19 Everyday Expressions That Came from Aesop
Aesop: we’ve all heard the name, and most of us are familiar with at least a few of his fables with the anthropomorphized animals facing extremely unrealistic yet entertaining dilemmas.
There is no concrete evidence that the ancient Greek moralist and former slave we call Aesop ever wrote down any of his stories (in fact, it was several centuries after Aesop’s purported death that the first collection of his fables appeared), nor is there even proof that he actually existed at all. But the wisdom and warnings offered up by the morals of his many popular tales have survived more than two millennia, weaseling their way into the English language as common everyday expressions. Here are a handful of Aesop’s most popular contributions that we still use today, along with a taste of the stories that spawned them:
1. “Quality, not quantity.”—From “The Lioness and the Vixen”
A mother fox and lioness were boasting to each other about their young when the fox pointed out that where she gave birth to a litter of cubs each time, the lioness had only one. “But that one is a lion,” responded the lioness. Checkmate.
2. “Honesty is the best policy.”—From the tale “Mercury and the Woodsman”
A woodsman lost his axe in a river and Mercury (the one with the wings on his shoes) appeared to retrieve it. Mercury offered the woodsman an axe made of silver and another made of gold before offering the man his own and, since the man admitted that the first two were not his, he was given all three axes as a reward. When a friend heard this story, he dropped his own axe into the same river. Smart. Mercury appeared again but this time the friend claimed the golden axe as his own, which disgusted the god so much that he returned all three tools back to the bottom of the river, leaving the man empty-handed.
3. “Pride comes before a fall.”—From “The Eagle and the Cockerels”
Two cocks were fighting for control of a roost. When it was over, the loser of the battle went and hid himself in a dark corner while the winner climbed atop the barn and began to crow where he was promptly snatched up by a hungry eagle. The emo rooster was cock of the walk thereafter despite his excessive use of eyeliner.
4. “Revenge is a Two-Edged Sword.”—From “The Farmer and the Fox”
A farmer was fed up with a fox prowling his hen house at night and so set out for revenge. He trapped the fox and tied some tinder to his tail which he then set ablaze. In a panic, the fox set off at a run and, making his way through the farmer’s corn field, burned the farmer’s entire harvest to the ground.
5. “Don’t make much ado about nothing,” or “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”—From “The Mountain in Labor”.
It would seem that even Shakespeare gave props to Aesop. In this tale, a mountain was groaning and appeared ready to burst and so attracted a great crowd, all of them anticipating some incredible tragedy. Finally, at the peak of this activity, from out of the mound surfaced a mouse, and for some reason everyone was completely disappointed despite the most likely alternative having been a volcanic eruption.
6. “It’s easy to kick a man when he’s down.”—From “The Dogs and the Fox”.
A fox came across some dogs gnawing on a lion skin and said (paraphrased) “that lion would kill you all if it wasn’t dead already.”
7. To take the “lion’s share.”—From “The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass”
A lion, a fox, and an ass went hunting together and set to divide the spoils of their efforts between them. First, the ass divided the goods into three even piles, at which point the lion attacked and devoured him, then asked the fox to divide the food. The fox, taking a lesson from the ass, gave the lion nearly all of the game and set aside a meager portion for himself, which pleased the lion, who then allowed the fox to live. Another lesson gleaned from this tale? "Happy is the man who learns from the misfortunes of others."
8. “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.”—From “The Milkmaid and Her Pail”
A farmer’s daughter was musing about the value of the milk she carried in the pail atop her head and began planning to use the profits to buy enough eggs to start a poultry farm. Eventually, her wild mind led her to ponder using the spoils of her poultry farm to buy a fancy gown for the fair. As the girl imagined how the boys would flock to her in her sparkling new duds she tossed her hair, sending the pail of milk and all of her dreams to the dirt below.
9. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”—From “The Crow and the Pitcher”
A thirsty crow happened upon a tall pitcher, inside of which was a small quantity of water that he could not reach. The crow, apparently a genius bird, gathered a crop of stones and dropped them one by one into the pitcher until the water level had was high enough for him to drink. Ahh.
10. “Look before you leap.”—From “The Fox and the Goat”
A fox found himself trapped in a well and so he coaxed a goat down with him into the water below. When the goat reached the bottom of the well the fox climbed on his back and out of his prison, leaving the goat to suffer his fate alone.
11. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”—From “The Hawk and the Nightingale”
A nightingale was caught in the talons of a hawk and pled for his life, saying that the hawk ought to let him go and pursue much larger birds that might have a better shot at slaking his hunger. “I should indeed have lost my senses,” said the hawk, “If I should let go food ready to my hand, for the sake of pursuing birds which are not yet even within sight.” And he ate him.
12. “One good turn deserves another.”—From “The Serpent and the Eagle”
A snake and an eagle were locked in a life-and-death battle when a countryman came upon them and freed the eagle from the serpent’s grasp. As retribution, the snake spat venom into the man’s drinking horn and, as he went to drink, the grateful eagle knocked the poisoned drink from his hand and onto the ground below. The man was probably just ticked about his drink, though, if you think about it. Unless he spoke eagle.
13. “Fair weather friends are not much worth.”—From “The Swallow and the Crow”
In the story, a swallow and crow were arguing over who had the superior plumage when the crow ended the discussion by pointing out that, though the swallow’s feathers were pretty, his kept him from freezing during the winter. The crow then dropped the mic and walked off the stage.
14. To have “sour grapes”.—From “The Fox and the Grapes”
A fox came across a bunch of grapes hanging from a trellis high above but, try as he might, he just couldn’t reach them. As he gave up on the fruit and began to walk away, he said to himself, “I thought those grapes were ripe, but I see now they are quite sour.” It's easy to disparage something you can't attain.
15. “Slow and steady wins the race.”—From “The Hare and the Tortoise”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You have? So you know the turtle wins the race despite the hare's incredible speed? Thought so. Moving on, then.
16. “Birds of a feather flock together.”—From “The Farmer and the Stork”
When a flock of cranes descended on a farmer’s newly seeded field, he cast a net with the intention of trapping and killing them all. In the process, the farmer gathered a single stork along with the cranes, who naturally pleaded for his life, citing his noble character and pointing out that his plumage was different from his cohorts. The farmer, however, was not moved and, since the stork had seen fit to take up with the scoundrel cranes, he did him in with the other birds all the same.
17. “Nip evil in the bud.”—From “The Thief and His Mother”
When a woman failed to discipline her son for stealing a book from a schoolmate, he continued to up the ante and was eventually caught and hung. As the woman cried about her son’s fate, a neighbor basically rubbed it in her face by pointing out that if she’d put a stop to his thieving ways long before he never would have been executed.
