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The Clever Design Store

The Amazing Aesop Stores

20/08/14 2:50 PM

The story of the Aesop Stores - from concept stores to pop-up shops, the brand is always playing with our perception, blending the old fashion with latest distribution concepts. The unclassifiable.





The brown bottles, the city guides, those quotes on the packaging - there are many aspects of the Aesop brand – products themselves aside – about which one might wax lyrical. Most recently, upon hearing that the cult beauty label's latest London outpost was situated in that most homogenous of spaces, a megamall, it was the aspect of its store interiors that sparked particular intrigue.



The 25-year old company first set up shop – literally speaking – twelve years ago, in a renovated nook of a carpark in Melbourne’s St Kilda. Since then, the skincare brand has over 50 retail outlets across five continents, each one situated in a part of town the company deems interesting, and designed by specially commissioned architects to reflect that location. Each store is unique, yet all are united only by a calm, clean aesthetic, underscored by the visual uniformity of the products they house.



Aesop founder and creative director, Dennis Paphtis once quipped that he started a beauty company because be was too impatient to be a philosopher, and not tolerant enough to pursue architecture. Very fitting, then, that these two disciplines are firmly embedded in the heart of the brand. From an architectural perspective, Paphtis told Dezeen in a 2012 interview that “our criteria is always to try and work with what is already there and to weave ourselves into the core and fabric of the street […] there's a direct correlation between interesting, captivating store spaces and customer traffic within a store".



In the case of Aesop in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, French architects Tolila+Gilliland responded to the challenge posed by the bustle and noise of the fluorescent shopping centre by designing an immediate transition to a calm space, allowing customers to step immediately into a “separate interior world”. The dove grey felt enveloping the walls serves the dual purpose of aesthetic tranquility and acoustic control, creating a serene backdrop for the products displayed on dark steel shelves, surrounded by green vines.



The common denominator across all Aesop stores worldwide is a thoughtful consideration of how the space shapes both customer and staff experience. Display spaces must be distinct and ample, allowing for a seamless transition between product categories. The presence of plants is another common theme across many stores with the Ciguë-designed Islington store inspired by pull-out nursery trays. The plants have more than quadrupled in size since the opening, altering the interior focus of the store in an embodiment of the brand’s gently evolutionary nature.




“We believe unequivocally that well-considered design improves our lives” states the ‘about’ page of the brand’s website. With this belief embodied in the brand’s products, philosophy and retail environments alike, it’s no wonder that Aesop is quietly, patiently taking over the world, one beautiful haven of a store at a time. 





Posted by Anna Ker, London.


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