Aesop’s first standalone New Zealand store is now open in Auckland, and its pared-back fit-out is an experience in itself.
If you’ve ever visited an Aesop store (in Australia, Italy, France, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, the US, the UK…), you’ll know they’re absolutely beautiful spaces that offer much more than the skincare they sell. Suzanne Santos has been central to the Aesop brand since its inception in 1987 and is wholeheartedly behind its skin-, hair- and body-care products made from plant-based and laboratory-perfected ingredients. In her role as general manager of retail and customer relations, she travels the world overseeing the company’s introduction into new markets. She was recently in Auckland to celebrate the opening of New Zealand’s first standalone store in Newmarket’s Osborne Street, so we had a word.
Every Aesop store is different and the company has become known for collaborating with local architects on the fit-outs. How long has this programme been established for? We opened our first store in the bayside suburb of St Kilda, Melbourne in 2004. Melbourne practice Six Degrees Architects transformed a former carpark ramp into a surprising retail space – the first of many collaborations with local architects in different countries.
In Auckland you worked with Patterson Associates – how did that relationship come about? Pattersons’ design for the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth, using local boat-building techniques, attracted our attention as an example of imaginative contemporary New Zealand design. We talked to Pattersons about their wide-ranging projects and the conversation grew from there.
How does Aesop’s unique approach affect the customer’s experience? We host our customers in calm, warm spaces that look, feel and smell good. Visual harmony, seating, tea, and informed personal service create a haven and an enjoyable experience. Music and fragrance are diffused throughout the store and waft into the street. Combined with tactile surfaces and soft, flattering lighting, the result is a truly satisfying sensory experience.