18. “A man is known by the company he keeps.”—From “The Ass and His Purchaser”
A man looking to purchase an ass took one home on a trial basis and released him in the pasture with his other donkeys. When the new addition took an instant liking to the laziest ass of the bunch, the farmer yoked him up and led him straight back to the vendor, saying that he expected the new donkey would probably just turn out as worthless as his choice of companion.
19. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire.”—From “The Stag and the Lion”
No surprise ending here—a stag took refuge in a cave to hide from a pack of dogs that were on his trail only to find something much worse inside: a lion. Not quite sure how anyone can take anything from this particular fable except maybe ‘Keep yourself out of strange caves if you don’t want to get eaten by a lion.’ Still, it’s pretty sound advice.
The man behind the Aesop brand
By Rachel Wells
WALK into any Aesop store and you can guarantee you won't be asked about the weather. Staff are forbidden from doing so.
'ɼustomers do not benefit from benign and obvious staff commentary,'' says Dennis Paphitis, who founded the botanical hair and skin care business 25 years ago. ''If it's raining, it's evident to all that it is, and it doesn't particularly require further discussion.''
Aesop founder Dennis Paphitis knows how to run a tight ship. Credit: James Braund
Paphitis' edict to his staff is a global one.
''There is a system and a method for every process in the company,'' says the 49-year-old. 'ɿrom the approved toilet paper used in our bathrooms, through to the way a parcel is wrapped.''
Even the finance department, he says, has approved colours it can use for graphs and matrices.
''Why make something ugly when it can be interesting?'' he reasons.
Anyone familiar with the Aesop brand with its pharmaceutical-style brown glass jars and minimalist stores - there are 43 of them worldwide - won't be surprised.
Paphitis has meticulously stage-managed the brand - in a fastidious yet understated manner - since he launched the business from his former Armadale hair salon in 1987.
Since then, Aesop has arguably become Australia's biggest beauty export since Helena Rubenstein turned a small beauty salon in Collins Street into a multimillion-dollar cosmetics empire in the early 1900s.
''We labour over seemingly inane decisions,'' admits the son of Greek hairdressers, who grew up in St Albans. ''We work to make things appear effortless and as though they just happen. But actually there's a great deal of energy involved.''
He is clearly doing something right. Despite the current retail downturn - last year the nation experienced the weakest retail sales growth in 50 years - Aesop's like-for-like growth in Australia was up 30 per cent.
''Try securing a table at any half-decent Melbourne restaurant on a Tuesday night at 8 oɼlock, you have to book or you're in for a long wait,'' he says. ''My point is that if you deliver something that is considered and original and you do so with integrity there's always going to be a market.''
Paphitis' careful - and some would argue freakish - control over the brand means he is reluctant to do interviews. He prefers the focus be on the painstakingly prepared products that often take three or four years to create. An SPF 15 moisturiser launched last year took 10 years to perfect.
Last year, he declined an interview with The Age. This time he agrees. But not before approving a list of 40 proposed interview questions that he responds to at length by email.
When we meet last week at Aesop's Fitzroy headquarters, he is generous with his time, but admits: ''I prefer to do this in writing. I have more time to think about what it is I want to say.''
Paphitis' penchant for control and order is obvious from the moment you step inside the two-storey Smith Street warehouse with its concrete floors and stark white walls.
Desks are aligned in straight rows. Paper and books are stacked in neat piles. There are no crumbs or food wrappings because staff are not allowed to eat at their desks. There are no family photographs framed on desks or puerile jokes and cartoons printed off the internet and Blu-Tacked to the walls.
The only form of embellishment are Aesop's signature quotes emblazoned on the walls - the philosophical words of wisdom, from Carl Jung to Eleanor Roosevelt, that appear in every Aesop shop and on all packaging, brochures and brand communication.
Paphitis' official title is creative director. But last year he appointed a creative manager and for the past five years has taken on a more ''silent'' role.
''My role now is to stand back and just look at what feels good and what feels like it can be fine-tuned … I'm there to constructively provoke the processes rather than be engaged in them,'' he says.
While he is still the majority shareholder, in 2010 Harbert Australia Private Equity bought a minority stake in the company, despite Paphitis fending off ''private equity vultures'', as he once described them, for years.
He says the capital injection is being used to fund further growth. Ten new stores are in the works, including a new flagship store on Collins Street, a fourth store in Paris, a sixth in London and a third in New York, which is part of a bigger plan to roll out more across America in coming years.
This financial year will be the first in which total sales outside of Australia will be greater than sales in Australia, Paphitis says.
While he is not as engaged in new product development or marketing as he used to be, Paphitis is still involved in the elements of the business that interest him most - store design and sourcing the quotes that have become synonymous with the cult-like brand.
The former philosophy student is only half-joking when he says: ''If my real title were to be revealed, it would be director of quote sourcing.''
Not surprisingly, his favourite quote is from French author and philosopher, Albert Camus: ''Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous amounts of energy merely to be normal.''
Aesop (VI a.C.) fabulist. This man was described by Herodotus, in his works, as a slave of a citizen of Samos called Xanthus. According to the historical data of historians of his time, Aesop was born in Phrygia but others postulating that he was born in Samos or Egypt. Xanto decided to grant him freedom, convinced that his ability to write fables was enormous. Usually, he amused Xanto and his family with attractive and thoughtful fables, which he could create in just a moment. At the time he was free, Croesus requested him in his court, offered him a number of favors, then sent him to Delphi to consult the oracle and make sacrifices in his name besides offering rewards among the inhabitants of the city.
But being in Delphi, he realized that the inhabitants of this site, recognized as the center of the universe, resorted to fraud and were impregnated with greed. As teaching, Aesop addressed them sarcasm and, limited to offer the gods the sacrifices sent by Croesus, returned to this prince the riches for the inhabitants of Delphi. So, this generated a strong quarrel between Aesop and the dolphins, decided to make only the sacrifice to Apollo and returned the rest of the riches to Sardes, so that he would send them to Croesus.
In revenge, the inhabitants of the center of the universe decided to take revenge by making a trap, where they added to their belongings a golden cup that belonged to Apollo’s offerings. Despite expressing his innocence in front of the fact Aesop was accused of sacrilege and was precipitated from the top of the Hiampa rock. Time later, it was discovered that the death of Aesop was the product of a dishonest action, as the accusation turned out to be false Apollo went into a rage, the dolphins decided to vindicate themselves financially with whom they had the right. Before the call attended a grandson of Yadmon from Samos to collect the compensation, Yadmon had been Aesop’s owner when he was a slave.
Although the death of Aesop was very early, his literary style one of the oldest in world literature, the fable, is characterized by being a type of short story starring animals that assume clear positions and attitudes whose didactic purpose is expressed in a moral at the end of the narrative. The importance of Aesop is such that, the Greece of the classical period attributed to his figure the creation of this genre. It should be noted that Aesop was seen as a writer who was inspired by the plebs, human weaknesses and passions represented by animals.
