Are you nostalgic for any smells from the office? If the orders from Eau d’Office are any sign, these are the most longed-for odors from a work-life varied by the Covid-19 pandemic. When creative directors Katie Facada and Thibault Gerard opened orders for their series of “office”-scented candles, “warm 96-page deck left on the printer” and “afternoon rush at the coffee bar” were the initial scents to finish.
The smells they’ve produced include “breakfast leftovers in edit suite 01”, a “bold bouquet of bacon, egg, and cheese after a 20-hour edit”, “room 12F.1 after a six-hour workshop”, and “hardworking blend of antiperspirant and musky colognes, in the conference room at RGA”.The duo hails from New York and works for design firm RGA. Their search to recreate the scents of office life started as a farewell gift to two senior colleagues. “It was so messy,” says Facada. “We boiled down the wax and threw in as many noxious scents as possible – booze, coffee beans, potato chips from the vending machine, shreds of paper to represent all the ideas they killed – then we Uber-rushed the candles to their homes.”
But the goodbye gift soon took on a life of its own. First, they determined to create candles for all 650 of their company’s workers and incorporated the help of professional candlemakers Candle Studio to evade future messes. Then Gerard says they were overwhelmed with “demands from former employees and other agency partners, clients, vendors” so “we decided to open it up to the public”.
“We’re not selling them,” says Gerard, “just giving them out to mark the one year of us all working remotely.”The candles are being shipped only to United States residents, and currently, Gerard says they do not have real aims of providing on the project once stocks run out. But they’ve had so many suggestions for new office scents that “we may be tempted to create a couple more in in the upcoming weeks”.Facada has been astounded by the prevalence of the project, which has emphasized everywhere from interior design blogs to Fast Company: “Our objective was to make them as RGA-specific as possible. Creatively, we always feel the more specific you can get the better. So the fact that people who don’t even have an ‘edit suite 1’ or a ‘room 12F.1’ are into this is really surprising.”
But she understands the candles do indicate something worldly: “A moment or a human interaction that there is no substitute for. The afternoon coffee rush was a chance to catch up with co-workers in line; the happy hours were a way to unwind together after a long week. Even a long and grueling live edit session is something we miss because that creative process isn’t the same as Zoom and email. If anything, the ‘momentary escape’ you’d get in lighting one of these candles will take you back to a moment and the people you spent it with, rather than just a place.”
Aiming for authenticity was a hurdle. Gerard says working with Candle Studio was a highlight, but “as scented candle makers, they naturally want to make things smell good”. At first they “had some concerns with what we were trying to achieve … For us, it was less about creating ‘perfume perfect scents and more about combining some of the scents to conjure a specific memory.”
The results don’t always smell great, but then “colognes and perfumes … slowly mixing in a small space over a long period” isn’t meant to “be a pleasant smell to most … Our goal with lighting those was to remind us of the office life we never thought we would miss.Facada says some of the distinct ideas they’ve got, from “fresh Lysol from a bathroom closed for cleaning” to “someone microwaved fish in the kitchen” are even and ostentatiously anti-perfume.“We want everyone to laugh at this,” Gerard says. “But it’s also a way to honor the time we shared… Being physically together in some form is something we look forward to.”