Inside the chic pink studio of home fragrance company George & Edi

When creativity runs in the family, starting up an artisanal home fragrance business with your sister is a no-brainer.

Rose and Sarah Agnew are sisters who have been running their artisanal home fragrance business George & Edi together for 10 years from their studio in Wanaka. And, much like their signature scent, it’s a partnership that’s nuanced, balanced and comes alive when put into action.

Their vision to create timeless and quality perfumed goods that bring a “little bit of luxury” to the home began with perfumed soy candles and has expanded to include reed diffusers, room sprays, soap, cream perfume and body lotion.

When did you start George & Edi, and why?

We started George & Edi back in 2011 – crazy that we are now in our 10th year. We had both been living overseas for many years and knew that if we wanted to move back to New Zealand, we would need to create our own jobs and start a business.

Where did the name George & Edi come from?

The long version: Rose had been running a small fashion label, which she had named to honour the creative side of our mum’s family – Edi Garrett. Sarah had been looking at starting a side hustle in interior furnishings and using the label name Georgie Logan (from Dad’s family). So, when we did a project together we decided to join the names and call it George & Edi. The short version: It’s our parents’ names.

What are your individual roles within the business?

As a small team, we have very clear roles and both wear a number of ‘hats’. Sarah is our CEO, CFO, COO and ‘master maker of all things fragrant’ and Rose is our marketing and creative director and also manages client and customer relationships, our website and social media. The one crossover is that we are both creative directors for the brand.

What sets your candles and fragrance apart?

We are artisanal, small-batch producers. We honour the age-old craft of candle making and conscious manufacturing, which reduces waste and ensures all of our products are fresh and of the highest quality.

What wax do you use?

Our candles are made from natural soy wax. We test all our fragrance oils in this wax to establish the highest fragrance load (percentage) we can use in manufacturing our candles. Fragrance loading to this highest percentage, ensures our candles have the best quality fragrance throw (release of scent when solid or while burning) possible. Soy wax will only hold between seven to 12 percent of fragrance oil before the burn can be compromised, with oil leaching from the wax and creating a smoky burn. We also ensure the correct wick size is used for each fragrance and candle glass size, to give each candle the best possible burn time.

Tell us about the designs for your products.

When we first started in 2011, we hand-wrapped our candles in vintage book pages, so our branding was originally very black and white. We stumbled across some old Reader’s Digest gardening books, which had a few vintage drawings of flowers and plants, and after a month or so of wrapping with these pages, our wholesale customers started requesting ‘more floral pages, please’. We weren’t able to source more of these gardening books, so it became clear we needed to create our own floral designs to package our candles with. We now work with artists to bring our design ideas to life.

How do you create your fragrances?

In the early years, Sarah created most of our fragrances, but we now work with a fragrance house so we can create larger volumes and maintain consistency. With our newer fragrances, we worked with a parfumier to create these for us. The sampling, tweaking phase through to the final production of the fragrance, can take anywhere from six to 12 months.

How does a candle fragrance differ from a soap or diffuser fragrance?

Our soap and perfume fragrances must be skin safe, so this can require a special batch being produced for these products. With a candle, you get to experience both the cold and hot throw, but with reed diffusers, room sprays and soaps, you only experience the cold fragrance throw. Therefore, with some fragrances, we adjust the base notes to counter this and ensure the fragrance is balanced in all products.

What’s your favourite product?

Sarah: That’s like asking a parent to pick their favourite child. The product I use the most is our Fig Hand Cream (there is always a tube on my desk and in my bag). If I have to pick one fragrance, it’s probably Havana, as I love a slightly darker, moody fragrance but Liquorice is a close second and Bogart is really good too.

Rose: The product I use the most is our Liquorice Hand Cream – I adore this fragrance and the new matching soap. I am also a little bit obsessed with our fragrance No. 14 (we created this to celebrate our eighth anniversary and the 14th fragrance in the range). Every night I walk into my bedroom, smell this fragrance and smile.

Candle care tips:

How long should a candle last for? The candle itself has ma long shelf life, but we encourage you to use them within 12 months of purchase to ensure you are enjoying them at their best. Over time the wax will ‘bloom’, can discolour and the fragrance can deteriorate.

How important is correct candle care? How you care for your candle will determine the life/burn time of the candle. The first burn is very important, and if you don’t set this up right the first time, you can lose hours of burn time, as the candle won’t burn to the edge of the glass. What could occur is ‘tunnelling’, which is the most common problem people have with soy candles.

What’s the best way to care for your candle? With a new candle, do not light it (for the first time) until you have a minimum of 3-4 hours to be able to leave it to do its thing. Do not extinguish the flame until the wax melt pool (it will only be a few millimetres deep) has reached the edge of the glass. Once it has reached the edge of the glass, it is safe to extinguish. The size of the candle and the temperature of the room will determine how long this process takes. Completing this ‘first burn’ correctly, will ensure your candle always burns to the edge of the glass.

Words by: Bea Taylor. Photography by: Marina Matthews.

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