The historian Herodotus claimed that Aesop’s Fables were very popular in classical Greece, a statement validated by Plato and Aristophanes. His fables at the beginning were divulged orally to the whole community, his fame was such that apart from being orally disclosed, his fables were translated into texts used for teaching in schools. The rhetorician Demetrio de Falero made a compilation of the fables of Aesop in the fourth century b.C. the compilation contained about five hundred fables, which even today are read especially by children.
The fables of Aesop have a simple and clear style since it handles everyday expressions. Usually, the protagonists are animals that embody some human attitude or behavior, for this, they have the ability to think and speak, with the aim of transmitting moral teaching that they can apply to daily life. The main theme of the Aesopic fable is the social relations of humans, usually described from an ironic view of the world and power structures. The animals embody certain qualities these can be negative or positive, and in relation to it will be punished or rewarded in the denouement of the story, after the story is recorded an explicit moral by means of a forceful phrase. Aesop created some typologies, which remained static among the fabulists: the fox is the embodiment of cunning the wolf, of evil the ant, of foresight the lion, of majesty. It is necessary to notice that, in some of the fables of Aesop, human beings or divinities also intervene.
People, Locations, Episodes
The birth of Aesop, an ancient and Black storyteller, is celebrated on this day c 620 BC. He is known for his stories, which are called "Aesop's Fables," which have become a blanket term for collections of brief fables, usually involving anthropomorphic animals.
Aesop was a Black slave of Iadmon, located in the south of Greece near northern Africa. Most accounts describe Aesop as a deformed man whose name came from the Greek word Aethiops which means Ethiopia.
According to Herodotus, he lived in Samos in the 6th century BC and eventually was freed by his master, receiving his liberation in Iadmon. Other accounts connect him with many wild adventures and attach him with such rulers as Solon and Croesus.
The first extensive translation of Aesop into Latin was done by Phaedrus, a freedman of Augustus in the first century AD. The first printed version of Aesop's Fables in English was published on March 26, 1484, by William Caxton. William Dugard translated his stories from the Greek text of Planudes in 1715. There he also describes Aesop as one whom "Nature had gratified with an ingenious mind, but the Law had enslaved." Physically he had a large head, bowed legs, and a large belly.
During the reign of Peisistratus, Aesop visited Athens, where he told the fable of "The Frogs Asking for a King." He told the story to deter the citizens from attempting to replace Peisistratus with another ruler.
He prospered most about 550 BC and was killed around 560 BC, ordered by a decree of the Delphic oracle, according to historical legends. It also has been said that compensation for his death was claimed by the grandson of his master.
His fables are some of the most well-known in the world and remain a choice for moral education of 21st-century children. Many stories included in Aesop's Fables, such as "The Fox and the Grapes" (from which the idiom "sour grapes" was derived), "The Tortoise and the Hare," "The North Wind and the Sun," and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," are well-known throughout the world. A few famous quotations by Aesop are "After all is said and done, more is said than done." "Any excuse will serve a tyrant." "United we stand, divided we fall." "Be content with your lot one cannot be first in everything."
1001 things everyone should know about African American History
by Jeffery C. Stewart,
Copyright 1996, Doubleday
Proverbs and aesop
The purpose of the Proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, is to teach wisdom and discipline, and to help one understand wise sayings. The Proverbs provide insightful instruction, which is righteous, just, and full of integrity. The primary teaching in Proverbs is that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
As I was reading through Proverbs, I was reminded of one of my favorite childhood books: Aesop’s Fables . I still love it today. Although I have it downloaded on my iPad, my iPhone, and my computer, I pulled out my tattered and worn hard copy, which has followed me through three states and many moves over the years, along with my first Bible (which is also barely hanging on).
I opened the cover of Aesop’s Fables, copyright 1968 (which has nothing at all to do with my age) and saw my sister’s and my name, written in my grandmother’s familiar handwriting. My precious grandmother has been residing with the Lord since 1989, having lost a valiant and graceful battle with cancer, and there are very few days that go by that I don’t think of her. How I wish my husband and children had been able to meet her. There were so many lessons we learned from her, including those found in the Bible, and in Aesop’s Fables, but most importantly, in the way she lived her life.
I love how at the end of each fable it tells you the moral of the story. You don’t even have to figure it out for yourself! The lesson you are supposed to glean from the text is right there in black and white. Some of my favorites are:
The Cat and The Fox. Moral: One good plan that works is better than a hundred doubtful ones.
The Fox and the Crow. Moral: Flatterers are not to be trusted.
The Milkmaid and her Pail. Moral: Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.
The Mice in Counsel. Moral: It is one thing to propose, another to execute.
“MIce in Council,” Nora Fry, 1929
The Miller, His Son and Their Donkey. Moral: Try to please all and you end by pleasing none.
The Hares and the Frogs. Moral: There is always someone worse off than yourself.
“The Hares and the Frogs,” Linda M. Farquharson (2004)
The Eagle and the Fox. Moral: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The Young Man and the Swallow. Moral: There is no profit in blaming your foolish mistakes on foolish advisers.
The Mule. Moral: Every truth has two sides.
The Mouse and the Weasel. Moral: Don’t covet more than you can carry.
The Wolf and the Shepherd. Moral: Men are too apt to condemn in others the very things they do themselves.
The Lion and the Mouse. Moral: No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
“The Lion and the Mouse,” Weir et al. (1881)
As I read Proverbs, and look back through Aesop’s Fables, it all seems so clear. In every fable, I know what is going to happen. I can spot the foolish so easily, and just shake my head at their stupidity. It seems so simple, really, that we should be able to apply the truths in Proverbs to give us the wisdom and knowledge imparted by the Lord which would enable us to live a good, honest life to be kind, thoughtful, smart, giving, loyal, faithful, trusting, and to fear the Lord.
Why is it so hard? Every day, we must strive to love God, to fear God, and to stay away from evil. But evil is everywhere, and very difficult to discern for many of us. Evil comes in all forms, and we are bombarded every day by evil. We are human. It is never as clear as the black and white words of Proverbs or the morals laid out in Aesop’s fables. If only it were. We can only keep trying.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Lynn is a lawyer in Greenville, married with two children. She and her family have been members of ESBC since 2008.
Aesop - History
– the Australian boutique Beauty Care brand founded in 1987 – intuitively masters the art of “class branding”. It is a perfect case to illustrate key principles that – when lived by – can lift a brand above the masses. Of course their way to execute is not the one and only way to go. If fact, it is the very individualistic choices brands make in following the principles that make them stand out from the masses.
Mission Incomparable – An intelligent beauty brand.
