January 26 2010
Mark C O’Flaherty
I first encountered Dennis Paphitis’s Melbourne-based skincare range Aesop during a stay in the ultra-design-conscious hotel Claska in Tokyo about five years ago. The hotel was well ahead of the curve by stocking its bathrooms with Aesop soap and shampoo. I became an immediate fan and took to buying in bulk from its concept stores on visits to Australia, each branch fitted out like a pristine art installation, some with ceilings made of thousands of apothecary bottles and others stacked with hundreds of artfully arranged cardboard boxes.
Aesop’s product is gorgeous stuff – made from the highest quality ingredients, with ravishing botanical aromas. I have a pump dispenser of the Resurrection Aromatique Hand Wash (£22) beside every basin in my house. And the packaging is pleasingly monochrome, with lots of Edwardian-style brown smoked-glass bottles and droppers.
After years of buying on long-haul trips and by mail-order, it’s a relief that Aesop now has three stand-alone stores in London. As befits the maverick style of the brand, the latest branch – which opened recently – is in a tiny space on Redchurch Street (second picture): the same gritty, cobbled, graffiti-adorned East End thoroughfare that is home to Terence Conran’s Boundary, Shoreditch House and numerous underground galleries, bars and boutiques.
The interior is a mix of industrial, medicinal and modernist – all very much “on message” with Aesop’s offbeat, leftfield ethos – and it stocks the full range, from the Amazing Face Cleanser (£13.50) to the Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Eye Cream (£137). A single visit will convert you for life.