Aesop’s collab with Paulin, Paulin, Paulin in Paris takes the facial experience to new heights
A new skin
If you're familiar with Aesop's stores, skincare and bodycare formulations, and facials, you'll know the Melbourne-based company doesn't do things by halves. All its stores around the world are completely different, designed by distinguished architects around the globe. They don't follow a beauty calendar and release products for the sake of it; products are only launched when there's a real purpose for it.
That said, it came as no surprise when Aesop decided to convert one of its offices in the heart of Paris into a luxurious pop-up facial studio. To others in the industry, it might have seemed like too much effort for a space that was only going to be around for six months, but to Aesop, it was a passion project that was just perfect. Its collaborative partner? Paulin, Paulin, Paulin — the company backing exceptional projects around iconic French designer Pierre Paulin. Emblematic of these unexpected affinities, the idea for the facial studio was born when the son of Pierre, Benjamin Paulin, passed the Aesop Condorcet store in Paris and observed a vintage Paulin armchair through the window. A few chats with Benjamin later, Aesop's internal architect, Jean-Philippe Bonnefoi — a huge admirer of Paulin, Paulin, Paulin's work — formed a relationship with the design firm, which in turn inspired Aesop to select pieces that would reflect the intentions of the space they created.
"We anticipated a space for Aesop that makes you forget the run of time, and as such, it required timeless furniture," said Benjamin. And indeed, they made us forget that we were in Paris; or even on this earth, for that matter. The facial space was located along the famed rue Saint-Honoré, in an iconic Parisian building just off the main street. There were no signs whatsoever; no indication of what was going on behind that sturdy blue door which only had numbers on it.
But once we stepped inside, it was a complete sensorial overload of what every beauty haven (or well, heaven) should be. Partitioned into three separate rooms, the 80 sqm space is bathed in soft, soothing tones of blush pink, punctuated by accents of wood, black and gold. There's calming music playing and a smoke-tinged incense burning in a corner — the combination is beautifully heady and intriguing all at the same time. We were given plush socks to change into (baby, it was cold outside) to pad around the fully-carpeted room in. Any lingering stresses of the day melted away, as we eagerly awaited the rest of the experience.
"The space is built around a succession of layers to prepare the body to re-engage a dialogue with your skin and inner soul."
A hot cup of tea awaited us on a gorgeous Pierre Paulin Tanis desk in the front room, reminiscent of a designer's office. There were 120 wax panels that made up the walls and fragmented a subdued light through the room. You could sip on your tea anywhere you'd like — if you preferred to pop straight into the middle room, where an Osaka sofa edited by La Cividina pens a curved silhouette through the space, do it by all means. The middle room is undoubtedly impressive, highlighted by a massive shelf of products, art-deco type wall lights, a classy chandelier, and a Paulin Elysée glass table with a delightful spread of dark chocolate and nuts for guests to nibble on. It's one of those grazing snacks that are necessarily addictive.
"Most of what we did during the development of the project was to reduce the intentions, minimise the gestures, and keep the essentials — an understated, monochromatic, multi-textural working of the space that really makes a concerted effort to make design work with dignity and restraint," said Bonnefoi. "The space is built around a succession of layers to prepare the body to re-engage a dialogue with your skin and inner soul."
That last "layer" featured the treatment room, an intimate conclusion complemented by two vintage Elysée floor lamps. A high, wooden bed makes for the perfect facial bed — hop up, snuggle in, and let your facial begin. Your therapist will perform a facial analysis, before selecting one of the six facials (Lactate Surge, Parsley Seed Intensive, Ascorbic Action, Skin Quench, Double Edge, or Detox Overhaul) for you.
Bonnefoi continues: "The sensory experience is expressed in many of the decisions we made; it's more about the texture of a sofa than the darkness of a corner, the acoustics of a room than the actual look of a space. Everything was made to envelop the body; I am always surprised how visitors disconnect from the outside world and comment less about what they saw than how they felt."
"It's more about the texture of a sofa than the darkness of a corner, the acoustics of a room than the actual look of a space."
While this collaboration was temporary, it definitely highlights the direction Aesop is headed in, and their unbridled passion for a sublime experience, as well as stellar design and craft. We're awaiting Aesop's next stroke of genius with bated breath.