Glassware label Maison Balzac has launched its latest collection, Les Fruits de Mer, inspired by the European summer you haven’t been able to experience over the last two years. A culmination of the childhood memories of founder, Elise Pioch, and a longing to escape to the Mediterranean, the latest release from the brand is steeped in summertime motifs and pastel colouring.
For Pioch, everything the brand produces is intended to become a treasured heirloom, and Les Fruits de Mer is no different for Maison Balzac. With the idea of longevity in mind, she says the brand ethos is rooted in transeasonal appeal.
“What is most fascinating for me is everything we create doesn't have a seasonality – it doesn't have to expire in three months, it can be for the next 30 years,” explains Pioch. “You can have a candle holder on your desk or a carafe and that sits well with me to have associated my love for design, but also my personal quest for longevity.”
Maison Balzac is a brand steeped in Pioch’s heritage and background, the latest collection taking inspiration from her childhood spent in the South of France along the Mediterranean.
“Balzac is actually the name of my mother and my grandparents and all my ancestors on my mother's side, so I wanted to recreate their world because both always had so much fun with their homes," says Pioch of the collection. "I felt like we've been deprived from catching a plane and going to Europe for so long that I wanted to bring [Europe] to wherever we are.”
Here, we speak with Pioch about the journey that lead her to create Maison Balzac, the musings behind Les Fruits de Mer and how she is continuing to reinvent her craft.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you ended up starting Maison Balzac?
I studied fashion and textile management in Paris and straight out of school, I was lucky enough to be employed at Hermès at the head office in Paris. I was looking after all the PR for the womenswear collection designed by Margiela – I had almost four years of working with Martin and when he left Hermès in 2004, I left too. I was 28 and I really wanted to improve my English because in France we don't really study English. I took a return ticket to Australia to immerse myself in an English-speaking country for three months. Long story short, I never use my ticket back.
Then, just like that, I was 36 and I thought I had already spent 10 years in fashion and it’s time to have a bit of a reset and a refresh and for some reason, although my passion will always be fashion, I was really exhausted by the pace of it and the fact that we had to have a full collection and when I left we were even talking about collections in between collections and it would have become eight drops a year eight travels a year. I was really against a lot of these things.
I believe in saving the planet and so my heart wasn't connecting anymore with the industry and how it was working. However, my love for colour, texture, interior design was there and it took me a while to decide on what would make me happy for the next 20 years and I just felt like I wanted to tell by very personal story of my happy childhood, my taste in colour and perfume. I wanted to express my story through fine perfume, and that's how I started the five candles of Maison Balzac. Very quickly, it [Maison Balzac] evolved into trying to introduce these objects that surrounded my childhood and make them happen in modern times. It started with glassware, and then incense and cashmere throws, and now we've got marvellous room sprays, all of these things.
How did you land on the theme for Les Fruits de Mer? Was it influenced by pandemic-induced longing for travel?
The first reason, again, is a very personal because I was born in a small town in the south of France by the Mediterranean. Pretty much every day after school, we would go to the beach and have picnics or barbecues with my parents and two brothers and so I've got that deep love and appreciation for the Mediterranean. Being so close to Spain as well, we would spend a weekend a month on the Costa Brava in the holiday village of Salvador Dali.
I really wanted to bring that memory back to the surface and have a collection really telling everything about what makes them so attractive. It's the coral colours, the scallop-edged little shell you find on the beach, the warmth of the sun, the small waves – not the big one from Sydney! I just had to tap into my childhood, my memory and who I am and where I come from.
With the whole campaign, styled by Joseph Gardner, he felt the same and said ‘I'm sorry Elise, but we're not going to go into studio to shoot, I'm so looking forward to being by the ocean,’ so it was shot in Clovelly at six in the morning. He just wanted to dream, to see the sky and the clouds. We reproduced that little piece of Mediterranean on the beaches of Sydney to dream that it was happening and we could do that again. Every object fits into that dream to travel, geographically to the Med, but also travel in time for me to my childhood spent on the Med.
How does your creative process work and how are you continuing to reinvent in what you craft a new collection for Maison Balzac?
I've got an internal vision of what I do and I don't know how it comes across from an outside perspective. All I can say is I'm extremely prolific with ideas and dreams and positivity. That's just who I am, I love telling stories, and in between all my fashion work, I actually wrote children books. What's funny is that Balzac is the same name as a famous writer from the 19th century, Honoré de Balzac. It almost feels like it is my duty to continue that tradition of Balzac through writing but instead of presenting my work in the shape of books, it's in the shape of objects. Every object you hold in your hand is literally going to tell that you story that I had in my head for that season.
Based on that, then I asked my makers, “hey, can you make an octopus in glass?” and they’re like “sure!” By letting artisans cut my thoughts and translate them into their skill and art, it’s like reinvention because it's my ideas, but seen through the eyes of all these makers, their hands and what they can do. Together, we tell that story from very different angle and I think that's something we know how to do now after so many years of connecting with these beautiful young people.
Do you have any rules yourself when you're planning with put things in a room and cultivating a space?
More and more people have that feeling our home has become our nest, either because we've forced to be in it, or because we love being in it. Regardless of the reason, we are inside a lot.
Now, it's normal to probably split your budget between fashion and home a bit more equally now I would say. When it comes to my interiors, I've always loved creating homes that I like, and that only has one golden rule that it needs to feel right for me. Sometimes I can go to any little flea markets, garage sale, antique stores and pick something that is really out of pattern for me but I bring it home, put it on a little table, and it works because I like it. Someone else might walk in and be like “Oh, that's a really eclectic taste” but it is mine.
Don't let anyone tell you it doesn't work or it's not right. It is just it has to please you. Don't have a defined taste, it just needs to make you happy.
How do you find the balance between style and functionality? Do you find that having this balance can sometimes be a challenge to maintain?
Because I'm a mother I'm a full-time business owner, I'm busy. I don't have time for objects that are not practical in my life, so everything we do at Maison Balzac has to be either dishwasher safe or shock resistant. Our glasses are stackable, because it needs to go in a pantry. It can never be just pretty for us at Maison Balzac, it always comes from a practical angle and if one day I lose it and I present something to the team that is not practical, they would bring me back to reason.
From Les Fruits de Mer, what are your three favourite pieces?
The Coucou vase in Indigo, the Dune platter in black and white and the Dot Dot platter.
Les Fruits de Mer by Maison Balzac is now available to shop.