No matter where and how you first meet the Aesop brand it will strike you as the prototype of a modern beauty brand. On the one hand, you will have experienced fragments of the brand language before: The modern apothecary packaging The collaboration with designers in creating contemporary store environments Art or crossover products. On the other hand, you rarely see the concept of sophisticated simplicity executed in such a pure, consistent and holistic way. And how many beauty brands do you know which exhibit a deep philosophical sensitivity and acknowledge your cultural intelligence?
But then, Aesop refuses to tick most of the boxes of the Beauty industry. There are no glossy packs, counters or ads. There are no promises of ‘agelessness’ or eternal beauty. No pumped-up mission to change the world, either. Instead, “Aesop values all human endeavors undertaken with intellectual rigor vision and a nod to the whimsical” their website informs us. “We advocate the use of our products as part of a balanced life that includes a healthy diet, sensible exercise, a moderate intake of red wine and a regular dose of stimulating literature”. Aesop shuns what they consider gimmicky category talk. Instead you will hear surprisingly matter-of-fact statements that declare that high-grade, man-made ingredients like magnesium ascorbyl phosphate are chosen because they are the most effective… Some Aesop chocolate and wine anyone? Sorry they are not for sale, just for friends visiting he store.
It is this type of lateral thinking, doing and honest talk by founder and creative director Dennis Paphitis and the tireless zeal with which he pursued this vision that has made the brand incomparable and timeless. As he puts it ”if you deliver something that is considered and original and you do so with integrity there’s always going to be a market.” 2
“Don’t compromise yourself, you’re all you’ve got.” (Janis Joplin)
– quote on an Aesop sample.
Longing vs Belonging – A beauty poet society.
To be treated to that wine and chocolate can be seen and experienced as a form of privilege, of ritualized ascendance to the desirable circle of intellectual sophisticates who associate with the brand. It certainly felt that way at a recent party by the Aesop store in Sheung Wan (Hong Kong). The store was packed with a somewhat homogeneous crowd who could have walked straight out of a Monocle magazine. Most people visibly enjoyed each other and being with the brand. Many had met before. Business was brisk. One buyer explained that he was stocking up “to help the store succeed… happy to have one in his neighborhood”.
Aesop prides itself in this close, habit-forming relationship with their neighborhood – physical and spiritual. A very defined and worth-while customer segment. A modern, moneyed, intellectual ‘cultural cohort’ (as Douglas Holt would put it 7 ) that wants to use sophisticated yet unpretentious products and to be admired for their connoisseur-ship. They believe in- and identify with Aesop and use their choice to clearly differentiate versus their nemesis, the ‘nouveau riche’ and their primitive, showy and wasteful consumption. To them Aesop is the antithesis of the trophy luxury or lifestyle brand of the shallow masses. And the identical brown bottles and aluminum tubes that don’t even have a ‘proper’ logo (just a name printed in simple ‘Optima Medium’) are the proof. To them, Aesop is cult and they are willing disciples. Paphitis humbly comments that “Aesop is now part of a small movement that’s best described as the Muji-Hermes paradigm.”
But this cult-like closeness and the surroundings can also be intimidating to the uninitiated. The literary quotes scrolling along the ceiling, the projection of a surreal meditation film and identical looking bottles sitting on strict and sparse wood ledges along the wall ‘Rind Concentrate Body Balm’ bagged into raw paper bags… This meticulously staged brand demands proper level of serious curiosity and involvement before letting you into its idiosyncratic world. ‘Beauty Junkies’, please stay out!”
“Better than a face-lift, to stay young we need to be permanently in a state of intellectual curiosity.” (Salvador Pániker) – quote on an Aesop broshure.
Of Myth and Meaning – Aesop: The prototype of storytelling.
Aesop’s story offers up plenty of myth making material, starting with the choice of name. Aesop – A Greek teller of fables whose origins and authorship are uncertain. Some attribute the unusual choice to the founder’s family is of Greek origin (he is Australian). Others to the fact that he is a bookworm and avid student of philosophy. Paphitis, hints that “The clarity of thinking [of Aesop] and quality of his communication was inspiring to me. 5 ” He says “I guess the reason I started my own beauty company was that I wasn’t patient enough to be a philosopher, nor tolerant enough to be an architect.” 9
Associating Aesop with fables, philosophy, art and architecture certainly helped Paphitis tell a story. He learned to appreciate the values of “discipline order and respect” as a hairdresser apprentice and applied it to his own salon in the 80ies known as a place where one had to be serious, obey the rules (no make-up, no jewelry) but one also got treated to an indulgent, healthy hair treatment in return – blondes stayed away. Encouraged and seconded by partners who helped him run operations, Paphitis refined and extended his salon to become a beauty company and a lifestyle. Quite naturally, he worked on all aspects of his brand teaching himself botany, chemistry and philosophy to formulate the products and vision right.
The way he went about bringing it to life created the icon Aesop is today. There is Paphitis choosing every quote that appears on labels, walls, brochures There are the decisions to clear entire shops of all products to make space for books of authors he admires (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) or designers (Jo Meesters) ceramic artists (Ray Chan). And then there are favorite neighborhood shops-, restaurants- or theater tips on the web site and printed on Aesop brochures, paper bags. When asked to comment on these unusual choices, Paphitis tells journalist he prefers to answer in writing as “it will provide a more considered and precise answer”. He wants Aesop to be known for its spirit and attitude, for being a ‘celebration of the everyday’ where less is better, where substance wins, where things have a deeper meaning.
To many, these might seem like eccentric or pretentious statements and actions. But on closer inspection, they are manifestations of a brand that appeals to a very defined customer segment. It is a matter of perspective whether you classify Aesop’s $30 “Animal Fur and Skin Wash” as another kind of wasteful decadence or the way human, honest and hard-working products should be. 8
“Means must be subsidiary to ends and to our desire for dignity and value.”
(Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) – Quote in the ‘About’ tab of Aesop.com site.
Behold! When Less Is So Much More.
On the surface, the minimalist art of the Aesop product was born out of practicality. “Well considered design improves our lives”, the Aesop website tells us. The brown color of the bottles, the aluminium tubes help to minimize the need for preservatives. Printing ingredients and instructions on the front label allowed to forgo boxes or direction leaflets and save cost and the environment. And so does that all the bottles and tubes come from the same mold.
But deeper down, what looks like a modern interpretation of a Victorian chemist’s lab fits neatly into the self-aware modernism of the brand’s followers who enthuse about slow food, urban cycling or low-fi electronics. Just like with Mies Van Der Rohe’s designs, Aesop’s do not come at the expense of aesthetic pleasure. There is nothing ‘utilitarian’ about using 7560 amber glass bottles to decorate a store (Adelaide) or a thousand reclaimed of copies of The New York Times (New York) or 3000 cardboard boxes (Melbourne). Those are artistic and ideological statements by the brand. The purity of intent, design and restrained luxury manifested through the store’s appearance is continued in the making process, the package, the content and, ultimately, the usage experience.
