Selahatin’s Unexpected Approach to Oral Care

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We tend to think of oral care as a (maybe boring) part of our daily routine. In this interview, Selahatin’s founder Kristoffer Vural offers his fresh perspective on the matter, and explains why there might be more than what we usually see in the way we care for our mouth.

Kristoffer Vural, founder of Selahatin

Could you share with us a little about your background and what initially inspired you to create Selahatin?

I’m the son of a Swedish mother and a Turkish father. Growing up in Sweden while spending summers in Turkey exposed me to diverse cultural influences. One significant aspect was encountering various spices from my father’s herbal garden. Reflecting on my upbringing, I believe it greatly influenced the inception of Selahatin. The brand embodies a fusion of my personal identity and cultural journey, stemming from the stark contrasts between Swedish and Turkish cultures. While Turkey resonates with vibrant colors, expressive people, and rich spices, Sweden embodies tranquility and subtlety in both nature and demeanor.
My fondest memories are intertwined with scents and tastes, like walking among lemon orchards and wild roses in Turkey. These experiences, while ordinary in certain cultures, felt exotic and captivating to me, especially coming from Sweden.

Moreover, a significant turning point occurred in my life when I suffered a stroke in my younger years, leaving me paralyzed on one side of my body and hospitalized for a year. The stroke bestowed upon me a condition known as synesthesia, where I perceive scents and tastes through colors. This heightened sensitivity to sensory experiences compelled me to seek solace in familiar and comforting rituals, such as brushing my teeth. However, conventional oral care products felt devoid of care and authenticity, amplifying my discomfort.
During my rehabilitation, I embarked on a journey to redefine oral care by infusing it with intention and emotion. Drawing inspiration from my synesthetic visions and cultural heritage, I envisioned a range of products that not only cleansed but also indulged the senses. The result was Selahatin, where each product tells a story, evokes emotions, and celebrates individuality.
For instance, our signature aroma, “Of Course I Still Luv You”, draws inspiration from Andrew Wyeth’s painting, “Christina’s World.” This painting, depicting a paralyzed woman striving to reach her home, resonated deeply with my own post-stroke experiences. By translating the painting’s colors and emotions into a unique blend of Verbena, Bergamot, Cardamom, Thyme, and mint, I aimed to encapsulate the essence of resilience and hope.

Selahatin’s philosophy extends beyond mere oral hygiene; it’s about curating a personalized sensory experience. Much like selecting fragrances based on mood or occasion, our customers can choose from a range of toothpaste “aromas” to suit their preferences and daily rhythms. Our latest collection, “Four Seasons,” mirrors the changing seasons, offering a “toothpaste wardrobe” that adapts to individual tastes and moods.

In summary, Selahatin seeks to elevate oral care into a sensorial journey—one that embraces diversity, storytelling, and the beauty of everyday rituals.

An image from Selahatin’s latest campaign

As a brand, what core values and beliefs does Selahatin embody, and how do these inform the design and production of your products?

I believe one of our core values is authenticity. We strive to maintain authenticity in everything we do. Selahatin is an honest brand, and I am personally invested in every product we release. We don’t compromise on quality. Additionally, our brand carries a deeply personal narrative. We aim for excellence in craftsmanship, not just in our products but also in our communications and visual identity. Drawing inspiration from companies like Apple, we adopt a hyper-progressive approach, constantly challenging conventional norms. I often describe Selahatin as the antithesis of mainstream brands like Colgate; where they tread, we diverge. This, I believe, encapsulates our core values.

What are some of your most popular or beloved products, and what do you think makes them stand out to customers?

I would say it’s definitely “Of Course I Still Luv You” as I mentioned earlier. It’s been our bestseller thus far, and I believe it resonates with people because of its name, which holds significant appeal. Moreover, I consider it one of the finest aromas Selahatin has to offer, embodying my vision for the brand’s products. Pinpointing its essence is challenging—it possesses a mysterious allure, where each element harmonizes to create a sensation greater than the sum of its parts. It’s peculiar because it evokes feelings akin to a youthful spring romance or a tender first kiss.

