub under the light of a golden moon followed by a massage to the sound of the surf with Pure Fiji oil once again calmed my mind and filled my body with a sense of wellbeing.
And that magic certainly put its hold on me. The evidence was all right there when I opened my suitcase upon returning home and was engulfed in an avalanche of coconut conditioners, pineapple soaps and mango lotions I have no recollection of purchasing. Clearly though my body was able to board that plane back to reality, my subconscious, not quite ready to go, knew that Pure Fiji would allow me to capture that island magic, quite literally, in a bottle.
If you can’t make it to Fiji any time soon, it is possible to experience the island magic without leaving the comfort of home. Pure Fiji products are distributed worldwide – you can even purchase from Amazon.com. And let me assure you that when arctic wind snaps down the streets of Chicago this winter, nothing can sweep you away to an island paradise faster than a single whiff of Pure Fiji.