If you’ve always thought there’s just something about French women, wait until you meet Elise Pioch. The Maison Balzac founder and creative, and mother to Loulou, aged 4, is as chic, nonplussed and honest about motherhood and business as she is about not being able to relax and unwind… but that’s all part of her charm, to call it like it is whilst keeping a lighthearted approach to, well, everything...
From developing the most stylish candles we’ve ever seen (Paris institution Colette bought the entire range after a five minute chat) to expanding the brand to now include heavenly Eau de toilettes (that work as room and linen sprays), mouth-blown glassware and ceramics, there’s never been a better time to delve a little deeper into the impossibly inspiring world of Elise and her family. Read on to hear how Elise’s background as a fashion buyer lead to where she is today, how she’s evolving the Maison Balzac brand, and what inspires her the most in life… Photography: Julie Adams | Hair and makeup: Sarina Zoe | Go to www.maisonbalzac.com
What are your daughter’s greatest qualities?
She is empathetic, caring, one with nature and as kind as a child can be (she can be cruel too!).
What’s your approach to health and wellbeing?
I eat the way we do in France – using in season, fresh produce and cooking at home as much I can, varying menus and adding lots of pleasure to the mix – but I do not exercise at all. Ever. My health comes last but luckily I have a good constitution so I am never sick and don’t really put on weight.
Can you talk us through your career path from being a buyer at renowned fashion boutique Belinda to launching Maison Balzac?
Being a buyer at Belinda and The Corner Shop for five years was the richest and most fulfilling experience I ever had. I have learnt how to say no, how to be selective, quick and good with numbers. At 35, I felt the need to start my own business to express my own voice and this is exactly what I did.
What are you most proud of in life?
To have given birth (I was so scared!) and to have created a successful, growing business from nothing when I was one month pregnant (without knowing I was).
Do you ever second-guess yourself? How do you stay so motivated and driven?
I used to ALWAYS second-guess myself but starting Maison Balzac and having a child stopped that. I am completely in tune with my gut feelings and can read my instinct very clearly. So whatever guess comes first, will always be the one I follow. This has helped me stay focused, true to myself and driven, as I simply express that inner voice.
What inspires you most in life?
I realise that my studies (between the age of 18 and 24) form the most prolific pool of inspiration for me. I often look back and pick ideas, art and taste from the many subjects I studied. For example Jean Cocteau, the Russian Ballets, Hermès, Martin Margiela, Howard Lovecraft, the baroque era, the 17th century theatre in France etc…
Tell us about your collaborations with floral artist Lisa Cooper – what do you love about working with her?
Lisa and I met one year after I started the business and we have launched a new fragrance together every year, ever since. She has this sharp talent for coming up with rich, grounded, detailed concepts nourished by her love for art. Every scent we create together becomes a success! I really admire her fascinations and personality… her presence would fill the palace of Versailles in a second.
Tell us about the launch of your ‘not candles’ range…
I started with five scented candles in 2012, so the heart of the brand will always remain there. However, it was always my ambition to recreate the world of Maison Balzac through different objects and categories. Hence the cheeky division between CANDLES and NOT CANDLES on the site. We are having lots of fun with the latter, expanding from glassware to throws, hand wash to ceramics. And this is only the beginning…
Talk us through how you connect with your consumer? How important is social media in your business?
I truly believe that being extremely personal with your products, website and social media (we only do Instagram) mean that you attract like-minded people who want to hear from you. Our consumer list grows organically and by no means are we trying to attract more than what we can cope with. It’s best to be prudent and steady, I think.
What have been some memorable moments since you started the brand – talk us through some memories of building the brand that you’ll never forget…
6 months after starting the brand 2012, I sat down with the buyer of Colette in Paris and she bought the whole range in five minutes. Our collection was there for three years! In 2015, I welcomed my first permanent employee, Laura, but this responsibility was so huge that I fell sick for one month, unable to even hire her or work. I was stuck! But having her on board meant we could grow the business and everything has been skyrocketing ever since. Now there are four employees. My parents told me recently that one day soon the business would be successful and that I was nearly there. They have always been good at keeping me humble!
How do you relax/unwind?
I don’t! This is my biggest problem. I am unable to switch off. If I could, I would have a day per week without looking after my family or the business and would go for a walk, meditate, read a book, order a hot chocolate and drink it slowly, watch a movie and have a nap.
What is your favourite current candle to burn?
Describe your dream day at The Church…
It stars with cuddles of Loulou and Pablo in bed then continues in the kitchen with French crepes and freshly squeezed oranges (there is a farm near us). Then we head off for a bush walk, discover some insects under the leaves, spot a wallaby and return home for homemade spaghetti bolognese (her favourite dish). In an ideal world, we all have a nap in front of the fire. Then we wake up to have more crepes as afternoon snacks. We go out to collect wood and small branches, pick some vegetables or fruits in season and come home to bake a lovely supper (chicken soup would be my pick). We dance to the sound of Shake It Off or Roar (four-years-old hits) and go to bed exhausted!
Who are your role models? Who do you admire?
Any men or women who achieve their dreams with kindness and drive.