Aesop: A Story of Design
Working in the lighting world gives us a glimpse into the creative genius that stands out and reminds us of the incredible world we live in.
There are modern luminaries such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, we have all heard of. Then there are comparable minds, while lesser known, but just as fascinating, such as Dennis Paphitis. As the founder of Aesop, an Australian beauty care brand, he has created an entire new space and experience.
Aesop does not tout the expected “all natural ingredients” seen on many consumer products on the market today. In fact, they pride themselves in “celebrating” science by combining both proven and effective man-made ingredients with exceptional botanical ingredients. According to Paphitis, “The idea was to use fewer, better ingredients in a smarter way.” By combining their work with chemists with customer feedback, Aesop ended up with a remarkable line of products that has gained a loyal following.
Their unique branding is highly visible in their stores.
Each store is amazing and has a story to tell. Aesop also works with local architects in order to weave the essence of the local city or culture into the fabric of each store design.
Take their retail store in New York City. Aesop’s architects at Tacklebox took 2800 New York Times newspapers, and cut them into 400,000 strips, which were then stacked, bound into “bricks” of paper, and used to line the walls. The art feature created is a newsprint wall that will age over time. You can touch the walls, and leaf through the paper to catch a glimpse of the type-written words inside suggesting a literalness to the saying, “If these walls could talk.”
The Aesop store in Adelaide Australia features a billowing ripple-like ceiling art feature constructed with over 7500 of Aesop’s brown-colored bottles, hanging by varying lengths of threaded metal rods. It was assembled elsewhere, then dismantled and packed into boxes constructed out of MDF boards. Once they arrived to Adelaide to be installed, it was reconstructed and the material from the boxes was then utilized to line the walls and construct a central counter top. The entire store is made to be able to disassemble and move if needed.
The Aesop store in Georgetown, Washington DC is no exception. According to Aesop’s Taxonomy of Design, Georgetown Aesop incorporates into its design the local history, which was once a thriving port and commercial center due to its proximity to the Potomac River. The designers at Tacklebox, rolled out an impressive art piece that is an expansive display consisting of 30,000 stacked reclaimed pine sticks that are around a century in age. They are stacked in a rippled mosaic that wraps around half of the store in homage to Georgetown’s early years as a trading post for tobacco — where the pine sticks were traditionally used in tobacco barns to hang bundled leaves.
Lighting is considered an important element in the design of their stores. They are generally under-lit by standard retail measures, but LED lighting has advanced and it is possible to increase the lighting levels a little, yet keep it soft living room like. Zaniboni Lighting’s Stella 3 O fixtures, trimless and regressed, subtly illuminates and enhances the exquisite design of Aesop’s Georgetown masterpiece while almost disappearing behind the ceiling.
Each store is a different and carefully crafted work-of-art. "I was horrified at the thought of Aesop evolving into a soulless chain.” Paphitis said in an interview with dezeen.com. He has personally worked with many of their architects, and in each of their store locations they have managed to capture and embody what Paphitis portrays as the spirit and attitude of Aesop: “… a ‘celebration of the everyday’ where less is better, where substance wins, where things have a deeper meaning.”