Qompendium is an evolving and ever-changing platform for philosophy, art, culture and science, represented by a series of print publications: magazines, books and monographs. Furthermore, it is enriched by a gallery concept, a work shop and a fast-moving online portal.
Opened this past summer, Épatant is a purveyor of all things that unite in the strife against mediocrity. Tucked away in a nondescript corner in Melbourne’s Collingwood, it appeals to discerning men of all ages: ordinary men, mad men and eccentrics alike from teens to octogenarians. Age here is inconsequential for as Francis Bacon once said: “Age appears to be best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.” Described once as a high meets low mix between Muji and Hermès, you’ll find a nice line-up of heirloom objects such as ECM albums featuring Keith Jarret or Anouar Brahem; criterion collection sets by Terrence Malick, Ingmar Bergman, Louis Malle and Luis Buñuel; Fox umbrellas in black maple, oak and hickory; C.K. Tools trimming scissors; Acme shepherd mouth whistles; and premium undergarments from Schiesser and Sunspel.
All that is showcased narrates the art of living and encourages putting to use the best stuff everyday no matter if it’s the most useless thing or bare necessity, it is chosen because it is original, has inherent beauty and soul and delights with every use. Situated in an old wire works factory built in the late 1960s, it is fitted with original steel trusses and concrete floors and counters supported by large cardboard rolls much like the stacks of recycled New York Times newspapers used as display stands for Aesop’s Grand Central Station kiosk. The warehouse space is also shared with Mina-no-ie café launched by Cibi, making it the ultimate hangout hub shared all under one roof.
Read on below for our interview with Épatant owners, Lachlan Smeeton and Dennis Paphitis of Aesop.
3 Peel Street
Qompendium: Who is the Épatant man, or does this go beyond the brackets of definition?
Lachlan: He’s something of an abstract notion, though if you happen across him in the flesh you’ll find he’s between 24 and 56, well travelled and a thoughtful sort who, like all of us, is prone to the odd moment of unabashed optimism. Beyond this he’s a champion of good conversation and doesn’t mind indulging in a glass or two of interesting red if it’s on hand.
Most men want the shopping process to be sweet and simple especially when it comes to skincare. Now that you’ve dipped your foot in menswear, do you feel this is true?
In our experience there are two distinct camps; those that are looking for the online ideal to be mirror in the physical store (i.e. an expedient, efficient Amazon-like transaction without any bells or whistles) and then those who seek the polar opposite of this and want to be engaged on all levels, preferably in an unexpected way.
Many sites are cropping up that offer all forms of grooming advice for the modern day gent, do you think there is a positive shift in male-oriented consumerism?
Consumerism is rarely positive unless it's carried out in a considered and sustainable way though, regardless, the web has liberated many men to more accurately research a given product’s features and merits.
Speaking of gentlemen, is the spirit of elegance or taste something acquired?
If by acquired you’re referring to purchased, then no. Otherwise anything can be learned with enough time if the heart and mind are in the right place and the appropriate mentors selected.
What if we look at it from the stance of attire – do you think clothes are just another form of beauty pageantry until they actually come into contact with the personality of the wearer?
Clothes are only ever made interesting through the wearer's own interpretation of how to make a garment work.
No taste or bad taste? Also is there such a thing as ‘faux pas’ in fashion?
Both, in equal measures. And yes to the second.
Diana Vreeland once said “fashion must be the most intoxicating release from the banality of the world” – your thoughts?
With the greatest of respect to Mme. Vreeland, Épatant is less about fashion and more a way of considering quality.
A heavy emphasis is placed on the power of image with fashion, with your very inconspicuous approach to advertising for Aesop, are you shooting for the same with Épatant?
We place a very high premium on discretion when it comes to communication, both from a branding perspective and personally; we don’t see this changing any time in the near future.
What destination shops top your list during travels?
In Milan, 10 Corso Como; in Paris, Merci; in London, both Milroy’s of Soho and Labour and Wait; in Tokyo, Isetan Mens Store; and in Munich, Manufactum.
The holiday season is right around the corner, what makes the Épatant guide?
It’s been quite the year at Chez Épatant and as a result we’re returning to the stapes of the season; good single malt whisky and well made underwear. Beyond this we’ll have a good few weeks off in January and so will be looking to take a little time to explore the wines coming out from Sicily, taking a short jaunt up to Sydney to take in the Francis Bacon exhibition and will be spending as much time as humanly possible beside our favourite beach.
Aesop was established in Melbourne in 1987 with a quest to create a range of superlative products for the skin, hair and body. They are committed to using both plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients of the highest quality and proven efficacy – particularly those with the greatest anti-oxidant properties. Aesop values all human endeavours undertaken with intellectual rigour, vision, and a nod to the whimsical.
3 Peel Street