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Why I’ve reached max wax: From high-end creations weighing 10kg to Gwyneth’s unusually scented offering, we spend almost £2 billion a year on designer candles. But they get right on Anna Pursglove’s wick

A press release has just landed on my desk announcing that a leading fashion house is about to – strap in, everyone! – release a scented candle.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything more about this momentous event because of a strict press embargo. 

Yes, I also thought news blackouts were for court cases and political speeches, but it turns out they’re applicable to small- to mid-sized homewares.

Just because I’m not taking candles seriously enough, though, doesn’t mean the rest of the nation isn’t. 

According to a report published last summer by Ideal Home, Brits are spending £1.9 billion a year on candles.

Hot wicks: The luxury candle market is still burning brightly. Pictured above is a candle by UK fashion designer Paul Smith Hot wicks: The luxury candle market is still burning brightly. Pictured above is a candle by UK fashion designer Paul Smith

Hot wicks: The luxury candle market is still burning brightly. Pictured above is a candle by UK fashion designer Paul Smith 

Yes, billion. According to the number crunchers, this equates to nearly £50 each on candles.

I did try to work out whether this was per head of population or if the experts had factored in some sort of wax-informed age of consent. But I gave up.

What’s likely, though, is this number will go up. Figures from data analyst Kantar showed that in the year to March 2022, we spent £418 million on scented candles. 

At John Lewis sales have risen by five per cent each year since 2020, when they leapt by 12 per cent.

Now, clearly, not everyone is hitting their scented candle spend. I’d be surprised, for example, if my 78-year-old father had heard of Jo Malone London or Yankee, and I’d wager that my 17-year-old son hasn’t either. 

By extrapolation, then, it’s a population of diehard candle fans propping up this habit (and spending a fortune in the process). I suspect them to be largely female and over 30. And my question to them is: why?

Yes, I appreciate that many of these candles are gifts but that’s no excuse. Nothing says ‘I couldn’t be arsed’ more than a candle. 

It’s the middle-class equivalent of the amusing slogan mug – and at least those have a purpose.

According to a report published last summer by Ideal Home, Brits are spending £1.9 billion a year on candles According to a report published last summer by Ideal Home, Brits are spending £1.9 billion a year on candles

According to a report published last summer by Ideal Home, Brits are spending £1.9 billion a year on candles

By rights, scented candles should have gone the way of potpourri by now. You recall – the stuff that was supposed to be dried flowers. 

It was the height of hostess chic until we woke up one day and realised it was just pricey pine cones that smelt of Harpic.

Scented candles, however, have some staying power. The trend, I mean – the candles themselves never last the course: 60-80 hours of burn time, my foot.

Sometime during hour three, the wick disappears into a hole that looks like it’s had fag ash flicked into it while the glass casing takes on the smoke-damaged hue of drug paraphernalia. 

Even when the candle was alight, it wasn’t delivering. Mimosa flowers, you say? Yes – if mimosa flowers smell mostly of burning.

It’s almost as if the candle makers know their offerings don’t smell anything like their advertised ingredients. 

Take Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous £60 creation boasting geranium, bergamot, cedar and damask rose. Name? This Smells Like My Vagina. Really, Gwyneth? I reckon it probably just smells of burning.

And, please, don’t say I should be getting more from my candle by trimming the wick – with my specially purchased wick-trimmer. 

The price of designer candles has soared. Dior¿s 1.5kg Oud Supreme giant candle, for example, will set you back £1,000, while Soho Home has a 10kg beast for £900 The price of designer candles has soared. Dior¿s 1.5kg Oud Supreme giant candle, for example, will set you back £1,000, while Soho Home has a 10kg beast for £900

The price of designer candles has soared. Dior’s 1.5kg Oud Supreme giant candle, for example, will set you back £1,000, while Soho Home has a 10kg beast for £900

Nor that I should be lighting the thing for a short period before commencing full usage to prevent ‘wick tunnelling’. 

If you have leisure for wick tunnelling, you need to look at your life choices.

Some of you will have heard that scented candles are bad for you and, so far, the jury is out. 

One respiratory toxicology expert told Good Housekeeping ‘the amount of soot, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter produced are well below the threshold of concern’. 

The magazine did go on, however, to suggest ‘investing in an air purifier’ if you intend to burn candles.

Or ditch the candles, maybe?

Then there’s the fire-risk angst. What if you forget to blow it out? (Actually, you shouldn’t be blowing as that ups your risk of particulate inhalation. You apparently need a ‘snuffer’ – more kit – so, yes, more money.)

Candles should have gone the way of potpourri 

A YOU colleague tells me, meanwhile, that she was once at a party at Jade Jagger’s place when a PR with very long hair got too near the mood candles and went up in flames. 

A drink had to be thrown over her head. ‘It was very Ab Fab,’ says my source.

Even if you don’t think candles are a risk to your health, then what about your bank balance? 

Gwyneth’s candle was a steal compared to the designer offerings that are now such a thing Harper’s Bazaar calls them ‘status-symbol candles’. 

Dior’s 1.5kg Oud Supreme giant candle, for example, will set you back £1,000, while Soho Home has a 10kg beast for £900.

Which brings me back to that press release. It’s still three days until I can tell you about this exciting new entry into the ‘status-symbol candle’ world except that it won’t give you much change from £300. A fiver, to be precise. 

I wonder what would happen if I broke the embargo. Some sort of Game of Thrones-esque wax-based punishment? 

Would I end up in court? If so I’d like to think the dock would be sympathetically lit by a solitary designer candle and that the judge’s opening remark would be: ‘Can anyone smell burning?’

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