Jaboneria Marianella: A Family of Fragrance

Marianella Febres-Cordero and David Foote are many things. She is a graphic designer and author. He is a filmmaker and fine artist. But most importantly, they are mother and son. Together, they own Jaboneria Marianella, a gorgeous line of luxuriously fragrant natural bath and body products. The story behind their soaps is almost as interesting as they are.
Photograph by Tyler Cheever Gomes

On How They Started

Marianella: On Sundays, when I was young, my mother would teach my sisters and me how to make soaps. Then, about 16 years ago, I started making them again with my sister in Caracas. We’d sell them in bazaars and things like that. I moved to the States in 2007. I began perfecting the formulas and making the soap come out the way I wanted it.

David: My mom started sending me the soaps as gifts, like, every week. I had so much soap; I didn’t know what to do with it. So I gave it away to friends, and everybody started coming back to me, raving: it’s so amazing, it smells so fantastic, I love this… Suddenly, I thought, wait, there’s something interesting here. Why don’t we start a company? So I started it for her.

On Working Together

David: It’s really a mother and son team. We have 100 employees now and we have an amazing team of experts that we work with. But at the end of the day, every decision is made by us.

Marianella: David and I both value family. That doesn’t mean just mother and father or siblings. It means everybody: cousins, second cousins, grandmothers, you know, the huge extended family.

David: At first, it’s always hard working with family and especially with your mom. It took a while to get into the right rhythm. Basically what we stumbled upon is that we each do very different things. I think the problem was happening when we were doing each other’s things. That’s when fights start. I do the packaging, the campaigns, the visuals, and then Mom does the fragrances, the ingredients and the research.

On Making the Soaps

Marianella: Making the soap is like cooking. Everything from nature has properties, good or bad. You pick up the ingredients that you most like, and you mix them and experiment until you get the flavor you want.

David: Our soap is all natural. We use shea butter, argan oil, and other natural oils. We research all our ingredients, and look for what’s actually good feeling, what’s beneficial. Without using chemicals and without using anything bad. I have very sensitive skin, so I test everything on myself. For the shower gel, I showered every day about 4 times a day, half of my body with ours and half of my body with a competitor. I’d say “we need more lather,” or “we need more softness,” until we got the formula. I always say, we don’t test on animals, we test on our friends and family.

I used our family crest for the packaging. I wanted something that felt old world and looked modern and new at the same time. I feel like you either see brands that are super modern or brands that are old timey and kind of mega-apothecary-ish. I wanted wanted to do something in between. Something that was a little more interesting. Every fragrance has its own pattern, and every box is actually signed by me on the side. It’s super subtle. No one notices it, but I do.

On The Inspiration Behind The Scents

David: My grandfather was an ambassador, and my mom grew up all over the world.

Marianella: Each soap is dedicated to a person or a place. It all started with a soap I sent David for his birthday, Dama de la Noche. Dama de la Noche is a flower that blooms only at night and as the wind blows, this incredible aroma drifts all over the place. It’s glorious. The flower is from the family of the wisterias, jasmine, and gardenia. When David was little, we used to sit on the terrace, look at the stars and the beautiful scent would surround us. Then, I put in apple because he loves my apple pies. And a little lemon because I remembered this lemony scent. He said that when he opened it, he smelled the familiar smells. That’s what I wanted; I did this with all my love, with all my care, and with all my dedication, and the person that received it perceived that. That’s how I do all the soaps. Tintarella di Luna is for my daughter. I did one for my mother called Aura Elena; that’s her name. I put all the things that she and I loved in it. Coconut, because we loved to drink coconut milk, Mulberry, which is sweet, because she’s gotten very sweet in her old age, and Oak Moss, because it’s very earthy, and she’s a very down to earth person, even now that she’s 85.

Jaboneria Marianella is available online, at luxury boutiques and at SpaceNK. Product photos by Thomas Wolfe Northcut, courtesy of Jaboneria Marianella.

You May Also Like

1 Response