Another standout product is “Escapist,” which has garnered considerable acclaim. Infused with cinnamon, grapefruit, bitter orange, cardamom, and almond, it exudes freshness, depth, and a hint of fruity richness. Its warm and comforting flavor profile resonates strongly with our customers. Personally, I believe “Escapist” encapsulates the essence of Selahatin—it was born from a desire to escape reality. My hope is that through our products, individuals can momentarily forget their troubles, immerse themselves in the present, and be transported to a realm of enchantment, leaving reality behind.

Are there any meaningful moments in the history of Selahatin that you would like to share with us?

One memorable moment was when I read an interview in a magazine with Rick Owens, a renowned designer, where he mentioned using Selahatin. It was a fantastic moment for me personally, as I’ve been a fan of his work for nearly 15 years. Hearing his endorsement and appreciation for our brand and its typography was truly gratifying.

Running a company comes with its share of highs and lows, often more lows than highs. For instance, when I first launched the brand, our first big client had 50 stores across Europe. Initially, this was a cause for celebration. However, as the deadline approached, I realized the product quality wasn’t up to par, forcing me to cancel the order and start from scratch. This setback cost us a year, and the supplier dropped us as a client, resulting in a significant loss.

When I began Selahatin, I was financially strained after a breakup and had to rent out my apartment on Airbnb to make ends meet. I moved into a small office space in central Stockholm without a shower or kitchen. I had to shower at the gym and survive on cold cuts. Despite the challenges, creating this brand has been a labor of love. It’s improbable that Selahatin even came to fruition, considering the doctors’ prognosis after my stroke, claiming I might never work again.

Moreover, challenging an industry dominated by four global giants controlling 97% of the market is daunting. There’s a lack of niche brands and suppliers, making it challenging to introduce unique ideas. Pitching ideas like using aluminum tubes and creating complex aromas with smaller quantities seemed almost impossible. However, I believe this journey is essential, as it’s shaping the future of the industry. I envision a future where brands offer more variety, akin to Selahatin, acknowledging that people desire diversity even in everyday products like toothpaste.

To sum it up, while being a pioneer has its challenges, I firmly believe it’s the way forward. I foresee a future where supermarkets stock brands resembling Selahatin, offering a broader range of flavors and innovative designs. People don’t eat the same food every day, so why should they settle for the same toothpaste? It’s a notion that resonates deeply with me and drives the vision behind Selahatin.

Among the most iconic brands with a strong legacy, what is your favorite one and why?

Apple, in my opinion, stands as one of the greatest brands in history, largely due to the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs. I find myself drawn to his visionary approach, which resonates with my own personality structure. Like Jobs, I see potential where others may not, and I’m fascinated by the marriage of art and science—a synergy that Apple has perfected.

What captivates me about Apple is its unwavering commitment to craftsmanship. Their products seamlessly blend aesthetics with functionality, creating experiences that feel almost magical. Furthermore, Apple’s willingness to play the long game has been instrumental in its success. While competitors may have focused on short-term gains, Apple prioritized building a company and products that would stand the test of time. This strategic foresight has paid off, as evidenced by Apple’s current position as one of the most valuable companies in the world.

In essence, Apple’s ethos of innovation, craftsmanship, and long-term vision serves as a guiding light for Selahatin, inspiring us to push boundaries and create products that not only meet but exceed expectations.

Selahatin’s toothpaste squeezer

Is there a book, a movie or a trip that has inspired your life or the creation of the brand?

While it may not directly inspire my life, I am particularly obsessed with the movie Interstellar. I’ve watched it countless times, and what resonates with me is the theme of exploration. The idea of venturing into the vast unknown of outer space mirrors the spirit of exploration that drives not only Selahatin but also many other brands and companies. Additionally, the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Hans Zimmer adds to the movie’s allure. Another film series I adore is The Matrix trilogy. The meticulously choreographed fight scenes, akin to ballet, are visually stunning. Moreover, the trilogy delves into profound philosophical questions, making it intellectually stimulating and captivating.
So while these movies may not directly relate to Selahatin, they inspire me with their themes of exploration, philosophical inquiry, and artistic excellence.

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