Aesop's tale

01 Feb 2013

Author: Heather Jacobs

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Regarded as one of Australia’s most successful beauty product companies, Aesop is taking its unique style to the world.
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“I guess the reason I started my own beauty company was that I wasn’t patient enough to be a philosopher, nor tolerant enough to be an architect,” Aesop founder and creative director Dennis Paphitis once confessed.

For the fans of the Australian skincare brand it’s this passion for philosophy and architecture, as well as books and design, evident in every aspect of the brand that has helped it gain cult-like status. 

There’s now over 50 signature stores across Australia, Asia, Europe, Asia and the US along with Aesop counters in some of the world’s top department stores.

In 2012 Aesop opened its first standalone spaces in Boston, Kuala Lumpur and San Francisco, as well as new stores in Paris, London and New York. The 2012 financial year was also the first that total sales outside of Australia exceeded domestic sales.

In December 2012 Aesop was sold to Brazilian skincare company Natura Cosmeticos for a reported $68 million with the injection of capital expected to fund further global expansion.

Aesop continues to operate independently with management remaining at the Melbourne headquarters and Paphitis staying on as creative director.

The son of Greek hairdressers started the company in 1987 from his hair salon in Armadale with a “quest to create a range of superlative products for the skin, hair and body”.

The range is packaged in plain bottles tinted brown with black-and-cream striped labels. Paphitis chooses the quotes that appear on the packaging, in-store and on all brochures and marketing collateral from his favourite philosophers and authors.

“We labour over seemingly inane decisions,” Paphitis told The Sydney Morning Herald. “We work to make things appear effortless and as though they just happen. But actually there’s a great deal of energy involved.”

Aesop is selling a lifestyle as much as a skincare brand, stating: “we advocate the use of our products as part of a balanced life that includes a healthy diet, sensible exercise, a moderate intake of red wine, and a regular dose of stimulating literature”.

Also renowned for pushing the boundaries when it comes to store design, Aesop has teamed up with world-renowned architects to create distinctive shop fronts. For example, the ceiling of Aesop Adelaide was crafted from 7560 amber glass bottles, New York’s Lolita store was constructed with 400,00 sheets of reclaimed copies of The New York Times and the Aesop Flinders Lane store was assembled with 3000 of the cardboard boxes used to ship product.

Paphitis puts some of the brand’s success down to geographic isolation of Australia.

“We can view what we do from a healthy distance and remain resolutely uninfluenced by the industry itself,” he told The Independent. “There’s a healthy dose of Australian irreverence and larrikinism thrown in for good measure.”

Aesop recently collaborated with Australian Lucy McCrae to develop its first collaborative film, Morphe, to coincide with the global relaunch of the company’s website.

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