Craig Andrade brings joy to Paddington in time for Sydney’s reopening, with his artisanal fragrance store focussed on Australian-botanics.
October 15th, 2021
In the middle of Sydney’s lockdown Craig Andrade was installing the fitout for his new Paddington shop, The Raconteur, when a passerby momentarily stopped to watch. As she looked into the windows and asked about the installation, she was brought to tears. “She just burst into tears and said ‘we all need joy like this in our lives right now’,” Andrade tells me.
The interaction happened as Craig was stringing tumbleweeds on a long hessian rope to suspend from the ceiling, a design instigated by Victorian florist Katie Marx. “Every time I’ve worked with Katie over the years it just blows people away,” says Andrade, with their work having won them the people’s choice award at a trade show in Sydney, and the best stand award at a Melbourne trade show.
The result of the hanging tumbleweeds, foraged in Central Victoria, is spectacular; earthy twigs combined with native flora and eucalyptus float above head, cloud-like. Due to her inability to get to Sydney to assist on the installation, Marx collaborated with Paddington-based florist Bess Scott and spent about six hours on video call directing a ladder-bound Andrade.
“It’s a pretty amazing space as you walk in because nature is just dominating and overwhelming your senses,” says Andrade.
The Raconteur Paddington is the first physical amalgamation of Andrade’s artisanal luxury fragrance brand, which he began in 2017.
Andrade first met Marx when he approached her partner, furniture designer Greg Hatton, to landscape his house in St Kilda and design a collection of pieces for his holiday home on Scotland Island. Hatton and Marx, who own boutique Newstead wedding venue Butterland, have built a strong connection with Andrade in the years since.
“Because we’ve worked together for so long we know each other’s aesthetic which means it’s a lot easier knowing what we’re trying to achieve,” says Hatton.
A collection of Hatton’s angular brass-topped wooden stools act as plinths for Andrade’s hand-crafted scents and candles, and the countertop was a collaboration between Hatton and Andrade. “Craig sent me through four drawings that he’d sketched up,” says Hatton. Andrade and Hatton originally discussed using willow canes for the counter, but settled on Eucalyptus due to the store’s focus on Australian botanicals.
The space itself is designed around the five senses, each geared to appreciate natural Australian ingredients. “My perspective is that when you create a space that touches on all the layers of our sensory system, you get higher engagement – and it’s not all about a transaction,” says Andrade.
Scent takes precedence, with Andrade’s 15 different candle fragrances, natural roll-on oils and two Eau De Parfums. Western Australian brand of natural cruelty free skincare, Sodashi, covers touch, while a custom range of teas developed with a naturopath and herbalist, and native food from South Australian indigenous owned company Warndu engage taste. Andrade aims to teach candle making and perfumery – his lessons a representation of the sense of sound.
Finally, the design of the store covers the last sense, sight. “I wanted to shine a light on Australian iconic furniture designers to complement what we’re doing with nature,” says Andrade. Vintage chairs, sofas and sideboards by Featherston and Parker join a twisting vintage lamp by Arrow. Sculptural art by Tjanpi Desert Weavers, a group of First Nations women from Central Australia, brings colour and texture to the space.
The idea to open a physical store as lockdown restrictions in Sydney are looking to relax isn’t without merit. In the US, customer counts in stores are beginning to surge again for the first time since early 2019.
The Raconteur isn’t another rendition of the stores we’re used to, where products are lined up clinically on shelves. Instead, the experience is multi-sensory – and may be a prediction of how retail design will evolve to entice shoppers in our ever-altered world.
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