Why perfumery brands are investing in candle refills

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When it comes to conjuring instant ambience, nothing beats a candle. Whether you prefer classic church pillars, modern coloured candlesticks or a mood-altering scented vessel, lighting a wick or two is the quickest way to alter the energy of your space.

However, the candle category is one marred by sustainability issues, from the use of non-renewable paraffin wax (which some major names still work with) to the fact many vessels are destined for the bin once you’ve burned the wick to the end.

Sustainable production is, of course, a tricky issue to dissect: it’s fraught with complications and contradictions, so we’re naturally wary of any brand that casually calls itself ‘sustainable’. But the emergence of refillable candles is an industry innovation with obvious appeal to anyone wanting to send less to landfill – which is surely all of us.

Now, several luxury home fragrance brands are investing in ways to encourage consumers to reuse and refill their candles, which not only makes for less waste but means the brands can justify crafting glass containers beautiful enough to be considered coffee-table trophy pieces.

Renowned nose Lyn Harris is one of the names leading the way: she has been offering an in-store refill service for her weighty glass Perfumer H candles since launching the brand in 2015. Each one of her unique, intriguing blends – scents include Ash, Salt and Myrrh – comes in a heavy, hand-blown glass vessel, engraved in gold and filled in-house at the brand’s London lab.

For Harris, the decision to pivot to refills was an easy one. “I didn’t want to create more waste, and wanted people to have a piece for life,” she says. While global brands are met with serious challenges when pivoting to a refill format – skincare in particular is loaded with hygiene and preservation issues – Harris has actually only seen one major stumbling block: keeping up with demand. “The amount of customers coming back to us for refills in 2015 was between zero and 10 per cent. By 2018, it was 25 per cent. Now, it’s over 65 per cent,” she says.

Carrière Frères, sister brand to Trudon, has this month launched low-waste refills made from 100 per cent organic European rapeseed wax and packaged in an innovative compostable box. The first collection to receive the low-waste treatment is the brand’s sublime collaboration with the Museum of Natural History, with more reportedly in the pipeline.

According to creative director Julien Provost, the biggest challenge was “to find a material that is from a 100 per cent sustainable source. It has to be plastic free (even recycled plastic) from either recyclable or compostable fibres, made in Europe and able to be run through our production processes”. Finding something that worked took the brand over two years, but they’re now confident they offer one of the most planet-friendly refill services in the market.

It goes without saying that no sustainability move ticks every box, but when it comes to reducing the marks we leave on the planet, every small gesture adds up. Here, see the refillable candles the Bazaar team will be investing in and enjoying over and over again.