In fact, Aesop will tell us that everything starts with the product. The website informs us that “chemical scientists work out of our utilitarian, custom-built laboratory using both plant-based and laboratory made ingredients of highest quality and proven efficacy… to craft formulations of exceptional quality”. After seeing the store and amber apothecary bottles, one can easily imagine that spartan but elegant lab.
The spell-binding, stimulating sophistication of Aesop’s product comes to the fore when you squeeze out the contents and wrap yourself in a rich mix of anti-oxidant goodness of parsley and blackcurrant seed oil, enhanced by orange or violet petal. But Aesop’s formulations do not only stand out through their choice of ingredients but also through the source and areas of innovation. Rather than regularly re-formulating and launching “new, improved’ upgrades as is standard in the industry (“too much time goes into formulating them well” 5 ), the brand is hunting for inspiration externally. That’s how Aesop ended up formulating “Post Poo Drops”, a delicious flushing fragrance ‘recommended for shared bathrooms’ and a detergent ‘beautifully formulated for beautiful clothes’ together with like-minded fashion label APC.
‘Setting the rules’, finding and supporting soul-mates also guides the choice of store locations creating a unique brand manifestation. Aesop joins its globe-trotting avant-guard community in renewing these ‘rough- edge’ neighborhoods – and likely saving a lot of money on agreed leases compared to the usual ‘urban hip’ brands that follow later. As CEO O’Keeffe puts it “We see ourselves as leaders rather than followers. We’re not reading the latest Wallpaper* looking for the next cool cafe to partner with.” 5
But the hard work behind this precise orchestration never shows through. Everything looks as it had come together intuitively and effortlessly… almost not un-noticeable, if it wasn’t for the unique aura of perfection radiating inside out.
“Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous amounts of energy merely to be normal.” (Albert Camus) – said to be Dennis Paphitis’ favorite quote. 11
Living the Dream – La Vie en Aesop Cream.
Iconic brands distinguish themselves through ideology (ideas and ideals) and grand gestures. But it is the organizations behind them that either give them depth and make them last or risk to “burst the bubble” when avid followers look behind the curtains and find values and motivations not lining up with the myth.
The Melbourne headquarter of Aesop seem to look and feel just like what one would expect them to. A journalist-visitor from The Age reports of a “cool, near silent, all-white architect designed building […] a cold, dreamy, lightly perfumed space. […] There is little decoration […] except for a dead straight line of red tulips and more lines of Aesop’s brown glass bottles”. There are the quotes on the wall, of course (no personal pictures allowed), and people who “quietly come and go” 1 . The Aesop researchers supposedly all wear the same white apothecary coats. Everyone sits on Herman Miller chairs at sleek, pale wood desks and uses the same type of black BIC pen. Financial charts are colored in Aesop cream and even the toilet paper was chosen by the boss . All employees are to leave the building during lunch time (to get fresh air and to avoid bread crumbs and such in the office)…
This could be the description from the shoot of some modern version of ” if it was not the credible result of a quarter century of fastidious thinking and shaping by the brands founder. Paphitis is invariably described as a fickle, precise, unforgiving perfectionist who is stimulated by the purist and minimalist expression of observation and thought.
But Paphitis’ brand of conviction and actions also attracted some 300 like-minded admirers to join his company over the years. Together, they develop a visceral understanding of the Aesop and its followers and form an organization with “an uncommon blend of courtesy, cordiality and intellectual energy” (a job posting says). They pride themselves in remaining resolutely a-typical for their industry. It comes as no surprise, then that the CEO of the past decade was an engineer, consultant and investment adviser before joining his clients’ firm. The geographic isolation and the tad irreverent Aussie attitude might also help.
The buzz, lighthearted but engaged conversations you observe at that party at that Sheung Wan store do not feel like a sales pitch. The staff will tell you their personal experience with each of the products and try to determine which regimen might fit best for you. In fact, the Aesop website discourages customers from ordering – unless they had a personal talk about their beauty needs with a shop assistant first and try them out in the store. While Paphitis has officially retired to become ‘creative director’ (there is a creative manager), he continues to be deeply involved in areas of passion and high importance. One of them is to advise store staff not to talk about such things as the weather as “customers don’t benefit from benign but obvious […] commentary.” 11 He understands that wearing lab coats might be copied but the spirit of the brand can’t.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.
(Albert Einstein)” – quote on walls of Aesop headquarters in Melbourne, AUS.
Un-Selling – “Spectacular Performance, Minus The Drama”
That is is the headline on a card showing a dramatic black and white photo from the series ‘Mil Besos’ by Ruven Afanador on the front and introducing of a new hair care line on the back – in the typical matter-of-fact way, without any pictures of the product 13 . Again, Aesop stresses its deliberately different approach to selling beauty. The brand does everything to give you an experience of discovery rather than “assaulting you” as O’Keeffe describes the standard industry approach. But this discovery is not left to chance and the alternative means employed by the brand are no less effective in capturing the (more targeted) audience.
Whether you are part of the local or the global, jet-setting, intelligentsia, there are chances you will have been surprised by the enthralling scents and contemporary chic of Aesop’s Resurrection Duet soap and moisturizer set in the bathroom or on the shelves of one of you favorite restaurants, spas, coffee shops, boutiques, tailors or … friends. Aesop collaborates with such on-message venues as the à Aix-en-Provence’ winery in Yarra Valley, Kapok lifestyle boutique in Wan Chai, Claska gallery, hotel, shop and more in Tokyo. Beyond reaching their precise target, Aesop also achieves an effective equity halo from these equally experiential brands.
If you are attracted by the artistic display of an Aesop store their iconic moisturizer dispenser outside the window invites you to make the product discovery. Once you step inside, the discovery continues. Even if you have been in another Aesop store before, for each store represents a different interpretation of the strict brand identity. Aesop distances itself from the globally identical beauty counter of many competitors.
“Un-selling” is in fact a guiding theme: Brochures are in matte black and white and fragrant (printing ink?), not glossy, airbrushed and colorful. The language and images are a playful mix between the high brow, lyrical, artistic and decidedly low brow, not of the scientific-didactic charts and claims type. The usual name dropping of (the quite numerous) celebrity customers is verboten to staff. Instead, your friends at Aesop will tell you that the local climate and your personal diet has as much or more effect on your hair than any care products and “…to some extend we need to acknowledge what has been bequeathed to us” as that brochure reads. On the other hand, customer blog about how seriously the staff take their job to try and determine the right potions and regimen for the customer. One that will help them fend of adverse factors like UV and pollution, fit their skin … and their personality. As CEO O’Keeffe says “[…] we’re not perfect, the customer’s not perfect, and it’s not that people actually want to become perfect either. […] People should leave our store with a positive experience, rather than some of these brands that make people feel bad and the sell them products to overcome that.” 5
“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever“. (Napoleon Bonaparte)
– a quote and strategy choice used by Aesop.
