(3 1/2 minute read)
Berlin-based business, Lit Lab is a different kind of candle company. Made from 100% soy wax, these bauhaus inspired beauties are totally sustainable. Geometric in shape, each candle is hand-made and entirely unique. You can pick up to three scents before the mixing process and voila! You have your very own custom made candle that you can refill and reuse again and again. Win-win, right?
On a bitterly cold Monday afternoon when we arrived at the Lit Lab shop to meet owner Mallory, the contrast between the snow-clad, cobbled streets of Heckmann-Höfe and the warm, inviting glow of the store is obvious. And I can’t wait to step inside.
True to its name Lit Lab is kind of like a real laboratory, with three separate areas where Mallory works her magic. On one side there’s an expansive wall of seemingly endless scents; Cinnamon Buns, Japanese Cherry Blossom, Citrus Basil and White Tea Ginger stand out to me. On the far wall, Mallory’s work surface is scattered with paint brushes and concrete moulds, while the opposite side of the shop is where you can choose your favourite bauhaus inspired, hand-made mould.
As Mallory shows us round the store, we learn a little more about the product and what makes these candles so special. “All of our candles are made from concrete, they’re all hand-made and painted and are 100% soy wax, so they are way more sustainable than your average paraffin wax candle that currently dominates the candle market. Once you choose your favourite scents, and you can pick up to three, you pick a container and then you get your candle.”
The fun doesn’t end there, however. Mal tells us about how, in a bid to be as sustainable as possible, each beautiful concrete container can be reused or refilled, whether you return to the lab to create a new scent or use the container to pot a cute, little succulent.
“Our goal is to create something that you can use over and over again, you buy a soy candle, which is a natural, better alternative to paraffin, but you don’t throw it, it’s a piece of art that you can keep forever.”
Mallory’s love and knowledge of candles and fragrance is clear, but I wanted to know the reason behind the passion, so I asked, “why candles?” and it turns out the smell of ginger and waffles serve as tentative inspiration for Lit Lab.
“Candles were the one product I would always buy, even as a poor student, I just love the ambience and the sense of relaxation they bring. It’s just the ultimate luxury.”
And we couldn’t agree more, by the way. However, it’s not just the sense of luxury they bring that Mallory loves, it’s more intrinsic than that. “Your sense of smell is the strongest of your five and is linked to the part in the brain that deals with memory and emotion, which is why certain smells can remind you of childhood, an ex or a certain place. For me, the smell of ginger and waffles remind me of home in Ohio, and when you’re travelling a lot these familiar scents conjure up a visceral feeling and can immediately take you back.”
”I wanted to create a product that helps people stimulate their sense of smell and be reminded of a special moment in time. We’re all about commemorating and listening to that moment through a product.”
When you see Mallory painting, creating moulds, or simply talking about candles, it’s tough to imagine a time when she wasn’t in the candle biz, however like many young foreign professionals who make Berlin their home, Mallory previously worked in tech. “My background is in marketing and technology, but it wasn’t for me. I knew I wanted to do something where I could be creative and make something with my hands, because once you have a finished project, it’s very rewarding to see it and to see how other people react to it. I thought LitLab would be a really cool idea, since your sense of smell isn’t stimulated that often and there isn’t anything on the market like this. Plus, I love candles so I wanted to marry it all together!”
The transition from the Berlin tech hub, to the world of, well; art, retail, start-ups and so on, hasn’t necessarily been an easy one, especially as a foreigner. “It is more difficult, you need to be a bit more thick skinned and being a foreigner presents way more obstacles, especially with banks. I did the market research thoroughly but to a bank, I’m a risk, I have to prove that I’m doing something different with something that has been around for hundreds of years. It’s a matter of being able to communicate the product and the vision, that’s the hardest thing about it.” Obstacles don’t seem to hinder Mallory’s ambition at all though, as she tells me about all the exciting things planned for 2019, from creative workshops to brand collaborations. “We want to explore with colours, specifically pastel colours this year, there’s a little research and development on the cards. As well as that, we’re looking for new fragrances- we want to capture really unusual but beautiful scents. We’ve also got plenty of workshops in the pipeline, so candle fans can come in to the store and create their own and learn a little bit more about scent over a glass of prosecco or wine. It’s a really nice DIY craft that you can do with a friend or in a group. Lit Lab are also working with brands this year to help them create their own fragrances, for example BeCycle will be bringing out a custom candle soon!”
With such a busy schedule, a store to run and multiple candles to make everyday, we wanted to know how Mallory keeps that all important balance. “Well, i’m also a yoga instructor and though I don’t have time to teach anymore, I still make time to practise. When you’re mixing and painting and staring at a screen, you need something that will stretch out your entire back. Other than that, I hang out with my cat!”
And since we ask all of our interviewees about their favourite places in Berlin, it only seemed right to probe Mallory on hers. “Peacock Island. You HAVE to go. I’m sending you all on a field trip. It’s a place in Berlin, literally shaped like a peacock and has loads of peacocks running around the island. I took a ferry with my boyfriend and the first thing we saw was a majestic peacock standing there in full bloom. You need a car but it’s so worth it…” A couple more recommendations to tide you over until the summer months when you can tick off Peacock Island, would be The Night Kitchen in Heckman Höfe for a great brunch and BeCycle for a killer workout.
- Oranienburger Str. 32, 10117 Berlin
- TUE -WED 12-7pm
- THU -SAT 12-8pm