Melbourne-based architecture and interior design studio Carr has completed the interior design of Aesop’s Australian headquarters and laboratory. Located in Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne, the new headquarters and nearby laboratory embody the celebrated skincare brand’s intelligent design philosophy. Carr’s approach embraces restraint, ritual, and curation, values that are essential to Aesop’s way of working.
“Aesop’s strong brand identity and ethos played a significant role in shaping our design approach,” says Kirby Humphries, an Interior Designer at Carr. The headquarters marks a new chapter in Aesop’s journey following recent global growth. (Established in 1987, today Aesop has more than 400 locations around the world. In April 2023, the company was acquired by the L’Oréal Group, joining the French brand's Luxe Division.) Aesop asked Carr to design spaces that would “facilitate a collegiate and sophisticated workplace while evoking a lasting impression that embodied the brand.” In many ways, the headquarters’ muted earthy tones and the laboratory’s utilitarian aspect capture the modest yet confident nature of Aesop’s products and their unassuming packaging.
Richard Healy, an Associate at Carr, believes it is important to ask a client what success looks like for them and to understand their brand values: “This assists in showcasing who they are as a business or organization and where their people or assets sit in relation to this. From here, you can do a deep dive into client, visitor, and staff journeys or experiences,” explains Healy.
Aesop’s headquarters are located on the fourth and fifth levels of a commercial building at 88 Langridge Street (88L) in Collingwood. “Level five includes the main staff amenities such as a sizeable kitchen primed for intimate or large gatherings, a central staff hub, breakout rooms, and a pitch space to showcase new products,” says Carr. “On level four, the interiors are oriented for clients and guests. [Here] the primary intention is to reflect the hosting experience you would receive at an Aesop retail store.”
“An important part of the design approach is restraint – a certain level of precision synonymous with Carr,” says Kirby Humphries. The arrival space embraces the visitor and encourages a moment of pause. Natural Australian blackbutt timber (eucalyptus pilularis), a lowered waffle ceiling, soft lighting, and tactile furnishings create a homey atmosphere. Beyond this, open-plan workspaces and communal gathering areas are designed to encourage and celebrate shared values and a feeling of identity. Rebecca Trenorden, an Associate Director at Carr, says: “For every single decision, we thought about rituals embedded in Aesop’s culture. From the moment the staff walked in, the space was beautifully curated to embody [this] culture.”
Aesop is especially known for its individual, architecturally designed shops, spaces that reflect the neighborhoods in which they sit. The brand’s Collingwood headquarters echoes the area’s many concrete buildings, with concrete flooring and walls painted in neutral tones. Large windows flood spaces with natural light — throughout the headquarters, the interplay between light and shadow adds a sense of vitality and warmth.
Aesop’s new laboratory is located at 23W, part of the 88L workplace development. Sited within an inconspicuous, whitewashed brick warehouse, staff and visitors to the laboratory are met with a three-meter-high (10-feet-high) steel door. As well as its height, the door is notable for an original cast metal handle from Aesop’s first premises. “The concept for the design is founded on the belief in working with what already exists,” says Carr. “Retaining the original brick and concrete shell, the design treads lightly and harnesses its history by emphasizing and appreciating the original structure, texture, and natural light sources.” An industrial space, the laboratory’s interior chimes with Aesop’s brand identity, appearing unpretentious, practical, and smart. Its galvanized steel units and worktops, concrete floors and pillars, focused lighting and natural light, combine to create a studied and engaging space.
Richard Healy explains that in both the headquarters and laboratory, “the approach to the material palette was informed by a deep appreciation of Aesop’s brand ethos, with great importance placed on the truth of the materiality.”