They do not sell decorative or designer objects, yet their shops are designed with an advanced and thoughtful architecture. The content rather than the product, packaging to better appeal? No, the combination dissolves until a soul emerges.
Entering an Aesop shop – a sort of contemporary herbalist – is first of all a meeting of senses. The Aesopian way of life does not affect everybody. But the brand does not hide it, it does not look to charm at-will. Their products have character, thanks to the often vegetal odour, their packaging and the brown glass bottles like old pharmacy vials. Bobos and hipsters adulate them. It is often by the well-defined aesthetics and distinct architecture of their premises that the clientele, intrigued, discovers the brand. The brand uses no advertising, the must: their stores.
At the end of the eighties. Denis Paphitis, an Australian hairdresser, blended essential oils with styling products in order to hide the odour of ammonia. The products have appeal, customers flock to the address and word of mouth does the rest. Boosted by this local success, he created his cosmetics brand in 1987. Denis quickly realised that competing with the big names in cosmetics will be tough. Advertising in magazines is not in his budget; so his stores became his business card. “He always loved travelling and hated to see those uniform streets and identical shops that are found all over the world. He did not want to participate in this sameness,” explains Thomas Buisson, Brand Manager for Europe. In 2004, a first boutique was opened in Melbourne. The beginning of a series of stores with character and a unique identity. “Accommodating the existing, using local materials, being in phase with the place rather than duplicating stores became their architectural vocabulary.
Aesop collaborates with renowned architects, Rodney Eggleston of March Studio intervened in the Geneva and Zurich stores, among others, Snøhetta, Ogata or Studio Dimore designed stores on the four continents. “By trying to bring something to the streets and the city rather than imposing the same store wherever you are, it created an alchemy that gave us incredible visibility,” says Thomas Buisson. The social networks love the minimalist and authentic aesthetics of the products but also the photogenic sites. It might not seem like much, but these stereotypes have increased the popularity of the brand with absolutely no advertising.
In Zurich, Fabrice Aeberhard, Artistic Director of Viu Eyewear, a start-up that creates spectacles, spontaneously cites Aesop as a model. They do not copy the precursor and master in the matter, but adhere to this idea of architecture as an accomplice to their glasses.
The Swiss company, founded in 2013, designs glasses that combine design, quality materials and affordable prices. Their starting concept was based on selling only online. But after a few months, they realised that customers like to touch and try on eyeglasses. With manic care they chose the location then Fabrice Aeberhard, trained designer, gave free rein to his imagination while respecting the soul of the existing site. Noble and simple materials, sometimes stunning choices like this Greek marble plaque of hypnotic beauty, in their Berlin store, instilling a crazy allure in each of their sites. By the end of 2017, Viu Eyewear will have opened 37 boutiques between Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Germany. And does not intend to stop there. If it works perfectly for these brands, it is because architecture is not a simple stumbling block. There is an obvious coherence between the product and the design. A whole thought out with intelligence and respect. For the brand and the customer.
By Sarah Jollien-Fardel