HON­EST TO GOOD­NESS

With Mel­bourne-based cos­met­ic­snd hear is what you get

Fashion Quarterly - - Profile -

Cos­met­ics com­pany Ae­sop is a rare bird, win­ning over the hearts of its cus­tomers through a unique ethos built around love, re­spect and trans­parency. Gen­eral man­ager Suzanne San­tos is the woman re­spon­si­ble, along­side founder Den­nis Paphi­tis, and their pas­sion­ate vi­sion of ‘the Ae­sop way’ has grown what started as a sin­gle hair prod­uct into an in­ter­na­tional suc­cess. Suzanne was Den­nis’s first em­ployee back in 1987; to­day she trav­els the world as an am­bas­sador for the brand, guid­ing it as it de­vel­ops in new mar­kets and ed­u­cat­ing its con­sul­tants and cus­tomers. She met with Fash­ion

Quar­terly to chat about her ca­reer jour­ney, love for the arts and skin­care phi­los­o­phy.

What does a day in your pro­fes­sional life look

like?

[I] en­gage and sup­port my col­leagues here in Mel­bourne as well as in­ter­na­tion­ally, over­see­ing the in­tegrity of the brand and en­sur­ing we main­tain an im­pec­ca­bly ex­e­cuted ap­proach to re­tail. Each day at Ae­sop is markedly dif­fer­ent to

the one that pre­ceded it.

“Our sin­cere

in­ter­est in in­tel­li­gent and sus­tain­able de­sign ex­tends to ev­ery as­pect of Ae­sop’s

work­ings”

This year marks Ae­sop’s 30th an­niver­sary. What do you love about the brand?

That our work­place in­vites free­dom of ex­pres­sion, qual­ity of life and the op­por­tu­nity to learn. Ae­sop life pays heed to lit­er­a­ture, art, food and wine, ar­chi­tec­ture — so many things deemed dis­tinct from cos­met­ics. Yet with Ae­sop, these fields co­a­lesce seam­lessly with what we do and how we think about things. The breadth of Ae­sop’s in­ter­ests is what I value most… It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to be a part of that.

The idea that ‘well-con­sid­ered de­sign im­proves our lives’ is a cen­tral tenet of the brand. What does it mean?

Put sim­ply, we be­lieve un­equiv­o­cally that good de­sign im­proves our lives, and our sin­cere in­ter­est in in­tel­li­gent and sus­tain­able de­sign ex­tends to ev­ery as­pect of Ae­sop’s work­ings.

‘Nat­u­ral’ and ‘or­ganic’ are buzz­words many brands are cap­i­tal­is­ing on. Ae­sop makes no such claims with re­gards to its prod­ucts, which con­tain both nat­u­ral and syn­thetic in­gre­di­ents. Why is this con­sid­er­a­tion of both na­ture and sci­ence im­por­tant to you?

We fit into a cat­e­gory that’s com­fort­able for us but of­ten un­com­fort­able for other brands and ma­jor re­tail­ers. We cel­e­brate sci­ence, un­der­stand­ing that the for­mu­la­tion of re­mark­able prod­ucts re­quires a blend of well-chosen sci­en­tif­i­cally proven in­gre­di­ents and ex­cep­tional botan­i­cals. Ac­cord­ingly, we never use the words ‘nat­u­ral’ or ‘or­ganic’ in our com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

From the in­gre­di­ents you use to the cus­tomer ser­vice ex­pe­ri­ence you of­fer, Ae­sop is all about trans­parency. Why does this pol­icy work?

We be­lieve in an hon­est and gen­uine ap­proach. We es­chew celebrity en­dorse­ments, false prom­ises and prey­ing on peo­ple’s in­se­cu­ri­ties to sell prod­uct; we com­mu­ni­cate hon­estly with our clients about the func­tion and ef­fi­cacy of our prod­ucts, re­spect­ing their in­tel­li­gence and dis­cern­ment. For over 30 years, we’ve cel­e­brated and re­spected in­di­vid­u­al­ity, rather than con­form­ing to con­ven­tional me­dia no­tions of how beauty and well­ness should look and feel.

You say that in for­mu­lat­ing new prod­ucts, you’re re­spond­ing to the gen­uine needs of cus­tomers and not in­dus­try trends. How do you dis­tin­guish be­tween the two?

At Ae­sop, rather than fol­low­ing trends, we lis­ten to our cus­tomers, and only for­mu­late a hand­ful of new prod­ucts each year in re­sponse to gen­uine client needs, with a clearly iden­ti­fied pur­pose and longevity in mind.

What are some re­cent ad­di­tions to the Ae­sop prod­uct sta­ble that you’re ex­cited about?

I’ve par­tic­u­larly been en­joy­ing our re­cently in­tro­duced trio of Aro­ma­tique Room Sprays: Istros is a re­fined, flo­ral and smoky aroma; Olous is a vi­brant blend of green and cit­rus botan­i­cals; and Cythera de­liv­ers a warm, woody and spicy fra­grance.

Ae­sop val­ues and sup­ports the arts. What are some ex­am­ples of this?

Al­though our pri­mary busi­ness is skin­care, we draw con­stant in­spi­ra­tion from the arts and use them as an av­enue through which to in­spire, learn and com­mu­ni­cate. This is part of our DNA, so it’s fit­ting that it man­i­fests in di­rect en­gage­ment with like-minded cul­tural part­ners. Among those with whom we cur­rently work are Auck­land Art Gallery and New Zealand Sym­phony Or­ches­tra.

Tell us a bit about the Ae­sop re­tail ex­pe­ri­ence…

Our stores [pro­vide] unique en­vi­ron­ments in which clients can not only ex­pe­ri­ence our prod­uct, but also re­ceive sin­cere, well-in­formed and hos­pitable ser­vice. The re­la­tion­ships en­gen­dered and nur­tured within their walls are the corner­stone of our suc­cess. When en­ter­ing an Ae­sop store, each client is wel­comed as a guest in our home and of­fered tea and un­ob­tru­sive per­sonal ser­vice. We pro­vide a quiet, warm en­vi­ron­ment that nur­tures the senses, where each client feels calm, val­ued and lis­tened to.

Ae­sop stores around the world all share a sim­i­lar aes­thetic but are uniquely fitted-out. Why is that?

Ar­chi­tec­turally, our de­sign method is to work with what’s al­ready there, weav­ing our­selves into the core and fab­ric of the street rather than im­pos­ing our­selves on a lo­cale. We look at the streetscape and try to re­tain and re­deem ex­ist­ing façades, work­ing with a lo­cal and rel­e­vant vo­cab­u­lary to con­tex­tu­alise what we do. To­gether with in­te­rior el­e­ments in­clud­ing un­ob­tru­sive light­ing, mu­sic and scent, this ap­proach lends a sub­tle yet dis­cernible sig­na­ture; en­try into an Ae­sop space in­evitably marks a de­par­ture from bus­tle and clam­our.

Ae­sop’s sec­ond NZ store is open now at 35 High Street, Auck­land.

Ae­sop’s Suzanne San­tos cham­pi­ons the brand’s au­then­tic ap­proach. “In all our prod­ucts, each in­gre­di­ent se­lected must serve a pur­pose in treat­ing the skin or hair, oth­er­wise it’s not used.” Op­po­site: Unique Ae­sop store fit-outs in France (top) and Ger­many.

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