Rachel Vosper’s candle shop and atelier in Belgravia, London, is one of the most heavenly fragranced shops you will enter. Pots of delicately scented wax are melting, before being poured into glass jars to sit alongside leather-bound candles that line the shelves of antique display cases, all evoking a wonderful sensory experience. Rachel has carved out her dream career as a candle maker and we are delighted to share her story on The Shopkeepers.
When did you open your shop? Rachel Vosper Belgravia has been open now for 6 years.
What genre is it? A luxury candle shop specialising in hand-poured candles and signature home fragrances, designed and crafted in my Belgravia atelier in the heart of London.
Why did you want to open a shop? The inspiration to open my first stand-alone store derived from pure excitement to have a space to showcase my ideas and products that had accrued over 22 years in the candle making business – it was a natural step for me.
Who designed the shop? I designed the interiors myself – I wanted to create a space that is warm and inviting, so I curated the look of the shop with a mixture of artisan classics, contemporary pieces and antiques I have found along the way.
What are you known for? Making beautiful handcrafted candles, a bespoke fragrance and design service, and a truly unique refill service which allows clients to bring or send in any vessel to be refilled and enjoyed – from previously bought and burnt votives, to colourful glass vases, unused silverware or vintage chinaware.
Where are your products made and sourced? All the candles are hand made in the shop by myself and assisted by my team of candle chandlers. All my products and raw materials are sourced from the UK and Europe.
What makes your shop unique? I have an open atelier so customers can come in and see the candles being poured, so they get a sense of being part of the process.
Who are your customers? We make and sell candles for every one, from people who have discovered the atelier through word of mouth, or something they have read in the press, to private clients, including some of the world’s most exclusive and well known brands. No day or sale is ever the same!
Who or what inspires you? My clients! I have also been lucky enough to have some amazing mentors, including my former business partners Sophie and Anthony Kingsley, and my Walpole Brands of Tomorrow mentor Maurice Helfgott.
Before I was a shopkeeper, I was….Working in luxury travel PR, but I was always making candles! I would dash back to my workshop in Devon at weekends to pour candles so I could supply a large range of shops and boutiques in London and internationally.
The hardest lesson learned in starting a business? Losing my first investor within a year of opening my shop meant I quickly had to source investment – at the most critical time of any small business. An experience that in hindsight was valuable and has made me savvier!
What tasks do you like to delegate? Anything to do with technology, accounting or social media! My love and passion is in product development, and I love creating things, especially bespoke products for other people.
The best lesson you have learned opening a shop? It might sound a bit cliché but nobody cares more about your business than you do.
What would be your advice for anyone wanting to open a shop? You will be working evenings, weekends and holidays and sometimes it feels like you are eating, sleeping, breathing your business…but, in the end, it will all have been worth it!
Which famous person would you like to visit your shop? Ryan Gosling.
If you weren’t a shopkeeper you would be…I’d possibly be a lawyer or a journalist. To be honest, I cannot imagine enjoying anything more than making candles and formulating fragrances.
What is your perfect day off? My perfect day would be spent with Isabel, my three year old daughter. We like to visit one of the playgrounds in either Belgrave Square Gardens or Holland Park and feed the ducks in Kensington Gardens. During the summer months the V&A lido perfect to hang-out with little ones.
Can you share your five favorite shops? Donna Ida is a favorite of mine – she has become a good friend and designed our Vosperette uniforms for the shop. Harvey Nichols for just about everything – it is a one-stop destination for beauty and fashion and the Archer Street bar located on the 5th floor is great fun! Rose Uniacke, Rose has flawless taste and I want just about everything in her Pimlico Showroom. Pandora is tucked away behind Harrods, and is a fashion haven crammed with pre-loved designer wear. Bibi & Mac in Salcombe, Devon – my family are based in Devon and it’s the perfect boutique to visit for unique pieces and a catch-up with the wonderful owners, Jane and Nigel.
What is you favorite neighborhood coffee shop/restaurant? For cocktails you can’t beat The Blue Bar at The Berkley – the staff are wonderful and as well as serving killer cocktails, good things always happen when I am there. Or, during a busy day of production we often nip next door to the Wilton Arms for a toastie, or a post work Guinness at the Nags Head – the ‘no mobile phones’ policy is a great way to relax and unwind after a busy day. Salloos has the freshest and tastiest Pakistani food you will find in London, and their Pulao Jahengiri is a must. For the perfect hot chocolate I head to Rococo Chocolates on Motcomb Street.
I wish I could…guarantee good health.
On the Future of Retail
“Personalisation is already huge, but I see more and more emphasis on a truly bespoke service with the customer being involved in the creative process. More and more clients, and corporations, are asking me to create their own bespoke fragrances for them. Offering a retail space showcasing artisans at work is also hugely interesting for clients, and it allows them to fully understand and appreciate the intricacies of a craft.”
Words & Photographs Stephanie Bateman Sweet The Lifestyle Editor
69 Kinnerton Street, Belgravia, London, UK