Dec 13, 2013

    Fancy a $500 wick-and-wax?


    RECENTLY I went shopping for candles and ended up spending nearly US$900. I know what you're thinking: Outrageous, right? I thought the same thing.

    You might assume that I needed a truck to carry home my plunder. In fact, I bought eight.

    If you're not someone who spends a lot of time on sites like or, it may come as a shock to learn that a candle can cost US$75, or even more.

    Jo Malone, the British fragrance company, makes a four-wick version in a glass vessel that costs US$445 (S$556). For that price, shouldn't the container be gold?

    Every industry has its Lamborghini sports car, its Hermès bag. But what is surprising is how many options the luxury-candle shopper has to choose from: Agraria, Astier de Villatte, Fornasetti, Frederic Malle, Lafco, L'Objet, Rigaud, and on down through the alphabet to Votivo.

    Diptyque and Le Labo, two French brands whose standard candles fall in the range of US$60 to US$75, have a cult-like following among the entertainment and fashion crowds. Cire Trudon, another brand with French roots, promotes itself as "the oldest and most prestigious wax manufacturer in the world" and sells a US$125 (unscented) candle in the shape of a bust of Marie Antoinette.

    With Christmas and New Year's Day just days away, it is prime candle-buying and -lighting season. Certainly, giving someone an Astier de Villatte Commune de Paris candle would make a statement - as bold as if you held up a crisp US$100 bill and lit a match.

    As I learnt, luxury candles have been popular among a certain set for years. Jacqueline Kennedy illuminated the White House with Rigaud candles. When Tom Ford designed for Gucci, he placed the same Diptyque Figuier candle throughout the brand's stores, his offices and his home, so that the soothing scent of fig wood trailed him around the globe.

    But like so many high-end items, in the last few years candles like these have been adopted by an audience beyond the super-rich.

    Ms Alexandra Fiber, an actress and writer in New York, said that she had discovered them while reading lifestyle blogs like Garance Doré and The Selby.

    To her, the expense is relative. "In the scope of how much a candle should cost, it's ridiculous," she said. "But in the scope of something you can buy to make your studio apartment feel luxurious, it's not. The scent lingers in your home. It makes you feel a little fancier than your current surroundings might reflect."