Home FASHION Inside the creative skincare brand’s Parisian office

Inside the creative skincare brand’s Parisian office

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Nicola Mira

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Mar 29, 2024

Australian skincare brand Aesop, now owned by the L’Oréal group, has taken FashionNetwork.com inside its Parisian office for the launch of its Immaculate Facial Tonic, a vitamin-rich skin tonic that hydrates and exfoliates. The Aesop Paris office with its understated interior design opened just over a year ago in the heart of the 11th arrondissement and is home to some 30 people working in marketing, sales and product design.

Aesop’s Paris office (left) and the brand’s Immaculate Facial Tonic (€45 for a 100 ml bottle) – Aesop

Aesop, founded in Melbourne in 1987, is renowned for its cutting-edge products, whose plant-based formulations feature ingredients like geranium and parsley extracts. And also for its minimalist packaging and unique stores, whose interiors often feature raw materials and geometric design. Minimalism, geometric shapes and a sense of order are indeed the dominant features of the décor at the premium Australian skincare brand’s Parisian office.

“When you’re working within a neutral, self-contained ambiance, you are actually able to express all your creativity,” said Ai Kato, Aesop’s global creative director. “Worldwide, Aesop has 70 people who are exclusively focused on creativity, from artistic directors to content creators and architects. All our creative work is done in-house, a rarity in the cosmetics world,” said Kato, adding that, for example, a perfume can be developed using one of her sketches as a starting point.

Inside Aesop’s Paris office – FNW

Two architects work at Aesop’s Paris office: Marianne Lardilleux, global head of retail design, and Jean-Philippe Bonnefoi, in charge of retail design in Europe and of global innovation. Together, they oversee the interior design of all Aesop stores worldwide. The brand currently operates 300 stores, with another 50 under development. In the next few weeks, Aesop will open a store in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, another on Beverly Drive in Los Angeles, one in Kamakura, Japan, as well as a third store in Milan during Design Week. In 2022, Aesop established a retail presence in China, where it is opening on average eight stores per year.

“Aesop stores are special because each one of them is unique, they all subtly blend in with the local environment,” said Lardilleux. While Bonnefoi instead outlined the key architectural elements that constitute the basis of the customer journey at Aesop. Basins are strategically deployed inside the stores, enabling customers to experience the products’ sensorial features. “It’s a very precise science, everything is carefully calibrated, including distance and depth,” said Bonnefoi, emphasising that behind the elegant shape of certain items of furniture there is always a painstaking attention to ergonomics.  

Interiors designed for the customer journey

Aesop is increasingly working with artisans and artists to design its retail interiors, and its stores now feature private areas for skincare consultation. “When Aesop opened its first stores, some said that customers in countries like Japan and the Middle East would never want to be touched. But the architect’s role is precisely that of putting customers at their ease,” said Bonnefoi.

A third direction in which Aesop’s architects are working is how to display the brand’s fragrance collection, which currently includes 11 perfumes. The fact that Aesop has a fragrance collection is no accident, as the prestige perfume market is growing vigorously.

The Aesop store in rue de Sèvres, Paris – Aesop

Did L’Oréal’s acquisition change the way Aesop’s staff is working? The unanimous response was “no.” Both Lardilleux and Bonnefoi underlined that the French cosmetics giant has shown plenty of respect for their work. “The more confidence we have, the less we’re inclined to compromise,” said a member of Aesop’s staff.

L’Oréal bought Aesop from Brazilian group Natura & Co. a year ago. It was the most expensive corporate acquisition ever made by the French giant, with Aesop valued at just over $2.5 billion (€2.3 billion). Aesop is now part of L’Oréal’s luxury beauty division, alongside brands like Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent, and in 2022 it generated a revenue of €537 million.

 

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