Thank you for the interview candles and space, a scented space is a very important part of life. Can you tell us of your backgrounds and little about yourselves?
Sure. Steve and I are quite similar in some ways and very different in others. My background is a bit unusual, being the product of American and South African parents, and growing up in France and Italy.
Steve grew up in the little island of Guernsey and moved around the UK, before moving to New York City the same month as I, in 2011.
We’re both similar in being lifelong learners, tinkerers, and enjoy getting really nerdy with both our right and left brains—and taking time to think about the bigger picture.
How did both of you meet and how did you come to the idea of the brand.
We met through our old job at Google back in the day. Coincidentally, we moved to NYC the same week (Steve from London, I from Paris). We ended up becoming roommates and great friends. We realized we shared an obsession with scented candles, and we started going deep into a pyscho-analysis of ourselves on that topic, and from there have been on an ongoing quest to learn about perfumery, the chemistry of wax, sustainability (and trying to define that word). Somewhere along the way, we started a candle company!
What effect do you believe scent has on mood and do you see candles fitting in today's modern life?
Smelling a scent that you like puts you in a good mood. But what one likes is subjective, and linked to personal experience. Candles are having a bit of renaissance right now, in my opinion as part of an overall search to bring back some tangible “things” that represent a liberation from the digital or technology realm. If you’re trying to deal with an iPhone addiction, a candle is as far away from that as it gets.
The brand is very modern with a clean design, what are the inspiration for the branding and for the scents themselves?
We found that a lot of candle brands selling great perfumes looked really outdated, baroque, and over the top, and often with a pretentious, manufactured “French” heritage. Having grown up in France, I find the practice quite tacky and insincere. In contrast to that, we wanted our candles, to be simple, to fit in anywhere, and to let the quality of the fragrances shine through.
We don’t need to print on the candle that it’s a “bougie parfumée” because that just means “scented candle” in French.
You create all the scents and products yourselves, was there any formal training?
That is not actually accurate. We produce the candles in our workshop in Sunset Park, but the scents were developed with Christophe Laudamiel, a perfumer based in New York and Berlin. Steve and I have taken introductory courses in perfumery, and have been fortunate to have some valuable mentorship from Ray Matts—but we’re nowhere near the level of expertise that someone like Christophe has. The good thing is that we are able to talk semi-intelligently about what we’re creating, and I think this makes it more enjoyable for Christophe. But the reason that our scents are great is because there is the wonderful talent of Christophe is behind them.
What is your creative process like when designing a candle?
When we develop a scent, we have a specific idea in mind, always linked to an image in the natural world. We map it out and try our best to bring it to life through words, imagery, potential key fragrance notes. We typically come up with a few ideas, and chat about them with Christophe and see what excites him the most, or if it stimulates him to have a related idea that would still fit with us. Once we find something that has Christophe excited, we then go full steam ahead—and Christophe starts putting together tests in mini-candles. We go back and forth about 50 times (!) and eventually we get it exactly the way we want it! It takes us close to a year typically from start to finish. The key for us is to make sure Christophe thinks it’s an interesting project. We respect his artistry, and try to balance between giving enough constraints to give direction, and not too many so that he feels he has creative freedom to create something expressive, original, and unique.
So what type of products do you offer in your candle range?
We make one size of candle in 8 scents. Beyond that we offer a candle subscription, which is becoming really popular, whereby you get recurring candle shipments curated for the season, along with artist matchboxes, little surprises, and subscriber-only limited edition scents.
How did the subscription candle program come about?
We timidly put it up on our website when we started, thinking “is anyone going to want this?”. It turns out quite a lot of people are into it. It gets more and more personal as people stay on the subscription longer and longer. We know them by name, I’ve met many of them in person or spoken with them on the phone, and I’d like to think that they feel taken care of (at least on the candle front). In a way, we’re trying to be bring a very old-world experience of a local store… partly through the Internet. But it’s not with algorithms, it’s simple old-fashioned human service.
What was it like finding a location to set up shop to begin creating the brand?
Confusing. Also we didn’t know anything about anything, so we just had to figure things out on the fly.
What is the New York candle market like?
I’m not really sure how to answer this. There are a lot people interested in buying candles, and a lot of people selling them, so there is a lot happening. I don’t have too much time to think about it, to be honest.
Could you see yourselves doing anything other than candle making in your lives?
Unlikely, at this point! We’re pretty deep in it. If this fails, I’ll probably start a website doing interviews of people in the fragrance world. Just kidding! More seriously, I really don’t know. We’ve signed up for this for the long-term, and the slow approach we’ve taken reflects that—I’d like to still be working on Keap candles 20 years from now.
Where and how may we find your products?
You can find our products at KeapBK.com - we offer a trial program called Scent-to-Home if you’re not quite ready to commit to buying a scent before smelling it. We also have our candles at a handful of independent design stores scattered across a few cities in the U.S., and select places like the Brooklyn Museum’s shop.
Lastly do you have any advice or thoughts that you would like to share?
Life is not all about making money. It’s OK to do something because you’re passionate about it. People in this country are starting to realize once again that an all-about-money mindset is detrimental to personal well-being as well our environment and communities. The thing that makes most optimistic is the profound awakening I see in our customers; there is a palpable sense that people are becoming more aware their ability and responsibility to make a difference.