Elise Pioch of Maison Balzac on her world of divine scents
Elise Pioch is the queen of scented candles. She has wooed the world with her divine scents that were created out of nostalgia for the South of France where she spent her younger years. Her brand Maison Balzac started small but quickly garnered the attention of the world's leading fashion boutiques and department stores who have not stopped knocking on her door since. She exudes an extraordinary elegance that filters through her business and personal life. We can't wait to see what she does next.
On her personal style
My approach to fashion and personal style is a total improvisation based on my mother and grandmother's style before me. I think French women tend to choose clothes that suits their bodies and age regardless of trends or advice. I seem to be attracted to oversized, black, androgynous clothes that will resist time and make me feel very comfortable.
The beginning of Maison Balzac
I started MB out of nostalgia for the South of France where I was born and raised. After 10 years in Australia I felt the need to immerse myself in the perfumes I knew so well, because I was home sick! So I created 5 core scents, each of them describing a moment or a place of my happy childhood. Then I bumped into amazing fashion designers, artists or writers and created perfumes with them. I love telling stories or concepts with perfumes! This is why I call them PARFUMS D'IDEES (which means perfumes from ideas in French).
Her favourite scent
My current favourite is LA PLAGE, a scent developed for MATTEAU (a swimwear label based in New York designed by Ilona Hamer). It evokes the smell of a Sunday morning in summer and is filled with bergamot, citrus and orange zest. It is so fresh it makes me want to go for a swim! It is launching in May 16 and I cannot wait to share it with the world.
The future for Maison Balzac
At the present I am working on two new scents, one for a boutique magazine and the other evoking things like feathers and gold. Each is quite complex and the process to get them right is fascinating. I never rush a project, time is a friend, not an enemy for me. Taking the time to get things right is something I learnt at Hermes and that I will never forget.
On working at leading fashion houses in Paris
I joined Hermes' fashion office in Paris in 2001 as the womenswear PR assistant, organising the fashion shows for Martin Marginal who was the designer at the time. Even 15 years later I think of my time there everyday because the values and product knowledge I have learnt there help me to make decisions every day with my own business. One thing that I loved the most at Hermes was that part of childhood, innocence and simplicity that is inherent to their story. They truly value people and dreams.
On building a successful brand
Indeed I have been extremely lucky to have grabbed the attention of big players like Colette/Paris or Bergdorf Goodman/New York, 6 months into the life of MB. As I started the business I was selling the candles at cost price, because I was scared to put the right price tag. My advice to myself would be to not sell myself or my product short. If something has a high value, you shouldn't pretend it doesn't!
The future of fashion
Fashion is a beautiful circle that comes around and around. My dad one day told me that something is new only when you have forgotten about it. So this is Fashion to me!
On her seasonal wardrobe
I don't actually look at needed pieces for the season but instead I look at my wardrobe and decide what's missing (because it's too old or I haven't worn it in 6 months). This is how I buy new pieces and ideally they need to be timeless and of excellent quality (cut and fabric). Right now I need a new coat!!!
Her favourite places
I have 2 favourite places in the world: my childhood home which is still my parent's house in Beziers (South of France) and Cadaques, a village on the north east cost of Spain (3 hours drive form Beziers). When I go there, I visit every single flea market, I shop food in the halles (sort of covered farmers market), I go in the bush to hunt with my dad and cut herbs and flowers with my mum, and most importantly I always take my daughter with me to expose her to the simple pleasure of my home land.
Childhood memories and the South of France
Growing up in the South of France was incredible and has provided infinite inspiration for a happy and balanced life as an adult and business owner. Fishing for prawns with my dad and cooking gratin dauphinois with my mum are things that I remember vividly. They fill me with so much joy.
Creating balance in her life
Being in touch with nature is my answer to stress and balance. My husband and daughter love it too which is very fortunate. We own a church that we renovated as a home on the banks of the Hawkesbury River (North of Sydney), there we have a garden filled with fruit trees, herbs and chickens. The simple fact to sit down and look through the huge church windows into the Australian bush is the best way to reset my mind.
Life lessons she's learnt along the way
I am a very stubborn person so life lessons have little impact on me! However my husband has taught me that we can all create our own reality and he is 100% right. We both have tailored our life around what we most love doing. For exemple we even have taken Mondays off for a lifetime. We hated going to work on Monday so we took it off our week! I highly recommend 3 days weekends forever.
Most treasured wardrobe item: My civil wedding dress, a Dries Van Noten coat from his AW12/13 collection
Go-to outfit: A COS jumpsuit and Marni jewelled fussbet shoes with Lyn & Tony necklace
Designers: Comme des Garcons, Marni, Dries Van Noten, Acne, Cos, Ellery, Bassike, Gary Bigeni and Matteau
Denim: R13 or Current Elliott
Wardrobe staple: Black cardigan, wide leg pants, nike plastic slide shoes
Evening wear: Evening wear is same as daywear for me! I just add a necklace and heels
Lingerie: I don't wear bras and I don't own lingerie! My underwear come from Monoprix (sort of French Target)
Travel must-haves: I travel extremely light so I don't carry much with me. In the place I like to have my Nivea lip care and some biscuits, I am always starving.
Perfume: Shalimar by Guerlain and Bois des Iles by Chanel
Skincare: Currently loving Muji super hydrating range
Game-changing beauty item: Chanel loose powder and Christophe Robin Rose shampoo with New York Red lipstick by Chanel
Day-time beauty favourites: terracotta powder to look happy
Evening beauty favourites: Beauty Flash Mask by Clarins
Images courtesy of Maison Balzac.
Feature image by Sylve Colless