At the intersection where laboratory-made and plant-based products meet, or where interior design and poetry underlay a universal appreciation for beauty, sits Aesop. The brand refutes standardization in every form. Known for its distinctive amber apothecary-like glass bottles and minimalistic labels, Aesop’s sprawling nature of artistic values defy categorization as just a skin-care company. The Australian-born brand curates its own literary blog online, featuring writers like Zadie Smith, and has an in-house design team responsible for much of the inventive architecture of their 200 global stores. Quotes by great historical and literary figures adorn Aesop packaging and store walls, infusing poeticism with skin care—yet their poetic inclination doesn’t distract from the actual product itself.
Born from a single Melbourne-based store and four products, Aesop has grown over the past 30 years to a product line of more than 80, with stores in over 20 countries. The full Aesop range encompasses skin, hair, body, fragrance, and, most recently, interior design, with the introduction of their new brass oil burner. By integrating well-researched chemical ingredients with natural elements, Aesop plays into both organic and scientific domains. Look for products such as the Gentle Facial Cleansing Milk, released this month, which incorporates panthenol—a B5 provitamin—with soothing botanicals like sandalwood and lavender. Or, reach for the Lucent Facial Concentrate, infused with rose petals and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble form of vitamin C. With a disregard for the current trend or hype, Aesop ensures that each ingredient is purposeful—be it natural or chemical. And the same can be said for their approach to design.
A meticulous attention to detail is reflected through Aesop’s stores, each one an ode to its home. “No two Aesop stores are the same—each is a response to the distinctive characteristics of its location,” says Stuart Millar, Aesop’s general manager and president of the Americas. In 2003, Aesop’s first shop—an underground nook that used to be a ramp to a carpark in the suburbs of Melbourne—set the tone for the architectural ambition and innovation instilled in all their locations today.
Aesop’s first Vancouver location was opened in the stylish Gastown neighbourhood in 2015. Lined with Douglas fir and glass detailing, the shop acts as an homage to two classic elements of the city. For the city’s second Aesop home in Kitsilano, a soft pastel-pink hued aesthetic mimics the colours of the setting sun over the water at Kitsilano beach. And in Aesop’s newest Vancouver location on Main Street, a purple palette tributes the colour of the dusk sky when one looks towards the North Shore mountains from the vantage of upper Main Street.
“Aesop Main Street is inspired by the modernist works of the late, local architect Arthur Erickson,” Millar explains, referring to the Vancouver-born designer best known for his innovative use of concrete. As an homage to the look of Erickson’s infamous 1979 Eppich House in West Vancouver, recycled bullnose concrete slabs and steel detailing were heavily used in Aesop’s new Main Street home. Two steel sinks stand on opposite sides of the room, offering ample space for Aesop consultants to demonstrate products, assembling a tailor-made product guide for each customer’s needs and wants. Industrial minimalism and understated beauty meet in a reading nook, carved out of a floor-to-ceiling concrete fixture, at the far end of the store. Behind the nook, a rounded bend reveals a hidden tea station, offering a surprising reprieve. “An understated, monochromatic façade gives way to an interior of strong curves,” Millar describes.
Aesop Main Street marks the 10th location in Canada, with stores in Toronto and Montreal. This spring will see the openings of two new Aesop locations in Canada too: at the Chinook Centre in Calgary and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa.
Images courtesy of Aesop.
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