Esquire Ventures to Tokyo to Learn More About Aesopís New Campaign

Centring on the relationship between our skin and the environment around us.

BY Wayne Cheong | Jun 28, 2017 | Grooming

It is a sleepy Sunday morning, and the sky is a gunmetal grey. The ground is wet and the air is chilly. I am in Nakameguro, a quiet residential district of Meguro, Tokyo, where you can see the occasional jogger or dog walker traipsing about, oblivious to the Meguro River that runs through it. Though many of the boutiques and the cafés in this area are still shuttered, the Aesop Tokyo store is open. The display window is a grid system of cardboard boxes, which I later discover represents “responsive skin cells during a change in climate or season”.

The space within is designed by Shinichiro Ogata of the design firm, SIMPLICITY. Though Aesop Tokyo is clearly a retail space, the room conjures up the inside of an average Japanese abode. Warm and inviting, it looks less like an apothecary, and more like an open-plan home, with a garden at the back.

Hidden behind one of the diagonal teak cabinets is a facial treatment room—the only Aesop facial treatment room in Japan—and I’m in there getting my mug worked on by a slight facial therapist. She’s Japanese and speaks very little English so my session with her is shrouded in mystery. What is she adding to my face? What is that winsome scent? What did she say again? Prior to my facial, I was quizzed thoroughly about my facial habits: how many times do I cleanse a day, when did I last visit a dermatologist, what is my facial profile, and all that. I doubt they left any stone unturned about my countenance provenance.

It’s a little wild to think that our skin is essentially armour. From head to toe, our soft outer layer accounts for 15 percent our body weight and, being the largest organ, the average human’s skin can cover an area of 2sqm. Skin is the first defender against the elements. It reacts to the changing environment. From Singapore to Japan, my lips start to chap. It’s the lack of humidity in the winter air. My complexion starts to break out due to the lack of sleep or pollutants clogging my pores.

Thus, the reason I’m here in Japan: to witness Aesop’s recommitment to skincare and its relationship with the world around us. The campaign, Skin and Environment: A Dialogue, is present in all Aesop stores across the globe and it “explores the common stressors that affect the health of skin” as well as offers skincare solutions that take into account customers’ provenance, skin type and way of life. In short, to encourage mindfulness of our skin.

At the launch, Dr Kate Forbes, General Manager, Products and Research & Development said, “Our skin is a genuine reflection of the life we lead, but too often people forget to nourish and care for the surface. Aesop’s skincare philosophy encourages people to take the time to observe their environment and consider the impact of modern day living on their skin.”

After the facial, I look at myself in the mirror: I don’t appear any younger but my face feels supple, reenergised even. I am ready to face the day as I make my way into the cold, crisp air outside once more.

Aesop’s General Manager, Suzanne Santos, on Aesop Tokyo, the brand and the future.

Esquire: Is the newly launched Aesop facial in Japan different from other types of Aesop facials in the world? Could you elaborate on the “secret ingredients” used?

Suzanne Santos: Our Aesop Facial Appointments are the same in our eight treatment locations around the world. They are immersive experiences for customers to nourish their skin and stimulate their senses in a private sanctuary. We offer six types of facial treatments, and each treatment is individually tailored to balance, stimulate and hydrate the skin over 60 to 90 minutes. We use concentrated formulations developed exclusively for Aesop Facial Appointments, formulations that are thoughtfully designed to complement existing Aesop products and are custom-blended to meet the customer’s specific skincare needs during the treatment. For example, with our Resurface Anew Facial, we focus on intense doses of lactic acid and sodium lactate to deliver superb exfoliating efficacy and unparalleled cleansing for the skin. In our Dual Vitamin Charge Facial, we provide a concentrated formulation of vitamins C and E to nourish, protect and rejuvenate the skin.

Esquire: How do you maintain the brand’s integrity amidst the glut of beauty products in the market?

Suzanne Santos: Aesop ignores what is happening in the beauty industry and focuses on creating timeless, quality products to serve a purpose. We resist market trends and preying on people’s insecurities, to communicate intelligently and honestly with our customers. Our focus is on rigorous scientific research to formulate what is inside the jar; not excessive product packaging or celebrity endorsement.

Esquire: What are your customers’ concerns over the past decades?

Suzanne Santos: Our customers in Asia requested a lightweight skincare moisturiser to cope with living in a hot and humid climate. Their needs inspired our in-house research and development team to re-examine how we could deliver skin hydration in warmer climates, and led to the introduction of our Blue Chamomile Facial Hydrating Masque in 2015. It contains a unique ingredient: sodium carrageenan, a red algae extract, which stops water loss and boosts the skins own water levels. The discovery of this ingredient was crucial in the evolution of Aesop’s approach to skincare hydration and was directly inspired by the needs of our
Asian customers.

Esquire: As a skincare brand, do you have to be prescient when creating products to meet “upcoming fads”?

Suzanne Santos: Since our 1987 inception, we have eschewed beauty industry trends and conventions, and forged our own direction in formulating new products only in response to genuine client needs. At Aesop, we only introduce a handful of new products every year, and each is developed with longevity in mind and to serve a purpose in treating the skin.

Aesop Tokyo is located at 1-13-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0051. Operating hours are from noon to 8pm.

This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, June/July 2017.