Moving with Gravitas – Substance over speed.
In that sense, the Aesop brand teaches us more than the namesake fabulist who lets the tortoise win over the hare. For Aesop has not only grown along the single measure of sales – even through the recent recession. The brand has also kept building-up a unique equity and organization can capture consumer interest and loyalty for many more years to come.
In fact, unless you believe in this unique equity being a valuable long-term asset, Aesop will not compare favorably versus other Beauty brands. The industry has certainly not taken a nap in expanding globally and Aesop’s 80-some stores amount to not much when compared to the hundreds of stores and counters Kiehl’s has opened in the last dozen years or to the more than two thousand The Body Shop operates or licenses around the world (both owned by L’Oreal since 2000 and 2006, respectively). – But then many argue that The Body Shop has lost its soul – and profitability – a long time ago and that Kiehl’s might pay too little back into the 160+ year old legend to keep the myth alive as it expands furiously.
Compare that to an Aesop that does not cave to the lure of the growth hotbed Asia – particularly China but grows with integrity, on its own terms: They refuse to launch ‘whitening’ products because they have “negative cultural and personal ramifications” 2 , they do not get into the discount and gift pack game, which is considered essential in Asia by the industry. They do not set foot on the China mainland as they feel the elite is not yet ready to look beyond monogrammed and shiny concept of luxury and they would not be able (or allowed) to ‘go deep’ in their neighborhood and customer relationships.
Aesop has taken on some minority venture capital funding in 2010 to finance its considered international expansion and help scale operations back home. But Paphitis and the management majority owners have turned down advances by some of the Beauty powerhouses to take over and catapult Aesop into the luxury Beauty big league . At price points ranging from $20 to 150 and with a well-off, loyal follower-ship, Aesop seems in no rush to sell. But most importantly, how could the anti-Beauty beauty brand survive such ownership and expansion spiritually? Just like the customers and the market, a future owner has to be ready to receive and appreciate this brand.
“As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” (Henry David Thoreau)
– quote in an Aesop product and store catalog.
Sources, Notes and Further Reading:
Read more about Aesop and other Ueberbrands in our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands“
1 “Pure Vision“, The Age, Australia, Sept 2002
2 “Aesop’s Fables“, Smart Company, March 2012
3 “Aesop The Stuff Of Fables“, Marc C O’Flaherty blog and in Financial Times, May 2012
4 “Ten questions with Dennis Paphitis“, a great interview by Daniel Benning, Oct 2012 on OEN
5 “The Fable Guys“, Jo Bowman, CNBC Magazine, Feb 2012
6 “More than skin deep“, the Star online, Malaysis, June 2009
7 Read about how serving a cultural need of a segment of the population can create iconic brands in “How Brands Become Icons”, HBR Press, 2004 or in “Cultural Strategy”, Oxford University Press, 2010 by Douglas Holt.
8 Read in Styletales how Aesop Animal puts the dog into “a state of clean dog zen” and the owner into a trance, inhaling the “glorious aroma.”
9 “Aesop: Fabled Beauty“, The independent, UK, April 2008
10 “Aesop x Kapok” Hong Kong, Hypebeast – online magazine, June 2012
11 “The Man behind the Aesop Brand“, Sydney Morning Herald, Feb 2012
12 “Aesop: The Making of a Lovemark“, Futuro blog by Eduardo Chavez – Read how a true Aesop lover discovers, experiences and gets captivated by this brand.
13 Read about and see the dramatic work of Ruven Afanador in particular the ‘Mil Besos’ series Aesop sourced from.
More Recent Articles:
– A piece that reviews Aesop quite holistically and updates some of the details we provide above. It points out nicely the importance for awareness creation and trial of Aesop seeking to partner with- and place its products in the environments – restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, etc. – its ‘Ueber-Target’ loves and frequents. Cheryl Wischhover, in ‘Racked,’ Oct 2017
– Dennis Paphitis on why details matter – like choosing the right toilet paper for the office. Interview with ‘The Talks,’ Aug 2015.
– Judy Hermansen of the University of Southern Denmark reviews Aesop in a cultural context in this 2019 bureaubiz article (Danish – use translator).
"I was horrified at the thought of a soulless chain" - Aesop founder
Interview: recently Dezeen met up with Dennis Paphitis, founder of skincare brand Aesop. In this exclusive interview he explains why no two stores are of the same design, why he enjoys working with different architects around the world and how he believes "there's a direct correlation between interesting, captivating store spaces and customer traffic within a store" (+ slideshow).
In the interview, conducted by Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs, Paphitis (above) explains how the brand has worked with different design teams to avoid "the kind of assault on the streetscape that retailers inflict through the ordinary course of mindless business."
"I was horrified at the thought of Aesop evolving into a soulless chain," he says. "I&rsquove always imagined what we do as the equivalent of a weighty, gold charm bracelet on the tanned wrist of a glamorous, well-read European woman who has travelled and collected interesting experiences. I felt and still do that it should be possible to grow in a lateral way without prostituting the essence of what the company is about."
The slideshow [top of page] features several new and previously unpublished Aesop stores. See all our stories about Aesop stores.
Marcus Fairs: Tell me the story of Aesop.
Dennis Paphitis: I&rsquom an ex-hairdresser. I guess the qualities that remain important in Aesop stores today were also important in the salon back in the days when I was cutting hair. In busy, high traffic environments a sense of calm and composure can quickly recalibrate how people feel. I attracted complicated and difficult clients, so keeping the space visually ordered and contained made it easier for me to think and work in.
Product-wise I started by adding essential oils to the commercial hair colour we were using at the time, because the smell of ammonia is quite overwhelming. Clients responded well to these less aggressive aromas. I then looked further into other ingredients and started work with a chemist on a small range of hair care products. Eventually the hair product extended to a hand and body product category and finally skin care. I started to think this could be developed into a more substantial offer if I gave myself fully to it.
So in 1996 I stepped out of the salon altogether, and spent the next few years with our first chemist setting up the foundation for a fuller product line and more serious development. All this was done without a great deal of commercial aspiration. I was simply interested in what was happening with the product and learning more about the science of manufacturing and ingredient sourcing, product shelf life: all the necessary components of developing product and trying to do something well. The idea was to use fewer, better ingredients in a smarter way.
Marcus Fairs: Why did you decide to open your own stores?
