We first met the delightful Elise Pioch Balzac in Sydney when she was the head buyer for the Belinda boutiques. Her French girl coolitude (to borrow a phrase from another Gallic style crush Garance Doré, who took the above picture of Elise) had us at bonjour. Elise has a way of dressing that exudes both classic and quirk in equal measure and, aesthetics aside, it's her joie de vivre that really shines through. These are all qualities the South-of-France born, Sydney-based creative has channeled into Maison Balzac, her new line of natural scented candles, which she founded last year after leaving Belinda. Here, we ask her about starting a passion project, being a Frenchie in Australia, and why the South of France is the most beautiful smelling place on earth. —Natalie
Hi Elise! How did Maison Balzac come to life?
After eight years living in Australia I started to seriously miss my homeland so I decided to collect my best childhood memories and translate them into perfumed candles. The place [in the South of France] where I grew up is so enchanting and so fragrant that it deserved to be captured in soy wax.
What are some of your favorite scent memories?
Each candle captures one of my favorite scents. "Le Sud": Thyme and lavender; "La Rose": Garden roses; "Le Bois": Cedar and pine wood; "Le Soleil": Orange and tuberose; and "Le Eglise": Musk and clove buds. The five of them together talk about a typical Sunday at home: I would wake-up and drink a freshly-squeezed orange juice and then take a bath infused with lavender flowers before heading to the local church with my grandmother. Then, after a big lunch, we would walk in the bush—here are the five scents!
What's your approach to building a brand?
Maison Balzac is about nature, authenticity, quality and fun. I admire labels like Marni
, Christopher Kane
and Martin Margiela
where a sense of humor and personality are mixed with excellence and eccentricity.
What have you learned about the art of candle-making?
Everything from perfumes to essential oils to working with precious materials like milk glass and the different natures of waxes.
The name Maison Balzac is so romantic. Where does your last name originate from?
My mother's maiden name is Balzac and apparently she is related to Honoré de Balzac
, the French novelist from the 19th century.
Wow, that is quite the pedigree! How did you decide on the design of the packaging?
I wanted the design to be very clean and French with a touch of quirk. We had to strip back and back until we got to this bare box. The design team (Mine Design in Sydney) thought I went mad, but I feel this simple packaging can allow for a lot of things in the future.
Speaking of packaging, you are always so beautifully turned out! What are some of your everyday luxuries and style essentials?
I live in the countryside near Sydney and wake up to nature every day. This is definitely my first luxury! In terms of fashion, I think once you own a few pieces from Marni (necklaces, dresses and knits) and Dries Van Noten
(shoes, pants, jackets), you are ready to go anywhere. Paired back with some tees and denims by Bassike
, you don't need much else!
Being a Frenchie in Australia, how do the two cultures mix?
On a cultural level both countries share the same passion for food and wine, but I would give a little advantage to Australia for being so open-minded and relaxed.
What's next for you?
There are so many projects and collaborations coming up this year. And our office-slash-laboratory is moving into an 1880s renovated church on the banks of the Colo River