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