Forget Candles—La Réunion’s Sarah Nsikak Sets the Mood With Scented Matchsticks
Creating with purpose is the clothing designer’s key to wellness.
Published Dec 12, 2021 6:00 AM
Small rituals make home a place for rest and rejuvenation. In The Wind Down: Day to Night, presented by Lincoln, we explore the wellness routines of people we admire. Because it’s the little moments throughout the day that make us feel our best—and stress-free.
Sarah Nsikak, the founder of sustainable clothing brand La Réunion, is known for making textile art and clothing by repurposing fabric waste from vintage items or everyday objects like napkins, tablecloths, and sheets. Each piece is inspired by African culture (the label is named after an island off the coast of Madagascar), as well as Nsikak’s Nigerian roots. Bright colors, patchwork patterns, and purposeful practices are at the heart of her work. Comfort is the primary focus of both her business and personal life.
The Brooklyn-based Nigerian-American designer is newly pregnant, and, as a result, is renewing her focus on wellness. To balance out long days at the studio, Nsikak, who studied creative therapy, understands the importance of establishing routines—for morning, evening, and the time in between—that are intentional and allow her the space to prioritize self-care.
Invisible shields: In the morning I use two (sometimes three) Supergoop! SPFs to protect my skin while schlepping from studio to factory. When I choose to wear makeup, I use Saie Beauty Slip Tint, which serves as a third layer of sun protection and adds a healthy dewiness to my skin.
Fruit cocktail: I love peanut butter with just about any fruit; I always reach for peanut butter and a banana for breakfast or when I need a snack at home. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle granola over it to make it even more satisfying, and a little honey if I’m really going for it.
Something sour:I’m pregnant right now, so I have been indulging in lots of nonalcoholic drinks at home. I love Tart Vinegar in Passion Fruit mixed with citrus Topo Chico. It’s a delicious and refreshing tonic.
Smell test: For years I have loved Maison Louis Marie No.04, and I wear the oil most days—it feels right that I like to burn the candle, too. We try to mostly burn incense, though; we don’t love artificial scents as much as something like dried lavender or these amazing matchsticks.
Make a racket: I’ve found that playing tennis feels like the key to cathartic, mindless exercise, while somehow relaxing me at the same time. Sports aren’t everyone’s go-to, but tennis is very beginner-friendly and helps me laugh at myself, which is truly medicinal.
Required reading: Right now I’m reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, a folkloric fictional book that I first read in grade school. It was the only thing that connected those years with my parents; they grew up in Nigeria and immigrated to the States in the ’80s. The book has a lot of meaning and sentimental value for me, and these days it has been inspiring my work.
Flavor town: After work, I’ll walk the dog, unwind with a record on the turntable, and cook a meal with my husband. We aren’t chefs, so it’s become a fun way for us to connect, be more intentional with what we eat (though takeout still happens sometimes), and try new things. I’ve been really into making potatoes in different ways, and pairing that with varying sautéed or roasted veggies. There’s always some spicy hot sauce involved in my meals, and I know it’s inspired by my mom’s incredible Nigerian cooking skills.
Steam clean: I shower at night because it shakes the day off and helps me relax before bed. I love to use natural bar soaps—right now I’m using Cleo Soap in Just Breathe, and it feels and smells like minty heaven. Once the steam really gets going, I like to do facial massages with the True Botanicals Nourishing Cleanser; they’ve become foundational in my routine, and my skin feels more cleansed and decompressed because of them.
Between the sheets: I have two Parachute pillows that are extra-cozy; the one that touches my face is in a case I made out of an old silk skirt. It doesn’t absorb all the added and natural oils from my face and hair at night, and it feels great! I got our duvet from an Australian brand called Dazed But Amazed, and it’s a brilliant patchwork of linen pieces. The designer only made 30 of them, and I feel lucky to own one.
Do not disturb: My phone is in my room at night because I have a problem! But I do have limits on all my apps that help me unplug and only use it if friends or family need me. I also use the “bedtime” setting, which turns do-not-disturb on after 9 p.m. I do like having the phone nearby when I wake up, though; adding some music to the mornings can really brighten things up and lift your mood in unexpected ways.