Baobab Collection reveals the secrets of its NPD creativity

Mr Snow was like my God. I fell in love with him and I thought ‘OK this is the candle of Jon Snow’.

Baobab Collection worked with the Mikea tribe for its Raffia Collection

Baobab Collection is a brand with big personality. While most candle companies are focusing on 'quiet moments' or 'me time', this luxury Belgian brand is shedding light on the needs of vulnerable tribes for one collection, then urging consumers to release their inner disco diva for the next.

On top of that, the company has just opened up their first store in the UK. But who's in charge of this creative momentum?

Here Corinne Bensahel, Creative Director of luxury candle brand Baobab Collection, talks to Cosmetics Business about Madagascan tribes, enhancing creativity in teams and using Game of Thrones as branding inspiration.

Corinne Bensahel

How do you ensure your brand stands out in the home fragrance sector?

We’re lucky for one reason - we’re not only a scented candle.

Our products are home decor items, most of our competitors just make small candles but we make huge 8.5kg candles with seven wicks; it’s an object of desire in itself.

Then you have all the perfumers making candles, but we do not produce perfumes for people. We make perfume for the home only.

But some of your candles cost more than £400, why the huge price tag?

You pay a price for quality, that happens most of the time. For our candles we are very aware of the quality of the perfume so it’s very costly and, on top of that, we have very big candles, so the 10% fragrance ratio is a big percentage of the cost.

Plus the fact we are artisans, everything is done by hand. The glass is made by hand as well.

In your most recent collection you worked with the Madagascar Mikea tribe, which inspired the candles. How did that come about?

When I started the M Project I worked with a women’s cooperative in Madagascar who were living in poverty to develop the first Raffia Collection.

At the time I was working with an amazing portrait photographer, Serge Anton, and I knew we had to work with a tribe because of our connection to Africa.

Luckily when I was on the plane, one of my partners was reading a book about the last tribe in the world. So I grabbed the book and looked at it, thinking it would be great if I could find a tribe in Madagascar starting with M. Thankfully in the book was the Mikea and I thought ‘I need to meet them. How am I going to do it?’

I got in touch with the author. He put us in connection with them last year. And by a miracle, the guy who runs the Mikea foundation was married to a woman I was working with in Madagascar - it was unbelievable.

So I promised if my first Raffia Collection worked, I would go back and meet the Mikea for the second edition of the Raffia Collection. It was a success so I kept my word and went to work with Mikea.

Bensahel with women of the Malagasy Tribe (Instagram/@BaobabCollection)

What percentage do the Mikea tribe get from the candles?

Many people ask us that, but the thing is, it’s not that I don’t want to say how much we’re giving, it’s just that right now Madagascar is doing very badly and the corruption means that if any article publicises the figure it’s going to be bad for them.

The money will not go through them, that is the threat. So I’m not using the Mikea to say ‘oh my God, look how great the Baobab Collection is’ because we’re really doing it with our heart.

When we stayed with them, I loved them and they were adorable with us. And they have nothing.

If next season I can continue and give to the same tribe then I will do it. In our strategy we cannot give to everyone, it’s impossible. But what I want definitely is to protect women and children.

How do you get inspiration?

Museums. I am addicted to museums, it’s my only addiction - and chocolate. Thank God I live in Belgium!

I love art, I grew up with parents who were intellectuals so we always went to museums and exhibitions. I grew up with an amazing mother who taught me to love art and even though when I was younger I found it so boring, now I need to thank her.

But inspiration is everywhere, you don’t need to go to a museum, because there is inspiration on the street. Take a coffee and just watch people.

It’s like in American Beauty and the shot of plastic bag flying and it looks amazing, like a ghost.

Beauty is everywhere. Aesthetic saves us, it helps your soul. When you see . . .

This is a small extract of the full article which is available ONLY to premium content subscribers. Subscribers sign-in (top right) to read the article.

Or

Subscribe now to premium content on Cosmetics Business

Companies