Dennis Paphitis: We would try and explain to retailers that were retailing our product how we would like to be represented and communicated, but we didn&rsquot have a tangible example to demonstrate this to them. It was all in our heads yet there wasn&rsquot a physical reference. So the moment you do that and you control the smallest, most innocuous details such as temperature, lighting, music, smells, tactility, and the materiality of a space this has a very profound impact. Of course there must be a solid and serious product offer to have legitimacy, but these peripheral factors actually compliment the product line up. It was liberating and we were able to express ourselves as who we are.
Marcus Fairs: Where was the first store?
Dennis Paphitis: The company is 25 years old however the first Aesop store proper is only 10 years old this month and we&rsquore happy it&rsquos still there. It&rsquos in Melbourne, in an area called St Kilda, which I guess is a little bit like the Shoreditch or the Hackney in these parts. It felt like the appropriate area to begin in. We couldn&rsquot find a location however there was an iconic hotel called The Prince that had a car parking ramp that was 3m wide and 25m long. They gave us this space to work with and we redirected the car park users to enter an exit from around the corner. So that was the bones of our first store.
Marcus Fairs: How many do you have now?
Dennis Paphitis: At this moment I think we have 61 stores and there are nine stores in progress four of those are in the US, which is a huge step for us in that part of the world.
Marcus Fairs: The design of each of your stores is different, and you&rsquove worked with several different architects around the world. What&rsquos the thinking behind that?
Dennis Paphitis: After St Kilda we opened a second store in the central part of Melbourne and opened our first store in Taipei within a few months of both. So through necessity we began to work with different architects, because of the overlapping timing. For example we needed to work with a local Taiwanese architect on the first store there. And that just got me thinking about the kind of assault on the streetscape that retailers inflict through the ordinary course of mindless business, the idea that one size would so often be forced to fit all. It wasn&rsquot so hard to respectfully consider each space individually, consider the customer, the context and to bring a little joy into the conversation.
I was horrified at the thought of Aesop evolving into a soulless chain. I&rsquove always imagined what we do as the equivalent of a weighty, gold charm bracelet on the tanned wrist of a glamorous, well-read European woman who has travelled and collected interesting experiences. I felt and still do that it should be possible to grow in a lateral way without prostituting the essence of what the company is about, to have the confidence to evolve yet the retain the core of what distinguishes us. It&rsquos become politically incorrect to discuss good taste but actually this what Aesop does best. We aspire toward a certain quality, discretion and restraint in our work. These are qualities that are almost counter intuitive in a retail market desperate to cater to short attention spans and infinite choice.
Architecturally our criteria is always to try and work with what is already there and to weave ourselves into the core and fabric of the street, rather than to impose what we were doing. We didn&rsquot ever want a standard Aesop shade of orange or green that was plastered onto stores with a nasty logo over it, but instead to look at the streetscape and try to retain and redeem existing facades that are there, and work with a local and relevant vocabulary to contextualise what we do.
There remains a core palette of ideas that we work with: we know that every store has to have sufficient display space, by product category. For example you need to be able to walk in and say to the customer, &ldquoThis is where the skincare is, this is where the hair is, the body care,&rdquo etcetera. We need a counter for transactions to occur, we need water, we need back-of-house storage, some space to sit and contemplate and think about the day. So there are all these factors that don&rsquot vary by region but the possibility of expressing them fully will vary according to space, light and budget. It&rsquos the same product that we&rsquore selling worldwide but it needs to fit and connect locally.
Marcus Fairs: When did you start expanding internationally?
Dennis Paphitis: Five or six years ago we looked at where we would open the first offshore company-controlled store, because Taiwan was an arrangement with an external party there. Four of us took a trip to LA, San Francisco, London and Paris and we knew that it would be one of those four cites. We opted to set up the first stall in Paris, which was really quite absurd because none of us at that time spoke French and we were aware of the commercial bureaucracy and so forth that one deals with in France.
But actually it was quite a straightforward and invigorating process once we found a store that appealed to us in the sixth. We looked at some spaces and found a bookstore that we liked and tracked down the architect. He spoke little English but there was an immediate human connection between all of us. We worked well together, and more or less from that moment on we then started to explore the possibility of working with local architects project managing development from Melbourne.
We&rsquove continued on this path since with some architects that we&rsquove worked with many times over such as Rodney Eggleston, who is the founder of March Studio in Melbourne we&rsquove just completed our twelfth project with him at Bleecker Street in New York [above]. Similarly Kerstin Thompson from KTA who we&rsquore working on our sixth project with a new Adelaide store. We&rsquove completed five projects with Ciguë who are a fantastic young Paris based firm and are also beginning two London projects with them in the New Year.
My personal criteria in selecting architects for long term unions is not singularly the excellence of their work but more so their psycho-emotional state and capacity to communicate, function under pressure and ultimately deliver the goods with minimal trauma. There are some very impressive characters out there, this year we&rsquove begun three projects with NADAAA in Boston who are perhaps the most professional and sophisticated firm we&rsquove worked with.
Marcus Fairs: You tend to have clusters of stories in cities like London and Paris, rather than one store in every city. Why is that?
Dennis Paphitis: The thing with us is we like to go deep rather than wide, so we can&rsquot set up a store in London then just open another one in Barcelona and in Glasgow because it seems like a good idea. We need to do a series of interconnected stores in London or whichever the chosen city is because we need the back office support structure to make it all work and hang together well. Less spread, more depth of presence with a strong and switched on infrastructure to support this.
Marcus Fairs: What influence does interior design have on sales and the performance of the shop?
Dennis Paphitis: There&rsquos a direct correlation between interesting, captivating store spaces and customer traffic and interest within a store. I&rsquom personally more comfortable with under-designed looking design, if that makes sense, or design that dissolves and recedes rather than screams &lsquolook how clever I am&rsquo. It&rsquos not singularly the design but also a whole series of seemingly miniscule decisions and very fine calibrations that converge together to make space captivating and comfortable to be in.
Marcus Fairs: How do you choose your architects?
Dennis Paphitis: We like to take them green but not too green they need to have a little bit of blood on their hands. The minimum criterion is five years post-graduate working experience unless they&rsquore extraordinarily talented and there&rsquos some compelling reason to consider them. But if they&rsquore 15 years into their professional journey we need to check that they&rsquore not having a mid-life crisis or whatever it is that might implode or distract them during the process. It&rsquos a fine line.
We sit down and share coffee and meals and try and understand their motivations. Often we are the ones seeking them out, we will see something they&rsquove done, hear about a talent graduate, discover some long ago project that captivates us. And then we present what we need to achieve with them and give the scope to interpret this whilst at the same time ensuring that there are sufficient shelves to store our product and a space for our staff in the back room to have lunch, a point of sale, and basins because we need water in every store, and a provision to have music, and all of the practical details that make a retail space functional and successful.
