Who doesn’t love a good candle? A rich, beautiful scent enveloping the room, a flickering flame dancing in a tantalizing fashion. Combined with a comfy chair, a cup of tea and a good book, a candle is your gateway to relaxation heaven.
I’ll tell you a secret, I am a little afraid of candles. Well, unsupervised flame specifically. It all started when I was young and heard a story about a girl who burned her house down after leaving a candle unattended in her bedroom. For some reason this tale had a huge impact on me and although I collected a menagerie of exotic candles, I rarely burned them unless there was someone else present to share in the responsibility of such an act.
As I have gotten older, I have tried to coax myself out of this mostly irrational fear because, as I frequently tell myself, candles are made to be burned, and I am made to appreciate them. A few weeks ago, I came across a candle that called out to me, asking me to burn and appreciate it. So with my boyfriend on hand to monitor the flame, it was a call I most certainly obliged.
The candle was The Island and its brand was Anouk Gania. Naturally, I did some research.
Launched in 2016 by Maria Kambourakis, this luxurious lifestyle label launched four perfumed candles as part of its first collection. Each distinct signature scent evokes the seductive landscapes of Greece: The Church, The Villa, The Island and Winter. I was drawn to The Island which, as its name suggests, recreates the aroma of a Greek island. Bergamot, nutmeg and sandalwood bring to life hot rocks, sun-warmed skin and distant olive groves.
Made by artisans in Melbourne, each candle is made from a food grade soy wax blend combined with high quality essential and aroma oils, resins and extracts from around the world. A pure cotton wick is inserted after the scented wax is hand poured into a hand blown glass. In short, these candles look as beautiful as they smell.
I caught up with Maria to find out more about Anouk Gania and her journey creating this lifestyle label.
Emma: What made you decide to start Anouk Gania?
Maria: A combination of nostalgia and a yearning for a creative outlet. That combo makes you driven.
I created the brand for the playful minimalista – the kind of woman who is minimalist in terms of the number and quality of her possessions but doesn’t necessarily believe in just wearing black. A huge part of my business is giving – a fixed portion of every sale is donated to The Big Issue to help people experiencing homelessness. That was another big reason for starting the brand.
E: What do you love about scent?
M: The way it conjures memories and establishes a lifelong connection with a person or place, one that can never be lost. You could forget about a person or place or experience, not think about it for a decade. Then one day, you smell something and bang, you’re in that place or with that person. It’s remarkable.
E: Why is Greece such an important place to you?
M: Although I was born in Australia, I was raised in a very ‘Greek’ way (both my parents came from Greece in their 20s) and so I’ve always felt a connection to my parent’s land. After my last travels to Greece, I think a part of the country stayed with me because since then I’ve felt a pull towards it. These candles are my way of connecting with Greece here in Australia and also sharing its essence with others.
E: Tell me a little about these four scents. What made you want to capture these four moments in particular?
M: Each scent relates to memories of my most recent trip to Greece. The Villa, inspired by my grandmother’s villa and the house my mother grew up in. The Island – the aroma of Crete where my father is from. Winter, the smell of my mother’s village in northern Greece on a cold morning, when every household is burning their woodstove to keep warm and finally The Church – inspired by the tiny church where incense is burned in memory of my grandfather. These memories are what connect me with Greece. Each scent is so special to me and hopefully will become special to others as they create their own memories whilst burning them.
E: What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
M: Creative freedom and the ability to live by my own rules.
E: What are some of the difficulties?
M: Remembering it’s not always winter and it’s not always summer.
E: You used to work in science. What has it been like to transition your career?
M: I worked as a behavioural neuroscientist investigating the role histamine receptors play in the mammalian retina. I loved the intensity of the learning, the discovery of new things, but eventually the solitude that is embedded in the nature of the work I was doing got the better of me – it was long days in a dark room staring down a microscope. I needed more colour than that.
Transitioning to where I am now took a few years. I switched careers and fields 3 times. For me, transitioning was never very difficult. I think I was a chameleon in a past life. I’m very adaptable.
E: How would you like to see your brand grow from here?
M: I’d love it to develop a tight community of people who ‘get it’. I don’t want it to just be a collection of candles. I want the brand to stand for something – for women, for equality, for self-love and for art. Over the next couple of years I’ll be launching products in a few different categories. It won’t just be about candles. Every product will be an expression of those brand values.
Remember these candles smell too good to just have sitting pretty on your shelf, they are made to be burned and enjoyed.
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