In the courtyard: Aesop opens first Beijing store in a siheyuan, but it’s a pop-up

Between 1 May and 10 June, Australian luxury skincare brand Aesop unveiled its first store in Beijing at the WF House 19 Siheyuan. As the first “Aesop Sanctuary” in China, the pop-up shop occupies the restored princely home of Qing Dynasty princes Pulun and Pudong, cousins of the last Qing Emperor.

The siheyuan, also called courtyard house, is a type of traditional Chinese residence where single-storey houses are built around a central courtyard. Larger siheyuan compounds can have 2-3 layers of courtyards. House 19, part of Hong Kong Land’s WF Central shopping mall, was rebuilt to the spec of brothers Pulun and Pudong’s courtyard house, which is a 2-layer siheyuan, fit for a “gūsa-i beise” (固山贝子, gushan beizi), or ‘Prince of the Fourth Rank’.

On the lifestyle app, Xiaohongshu (RED), the topic “Aesop Beijing WF House 19 store” (#Aesop伊索北京王府中环19号府店) gained 129,400 views. Netizens are impressed with how Aesop keeps its site-specific decoration and consistency of the impressive localisation. The new pop-up was compared to Aesop shops in Guangzhou and Kyoto, where the Australian brand makes use of traditional oriental architecture.

From the courtyard itself to the houses on each side of the quadrangle, Aesop uses the home as its key concept to deck out the sanctuary. The brand’s oriental fragrance also fits right into the traditional timber furnishing in the courtyard.

Founded in 1987 and acquired by L’Oréal almost exactly a year ago, Aesop currently operates 9 stores in China, excluding the Beijing pop-up. The latest Dongshankou, Guangzhou shop opened in March, making it the fourth new store opened since December last year. The location is also furnished in traditional Chinese, or Lingnan architecture-inspired style. This is comparable to how New Chinese Style fragrance brands such as To Summer and Documents use offline spaces, both of whom have received investment from L’Oréal. It shows Aesop’s finesse in adopting “guochao 3.0”. With the new trial of a Beijing location, L’Oréal is betting big on Aesop’s expansion in China.


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