On her visit to Auckland from Paris, we met Cire Trudon’s international sales director Elodie Herreria for a tête-à-tête joined by Benny Castles of WORLD, the French candlemaker’s sole New Zealand stockist for the past eight years…
Established in Paris in 1643 by grocer and candlemaker Claude Trudon, Cire Trudon creates candles, perfumes and accessories that are simply magnifique. The biggest wax producer in France in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was the official manufacturer of wax for the royal courts of Louis XIV and Napoleon I, and lit such hallowed halls as the Palace of Versailles and the country’s most glorious churches. It’s steeped in history, but survives through innovation, as evidenced by new candle Cire (meaning ‘wax’), which has a thoroughly modern eco-intention.
TJ: What’s it like working for such a landmark company?
Elodie: It’s amazing to have a story to tell that’s so genuine. We’re a very small company. There are 10 of us in the office in Paris and 25 in the atelier in Normandy, but every time I talk to someone who has a little more history in the company than I have, I learn new things. We just celebrated the retirement of a lady who had worked for the company for 42 years, and we have lots of mothers and daughters passing on [the techniques and traditions]. They take great pride in what they do.
TJ: How does that manifest in these beautiful products?
E: All that we make is really hands-on, and a lot of care goes into that process. We’ve bettered the production line by investing in a machine that makes the candles in a more steady way, so we’re assured of the amount of scent in each one, but parts of the production cannot be done by a machine. Each wick has to be hand-straightened, each glass has to be hand-wiped and the labels have to be hand-glued. The candles are filled in the factory, but everything from the label to the boxing is done in a different facility — one that employs people with physical and mental challenges.
We’re using mostly vegetal wax and we buy everything locally. It’s a lot cheaper to buy in China, but the furthest we go is Portugal and Poland. We’re not the most expensive candle brand because we’re snobbish — it’s because it’s a product handmade in France.
TJ: Cire Trudon has recently chosen to support the Orne Dark Bee Conservatory, for the protection of the European dark bee. How did that come about?
E: We try to be thoughtful in everything we do. We are very conscious that the candle industry isn’t very gentle on the environment and want to do it better. We’ve changed the composition of the Cire candle, launched a carbon-impact study, and partnered with a small conservancy about 20km away from our factory in Normandy whose goal is to preserve the endemic bee. It needs funds to develop a herd that will bring a sustainable number of bees to perpetuate the species, so we started by buying 15 hives and will also give them four percent of the revenue of the Cire candle. It’s a very local action, but we didn’t want to do any greenwashing. We wanted to have a genuine impact.
TJ: Along with bergamot, beeswax absolute is one of Cire’s key notes. Is that from dark bees?
E: Yes. In the beehive you have the honeycomb that the bees fill with honey then close with a cap of wax; beeswax absolute is the scent extracted from that. What I like is the warm honey, kind of waxy scent. I recommend burning it in the entry of your home, because it’s welcoming and makes you feel really good. At the entrance of your wedding venue, where the guests are gathering for a cocktail party, it would be a great warming, surrounding scent — probably more so there than during the dinner, because I think it’s maybe a little too opulent for food.
Benny: There’s something about Cire Trudon candles… It’s the experience and the love that goes into them, but at the end of the day, it’s the scent throw and the visual aspect. There’s a threshold you cross, and once you’ve crossed it, it’s very difficult to go back. You might liken it to a guy who buys a Rolls-Royce — it’s very difficult to then get back into the Honda!
TJ: That experience begins with the elegant boxes, frosted glass and gilded insignia…
E: This was actually on the wall of the royal manufacturer of wax [in the 17th century]. It’s the Trudon emblem that says, ‘Deo regique laborant’, which is Latin for ‘They work for God and the King’, ‘they’ being the bees, because at the time, the candles were made out of beeswax, which is why they were so special [as opposed to the tallow candles everyday people could afford].
TJ: Can the vessels be reused?
E: They are partly made with recycled glass, and they’re alimentary glasses, so you can drink out of them.
B: I’ve got Cire Trudon vessels at home that my partner uses for her makeup brushes and that my very spoilt 15-year-old uses for her hairties, and a set we use as drinking glasses. I like something that can stay in your life after the product’s used. For me, Cire Trudon goes way beyond candles. The smell changes your mood. The same way a great suit makes a man stand up taller and a great dress makes a woman feel more confident, a great scent makes you feel better.