The French Way: Talking Candles With Elise Pioch |

The French Way: Talking Candles With Elise Pioch

Photography: Julie Adams Hair and makeup: Sarina Zoe Words: Georgie Abay

Elise Pioch might just be the world’s most stylish candlemaker. It helps that she’s French, effortlessly chic and used to be a fashion buyer. She left the world of high fashion and launched her business Maison Balzac from her charming country home in rural NSW (you can see her gorgeous house on The Design Files here). The brand started with a small collection of perfumed candles inspired by her childhood in the South of France, and instantly struck a cord with style-conscious women around the world. “We will always remember when Colette in Paris picked up the entire collection, six months after we launched. This is our highlight so far,” recalls Pioch. “By developing our own glasses, perfumes and bright packaging, we seem to make a difference in the candle industry. Most candle brands offer black and white colour codes but we have introduced bold, neon colours so you spot us on the shelves of any boutiques. We also have an authentic story for each perfume and of course a competitive price point. It seems to be a winning formula.” We first visited Elise at her Sydney home (she divides her time between here and the country) just six weeks after her daughter Loulou was born (see the beautiful story here). She was back in heels already, juggling running her business with nursing a newborn and looked far too together for a new mother. A year later, the inspiring entrepreneur has collaborated with Lisa Cooper from Doctor Cooper Studio on a new candle called ‘1642’, based on a painting from Adriaen Van Utrecht from year 1642. We caught up with Pioch to find out more...

How would you describe the Maison Balzac aesthetic?
The Maison Balzac philosophy is about telling stories in style through unusual mediums such as wax, soap, cream...

Do you have a favourite candle in the collection?
My current favorite is 1642, available in November, because the depth of the story behind it makes it memorable and seductive. 1642 has a very special place in my heart because it brings us back to the 17th century. The perfume is based on a painting from Adriaen Van Utrecht from year 1642, with notes of violet, blackberry and cedarwood. It's a dusty, powdery, old fashion floral fragrance that is 372 years old! Collaborating with Lisa Cooper from Doctor Cooper Studio in Sydney, was sure to take us somewhere far and artistic.

Do you enjoy collaborating with other creative people?
This is what I love the most! Shaking things up, opening our minds, mixing our worlds... this is the best way to push boundaries and INVENT.

Can you tell us about the process behind your candles?
The candles are hand made in Sydney. Everything from the hand blown milk glass to the bespoke perfumes and of course the candles are hand created to enliven the senses.

How has Maison Balzac evolved since it launched?
The brand has always been about being chic and fun, now we are taking it into a very luxe level with bigger, thicker boxes and more burning time (70 hours). We are growing up!

What do you love most about running your own business?
I love the freedom and infinite creative space that my own business gives me.

What are some of the challenges you face running your own business?
The biggest challenge for me is to prioritise my ideas. I have so many and I want to make them all happen at the same time, which is mad!

How do you juggle motherhood with work?
I will cherish family daycare until the end of time! Without that support, I wouldn’t be able to achieve as much as I do.

What has motherhood taught you?
Motherhood has taught me patience and motherly instinct! I thought I didn't have one drop of either and it just magically appeared.

How did your career change after you became a mother?
Before I had my baby, my career was relentless and focused on fashion products. Now it is more fun and focused on people and wellbeing.

What’s a typical day like for you?
A typical day starts at 6am (Loulou sings MAMA!), continues in my office at 8am and finishes at 5pm to pick up Loulou. After dinner, bath and a story, work starts again, from 8 to very late. It involves far too many emails and lots of creative thinking, lots of smelling and packaging hunting!

How do you approach dressing now you’re a mother?
My style has always been about being comfortable in dark clothes, which is ideal when you are a mother. So I haven't had to change the way I dress at all. I surround myself with neutral, natural colours but always try to add a touch of quirk, a touch of fun through vibrant neon colours (an orange necklace, a pink chair...). The fact I lived in France and experienced the 80's as a child must have a lot to do with that.

What are your fashion essentials?
My fashion essentials are bassike tees, Superfine denim jeans, faux fur vest (markets or Bobo Choses size 11) and Converse shoes. I always add a very big necklace to finish the outfit (Marni, 2 by Lyn & Tony, vintage...). In terms of bags, I am obsessed with my Utopia Goods tote where I fit absolutely everything for Loulou and I.

Where do you shop for Loulou’s clothes?
One of my best friends, Renata Tuta from Curated By styles Loulou with the prettiest clothes and shoes you've ever seen. My mother sends us lots of clothes from France, so I just have to add bits and pieces. I love Kido Store, Gap Kids, Bobo Choses and Mini Rodini.

What inspires you?
The smallest things often become the starting point of my creative process. For example, the colour of our chicken’s egg shells have inspired packaging for a natural hand cream we are launching soon.

Have you always loved interiors?
I’ve always seen my grandmother and mother making their homes pretty, welcoming and smelling delicious (may it be with food, flowers or candles). Unconsciously I have continued this tradition, from my first 14 square meter studio in Paris to our current church home in the country. My love for interiors and design comes from my quest for beautiful, rare things in life. I think my homes have a very big French influence (impossible to avoid!) as well as a relaxed, authentic and androgynous aesthetic.