Serendipitous timing and old fashion smarts helped local maker Cassandra Angelini create her Bougies de Luxe candles and homewares range. Escape Southern Highlands attended a Bougies de Luxe workshop to discover why it’s all about a candle’s ‘warm throw’ and how an iconic beauty brand helped make this dream come true.
The ‘lipstick effect’ is a famous gauge of economic measure. First floated in the New York Times newspaper following 9/11, the theory goes that when markets are sluggish and people’s purses are feeling the pinch, women stay away from major consumer purchases and instead buyi themselves a lower cost comfort, such as a lipstick, to get their luxe shopping fix. Nearly two decades on, Cassie Angelini believes the same goes for her luxury candles.
‘We all love a beautiful candle because number one it’s an affordable luxury,’ explained mum, maker and former accountant Cassie.
‘We often can’t afford to get to the hairdresser every month or to treat ourselves with that bottle of Chanel perfume we’d love but buying a candle costs less and gives the same result. The process of lighting a beautiful smelling candle is lovely and can somehow make your home more special, even when it is a mess. It’s also a failsafe gift to buy for someone else because, let’s face it, everyone loves a beautiful smelling candle.’
True. Which is why ESH joined 11 other women at a two hour Bougies de Luxe workshop on an unseasonably hot Highlands day. The place is St Eloi Studio in Bowral, the home of Cassie’s friends and fellow makers Pete and Shelley Burrows of Pete’s Sheds. Pete often runs his furniture restoration and chalk painting classes from this charming French inspired studio, complete with rustic communal tables, large antique doors opening to a courtyard and candelabras overhead.
Cassie, who last year hand poured about 20,000 of her soy wax candles and also makes room sprays, diffusers, and bath oils, is open, friendly and informative. She is a workshop natural and gets the afternoon off with some background. An accountant by trade, Cassie has been making her luxury candles and bath oils for five years. Today she is ably aided by daughter Ava, 11, who one day plans to take over Mum’s business and send herself to Harvard Law School.
Bougies de Luxe translates literally from the French as ‘luxury candles’ and Cassie began experimenting after her firstborn came along.
‘I have always loved candles and the smell and atmosphere they bring to a home. But I didn’t want a candle that smells great in the shop and entices you to buy it, thanks to its cold throw, and then doesn’t smell like that when you get it home. People want a candle they know and love and trust, which is in essence why I first started making my own.
‘Before my son was born my favourite candles were by Jo Malone, which are beautiful but as a new parent, $95 a candle was prohibitive. So I signed up to do a candle making workshop and thought, how hard can it be?’
We are about to find out. Making a candle sounds pretty straightforward… surely it’s simply about putting fragrances in wax and letting it set. Yes? Err, no. Like any chemical equation, getting the formula right for any of Bougie de Luxe’s 45 varieties, which include Magnolia & Jasmine, Green Apple and her clients’ perennial favourite, French Pear. Donna Hay is a customer, and when she pictured Cassie’s Pomegranate Luxe on the cover of her bestselling magazine, Cassie sold 5000 of those candles online in one week. But success has been slow burning.
‘When I started off doing a candle workshop it all looked so easy, but when you get home you soon find out it is nothing but. I began doing all my trialling and testing on top of my stove at home and often it was like, sorry kids, dinner’s postponed while I try this new recipe out. It was a big mess.
‘For years I wrote everything down in a little exercise book, trialling temperatures and amounts of wax and fragrance. Candle making is an artform. You might walk away from this workshop and say, that is so easy, I’m going to be a great candle maker. Well I know from experience that when you get home, that’s when the problems can start.’
Cassie uses soy wax and today she has it already melted in a small crockpot with a spout for easy pouring. One by one we have a go stirring the wax, which needs to be at a perfect 96 degrees for pouring. Then we add the quantity of the pure fragrance oils we have agreed upon for our candles today: perennial favourite, pomegranate and French pear. Cassie sources her oils from an Australian company Eroma which provide natural fragrance with no additives. The products are vital.
‘Wax is a natural product and it’s very temperamental,’ says Cassie. ‘You might go and add five fragrances and they work out great, and then you go and add vanilla, which is not a candle’s best friend.
‘Fragrance loading, which is basically the amount of fragrance you add to your wax, is pivotal. You need to use the exact amount. If you use more than the wax can take it is a waste of money and will give the candle a sweaty looking top.’
Wicking up is another element of candle making that sounds straightforward but is not. Once poured into the vessel, the wick must be perfectly straight and firm or it will not set properly and will stop the candle burning evenly right to the end, as Cassie ensures her commercial varieties do.
The workshop includes a delicious afternoon tea spread and Cassie shares her insider knowledge as we wait for our candles to set to take home. Although she hand pours up to 200 candles a day to meet online and local demand, the ritual of lighting one of her candles never fails to please her.
‘The process of lighting a beautiful smelling candle at home is lovely. It is a way of unwinding, of spoiling yourself. It adds a bit of special to everyday life.’
If Cassie sounds like a true professional, she tells how she was given much needed help along the way by none other than Jo Malone, British doyen of luxury candles, who Cassie originally set out to emulate.
‘The day I started making candles I decided, to hell with it, you never know, so I emailed Jo Malone. Purely by chance I had picked the right day because she had just sold to Estee Lauder, and she emailed me back with lots of tips for my candle making. It took me another two years of research before I actually put a candle on my website to sell because, as she told me, you have to be very sure of what you are selling.’
Bougies de Luxe are available exclusively at The Orangery, Banyette Street, Bowral and Exeter General Store, Exeter or from bougiesdeluxe.com.au