October 12, 2016

If you’re a sucker for a succulent and can’t help but fill your home with deliciously scented candles, queue Earl of East London, your new favourite brand. Founders, Paul and Niko started out modestly in 2014 as a market stall at East London’s Netil Market, specialising in all manner of vintage curiosities. Since then, they’ve grown to become a permanent store, hosting makers’ events, workshops around London. Inspired by memory, scent and travel, we caught up with the pair to find out more.

UO: Can you tell us a little about your story so far? How did Earl of East London come to be?

We started Earl as a joint creative outlet in 2014, when we decided to join our local artisan market in Hackney as traders and offered a curated mixture of candles, cacti and curiosities. Over time we learnt what our audience really responded well to, which allowed us to optimise our offering. From then on, we attended a whole host of maker/designer and start-up workshops and classes, including perfume courses, which we loved. We explored candle-making techniques and began testing fragrance and essentials oils, with the end result of launching our own branded home fragrance line. The market stall became a regular fixture in our lives and after a year we opened a shop in a shipping container in Netil and our own branded goods fast developed into a line available both there and with a selection of amazing stockists from around the world.

UO: Does your work have a direct affect on the atmosphere and aesthetic of your own home?

For sure. We bought our first home together this year and it’s been great being able to put our own mark on the place. We take inspiration from travelling and whenever we travel, we try to experience the place like locals. We skip the big, world-known sights and go to sleepy neighbourhood and local markets, exploring the city like we live there. Therefore, the items that we bring back as souvenirs, are one of a kind finds, or things we have been given by friends we have made along the way. We like to discover the authentic smells, flavours and colours of the places we visit so our home is pretty much a reflection of who we are and of the places we love. Our home is a mix of all the influences that we experienced along the way; there is a definite laid back LA vibe because over the years that has become ‘our place’.

UO: Since launching the brand in 2014, how have you seen yourselves develop and where do you want to go next?

When we started with Earl of East, we had a feel-good attitude in mind that we always wanted to experience with everything we did. And that emotion we wanted to share with others, we wanted Earl to be accessible and inclusive but a brand that would hopefully stand the test of time. When brainstorming, speaking to friends and customers we always ended up talking about four main elements to our business: create, curate, collaborate and community. We always ensure that everything we do fits with one, if not all of these brand pillars.

Our goal is to manifest those pillars and communicate them much more clearly in everything we do. We love working with others and sharing knowledge and experience. Building a business isn’t a one way line of communication. We are learning every step of the way and it’s our community, be that Netil or the people who follow our brand on social, who help to guide our next steps. We want to build out our home fragrance line beyond candles and establish Earl of East as a known and accessible lifestyle brand.

UO: Your brand encourages a sense of community through workshops and makers events; how have you seen your customers respond to getting stuck in?

These days, with a lot of us working in offices, behind laptops and on screens, people really do enjoy taking time off their devices and submerging themselves into new experiences. Those moments allow our customers to really let go of things, reflect and get stuck into whatever is on the table in front of them. Of course phones are back out to document the process, but the collaborative experience is something people really seek out and enjoy. For us this began as a hobby and we feel there is a real movement back towards enriching your personal time with a skill or craft.

UO: How would you describe the typical Earl of East London customer?

What most of our customers have in common is the fact that they are curious souls, who seek out new products and brands. They don’t look out for what is considered luxurious in a traditional way; they look out for things and experiences that they will enjoy free from social expectations and perceptions. It’s basically guys and girls that don’t follow trends, but help set them.

UO: What do you like most about being based in East London’s Netil Market?

The one thing that makes Netil Market the perfect home for us is the community that’s based there. In a way they are our colleagues, we learn from each other, take inspiration from each other and drive each other mad.

UO: Who or what inspires your work?

Our main source of inspiration is travelling. Exploring new cities, cultures and cuisines is the most enriching experience. In addition to that we take inspiration from our everyday life, from our daily encounters, from customers, colleagues, friends and family.

UO: What initially attracted you to making candles over any other homeware product?

It was the natural progression of Earl of East London and allowed us to explore our passion for fragrances further. However, we won’t stop here … more products are coming.

UO: Your current scents include ‘Wildflower’ and ‘Smoke and Musk’; where does the inspiration come from for new scents?

As a brand, we’re inspired by travel and memory and each of our scents references a different time or place that we’ve experienced. Inspiration for a new scent can come from a memory that gets triggered by a specific situation in our everyday life, a dish in a restaurant or a trip to a new, exciting destination. We’re currently thinking about Portugal, Vietnam and Japan.

UO: If you could describe the Earl of East London in three words, they would be…

Create. Curate. Collaborate….(can we have four?!) as Community should be in there.

UO: You often work with other artisans; what is the main quality that you look for in a collaborator?

The one thing we look for is a mutual understanding and respect of each other’s ethos and mission. It’s the foundation of a good collaboration.

Shop: Earl of East London