Marcus Fairs: How involved do you get in the design of the stores?
Dennis Paphitis: Once an architect has my allegiance and loyalty they&rsquore pretty much given carte blanche but they do need to earn it and they need to be respectful to keep it. With the guys in Paris, Ciguë, who are almost like some sort of contemporary experiment in architectural socialism, they&rsquore extraordinarily hard working, committed and diligent, earnest and talented. Nothing with them ever runs on time, nothing runs to budget, nothing emerges in the way that you expect it to, but they pour their hearts into every job, see it through and remain responsible for the upkeep with an almost Victorian sense of propriety and dignity. I like this sense of responsibility.
We had hand-blown glass taps made by them for the Islington store, which exploded! But they will hand-blow them again and we&rsquove all learnt from that. It never regresses into a vulgar conversation around blame and who is responsible.
Conversely there are arrangements that we have in other parts of the world that are much more structured and sober and these are the ones that deliver at 10am on Monday 13th because that&rsquos what&rsquos been agreed. The work is still of a very high standard. I&rsquom not sure if these have the same poetic capacity to arouse and to captivate, but it&rsquos work that will certainly do its job and fulfil the brief. Personally it&rsquos that little extra manic commitment and diligence that motivates and drives me so I enjoy this with people I work with.
Marcus Fairs: Is your approach to hiring architects changing as the company grows?
Dennis Paphitis: What I&rsquove proposed is that we standardised the relationship that we have with some architects and make it a &lsquomarriage&rsquo in specific regions. I&rsquove always worked on a &ldquoWhat if I get hit by a truck?&rdquo theory, so I am no longer involved in the commercial aspects of the company. My role is now more an arm&rsquos length creative provocateur, just to kind of stir the pot a bit where I sense the design decisions being made are perhaps too safe and less energised than they might be. The truth is that many of my colleagues are far more visionary and driven than I am and have the capacity to develop and further explore the company&rsquos next chapters.
Marcus Fairs: Which store is your favourite?
Dennis Paphitis: I think the current personal favourite is always the most recent store because it&rsquos like a new lover or something similarly engrossing. You become immersed in the moment but then they become like children and you could never admit to favouring one over the other.
We&rsquove just opened a fourth store in Paris in Rue Tiquetonne [above] and a sixth in London in Islington [below]. I think both of these are particularly interesting, they feel like a logical evolution of what we&rsquove explored with Ciguë to date. Earlier in the year we opened a little gem of a store in Collins Street, Melbourne designed by our creative team with Kerstin Thompson. The thinking behind that store was very much around speaking with men, because the location is in the banking end of town, there are lots of institutional clubs for men, bankers and the rest of it. The material references for this space are all quite sturdy, traditional yet at the same time a little subversive to an educated eye.
Then we opened Geneva [see slideshow] three months ago. This one was intended to evoke more a decadent living room of maybe a central European or Middle Eastern undercover agent with an apartment in Geneva. There is extraordinary copper detailing and stuccoed plaster, quite beautiful matt, saturated skin toned walls, so that was also an interesting one.
And we also opened a second store in Zurich [see slideshow]. That was constructed largely out of cork. I&rsquove always been interested in cork because of the tactility and the acoustic qualities that it has. It&rsquos a very small store though it has high visual impact and it&rsquos been well received. Then Islington, which opened about four months or so ago. The reference point here was nurseries and seedling trays that you could slide open and close. Ciguë used a lot of plants, and since opening, the plants have quadrupled in size and grown all over the walls and products so this idea of a store never being quite finished or static is very much our thing.
We&rsquore working with an interesting lighting firm in Beirut called .PSLAB. They&rsquove resolved a long-standing Aesop lighting dilemma, because our stores are generally quite under-lit by standard retail measures and they&rsquove managed to gently increase the lighting levels a little yet still keep it all soft and human and more living room like.
Marcus Fairs: You&rsquove set up a new retail concept for men. Tell me about that.
Dennis Paphitis: Épatant [above] is a separate non-Aesop project that I&rsquom working on for a day a week. It&rsquos intended as a kind of mental palette cleanser for me a distraction that I can amuse myself with. I have a business partner on this project and we&rsquove been speaking-thinking for the last couple of years about the way men behave in a retail context, what switches them on, what engages them and what just closes them down.
It&rsquos really just an edit of product that we like and already use and felt deserved a base to be presented from. Épatant means &ldquodapper gent&rdquo in French and the idea was that we would have product that address all categories of a man&rsquos life from birth until death, without necessarily touching fashion. Fashion is not something we know, and with sizes and seasons it just becomes too complicated and kind of tedious.
So there&rsquos a website and a physical store and the idea is you can shop by brand and you can shop by category: fitness, wellbeing, personal grooming, car, office, outdoors, and so forth. Or you can shop by milestone, if you&rsquore buying a gift for someone birth, graduation, divorce, retirement, whatever it may be.
We share the space with some Japanese friends who have developed a food offer, thinking what does a guy want to eat for lunch? The options are quite limited in terms of food. It&rsquos an interesting project. We also represent Aesop there because in the grooming category it was the only logical option. I generally spend four days a week working on Aesop and one day on Épatant, and I think it&rsquos been constructive. One project fuels the other and keeps it interesting for me. It&rsquos the first non-Aesop workplace thought I&rsquove had in twenty five years and I&rsquom still trying to figure out what it all means.
Aesop was a Greek storyteller born in approximately 620 BCE. Tradition says he was born as a slave, but developed a real talent for fables that were used to teach truths in a simple, understandable way. While Aesop was revered for his abilities, it is almost certain that many of the fables attributed to him were actually written by countless people over the ages.
The fame garnered by Aesop is such that some scholars question whether he was a real person at all. (Presumably, a slave in ancient Greece would have been hard-pressed to attain the fame that Aesop did.) Be that as it may, Aesop is referred to by ancient luminaries such as Aristotle, Herodotus, and Plutarch. His fables (or those attributed to him) have been translated around the world and are the substance of numerous stories, poems, and children's books.
More information about Aesop and his life can be found at the Wikipedia page devoted to him.
There are currently 258 fables on our site. To discover the breadth of Aesop's fables, pick one of the categories at the left. You can also view a random fable, if desired.
If you know of a fable we have missed, drop us a line and let us know.
About | Privacy | Contact
Aesop's Fables is a service of Sharon Parq Associates, Inc.
Copyright © 2021 by Sharon Parq Associates, Inc.
The Man and His Two Sweethearts
A man is courting two women, one considerably younger than he is and the other considerably older. Every time he visits the younger woman, she surreptitiously plucks his gray hairs so he'll look closer to her age. Every time he visits the older woman, she surreptitiously plucks his dark hairs so he'll look closer to her age. You've probably already guessed he ends up bald.