Guest SpotlightDina Mussano
We have the coolest guests! An adventure isn’t just about the itinerary–it’s also about who you share it with. We want to turn the spotlight on some of our guests and what projects they’re working on.
When BJ and I first started bringing guests overseas, our sphere was a lot smaller–I’m pretty sure we didn’t even have a newsletter and maybe we had 25 followers on Facebook. Thankfully, our friends trusted us enough to guide them through parts unknown! It’s pretty fitting, then, that one of our first guests is our first Guest Spotlight.
Dina Mussano and her partner Mike joined us on a journey throughout Northern India & Ladakh in 2012. In the mid-2000’s I had the good fortune to work closely with Dina when she was the Graphic Artist and I was the Marketing & Events Coordinator at a Whole Foods Market in San Francisco. I was in absolute awe of her design skills, her style, and her drive even then.
Fast-forward 15 years, through Dina’s impressive design work in the beauty industry, to Shrine and their stylish hand-poured candles. Dina and her business partner Sasha “created Shrine out of our obsession with candles and our desire for a candle brand that felt like more than just an assortment of scents. For us each candle we design is not just a candle but a whole mood.”
Dina hand-pouring Topiary candles.
Shrine’s beautiful, functional, and completely compostable Mushroom Arch packaging.
Dina has always been one of the coolest people I know, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to believe these candles smelled as amazing as they looked (more on that in a minute). What absolutely blew me away, though, was how intentionally and thoroughly earth-friendly Shrine is. RetreaTours is committed to “climate positive” journeys and we triple carbon-offset all of our trips; we love to see (and support) other small companies who are also dedicated to sustainability.
Most impressive and just plain lovely is their Mushroom Arch Packaging; the candles come snug in their own compostable “arch” made of mushrooms that can be composted or tossed directly in your yard to add nutrients back to the soil. You can read more about and see their innovative packaging in their feature on Dieline.
Something I really love is that the warning label on the bottom of the candle is plastic-free & biodegradable, as are the ink and adhesive. We tend to forget that the stickers & labels we see on products around us are plastic! And, of course, the beautiful glass jar is reusable or recyclable, and the inserts inside the Mushroom Arch are printed on 100% recycled paper.
Travel was inspirational for the formation of Shrine’s aesthetic. Dina visited Italy in late 2019 when Shrine’s first candles were still being developed. “That trip was super influential in terms of our aesthetic, for sure! You can see from our pillar logo, the Monogram label, and the sculptural props we use in our photography that we love to incorporate Renaissance elements in our branding, so it was amazing to see the real deal in person!” If you spend any time on Shrine’s Instagram account, you’ll see customers clamoring for more of their limited edition cherubic pillar matchbooks. “I also made a point to seek out the world’s oldest pharmacy/luxury apothecary located in Florence, just to experience the creations of master perfumers.”
As far as “scent-spiration” on our shared India journey, Dina says, “I feel like all of my favorite travel scents are food-related, and that was certainly the case in India! I don’t know if it’s because I love spicy things to begin with or because I could eat so freely there as a vegetarian, but India had the best food of all the places I’ve been! I loved taking in all the spices when we’d walk into any given restaurant, and I distinctly remember how amazing the food smelled at the Golden Temple in Amritsar (and tasted, OMG).”
Lauren & Dina at the Taj Mahal in 2012. Matching heart-shaped sunglasses unintentional but not surprising.
The current Shrine line-up.
Shrine just celebrated its first anniversary in February, and in that year Shrine candles have been featured in Oprah Magazine, InStyle, Allure, Cosmopolitan (here and here), Teen Vogue, Nylon, and more. It seems every time I open Instagram, they’re being lauded in another magazine.
I’ve been desperate to experience Shrine since Day 1 but it was bit difficult being overseas. As soon as I knew we’d be in the U.S. for a few months, I placed an order. The packaging was even lovelier than I imagined (and completely recyclable), and the Mushroom Arch packing was hefty—a perfectly eco-safe and beautiful way to protect the candles.
I can absolutely attest that these candles create a whole mood instead of just delivering a scent. Monogram, their most popular candle, immediately brought me back to India. You could argue that it was the sandalwood or the ambrette, but the scent is so nuanced that it specifically transported me to the backrooms of shops in New Delhi that I frequented when I first started traveling to India with BJ on his buying trips. Shelves overflowing with colorful scarves, boxes of incense ready for export, and the constant offer of little cups of chai while waiting–I was absolutely there! Topiary (the scent embodiment of the color “green”) and Carnal Fruit, their newest creation (and perhaps my favorite) have also been on heavy rotation here.
So what’s next? Egypt is always on the top Dina & Mike’s travel wishlist, and we hope to take them there soon (we’ll have semi-regular trips to Egypt resuming in late 2022). I can’t wait for Dina to see the breathtaking alabaster perfume containers recovered from King Tut’s tomb! And I definitely can’t wait to see how Egyptian vibes eventually make their way into Shrine’s offerings.
In closing, I’ll let Dina and Shrine say it best:
The things you surround yourself with reflect who you are and who you want to be. We are here to make those things awesome.