strategist investigates

When Did Torso Candles Replace Bust Candles?

Photo: retailer

While candles have been a mainstay of people’s shopping baskets during (numerous) lockdowns, over the past six months we have noticed the emergence of a more niche subgenre: the torso candle (also known as the goddess candle). The sculpted, artful alternative to a jar or pillar candle is being sold in places like Wolf & Badger, Farfetch, Browns, and Selfridges (Zara briefly sold them last year, too), and on Instagram, we’ve spied them in the homes of various stylish people (like YouTuber Isabella Kate, music-industry professional Chloe Anderson, and Leeds-based dried-flower company Pampas and Bloom, too.)

It’s not hard to see the appeal of the torso candle. The sculptural elements share a lot in common with the “classicism and romanticism” behind 2019’s plaster bust trend. In fact, a lot of the early adopters of torso candles – like Caia and Kali Home – were also dabbling in bust candles. And one of the earliest brands to get into the micro-trend was French candlemaker Cire Trudon, way back in 2008, when they partnered with the French National Museum on a range of candle busts depicting Napoleon, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette.

Perhaps their inherent artsiness, in an era where we can’t visit museums, is part of the appeal: a candle to stare at, as well as smell, when you enter a room. Trend forecaster Geraldine Wharry, who has consulted for Dazed Beauty, Nike, and LVMH, told the Strategist UK that sculptural décor is a way for people to showcase their interests while they’re stuck at home. “In a behavioural way, people have realised [during lockdown] they can successfully bring key aspects of their routine to their home, like museums or the gym.” Since that bust-adjacent wave of candles, however, we’ve noticed the newer players in the torso candle space have focused on the more human element – think a broad range of skin tones rather than mimicking marble, stone, or other materials, while also celebrating a diverse range of body types. Read on for our edit of the new wave of torso candles.

Many of the new wave of torso candles come from pandemic hobbyists – according to Etsy, there was a 745 percent increase in searches for “candle making kits” over the last three months. Torso moulds, which were already popular in “art resin” circles, have also become cheaper on places like Etsy and Ali Express. But candle-making quickly became a professional pursuit for many of the brands we spoke to: Belle Nous started as a hobby when founder Holly Gibbons was shielding from coronavirus (she went on to start selling her candles in June, and they are now stocked in Rocket St George and Pretty Little Thing). Meanwhile, Niloh founder Elizabeth Biong-Komolibus is a trainee accountant by day.

Speaking to the Strategist UK from her studio in Birmingham, Biong-Komolibus said she noticed “goddess candles” popping up on her Instagram during the summer. “Niloh began because the torso candles out there, even bigger brands, were using the same generic moulds – I wanted to create something that celebrates the diversity of the female form,” she said. “So I decided, why not make candles that are representative of real women?” Instead of using preexisting moulds, Biong-Komolibus, who practises line drawing in her spare time, sketched some ideas and commissioned a digital artist to reproduce her drawings onto a computer, before arranging for a 3-D “master copy” to be printed, which she then used to make a silicone mould. “It took months,” she admits. “It’s a long process.” Niloh offers its Nairobi Goddess candle in seven different skin tones, but says Spring will see the launch of a “pastel” collection, as well as a range of torso soaps. [Editor’s note: Niloh are redesigning their website, to relaunch on February 24. In the meantime, you can follow them on Instagram.]

Belle Nous owner Gibbons went one step further when designing her moulds – she also got her designs protected as intellectual property (these are made from a resin mould, though these are also 3-D printed in a similar manner). Like Niloh, Belle Nous has centered their candles on the human form, rather than the statuesque bust candles flooding the market – last year, they launched a limited-edition “mastectomy” candle to raise money for cancer awareness (a candle featuring a C-section scar is launching later this year). Gibbons says the plan for 2021 is to keep interest in Belle Nous “consistent” by staggering launches of new designs throughout the year.

Photo: retailer

Founder Lucy Burt is a makeup artist who has worked with celebrities like George Michael, Mary J. Blige, and Boy George. She launched her candle company in summer 2020. Lit by Lucy features torsos in seven colours as part of their “Nude Collection,” which last year donated proceeds to organisations including Black Minds Matter, Black Girls Brunch, and the Black in Fashion Council. Proceeds are also used to support the World Land Trust, which is dedicated to the protection and well-being of the planet.

From £9

Siren’s founders say their aim is to create candles that celebrate “lumps, bumps, and everything in between.” As well as their standard torso range, they sell “imperfect” versions of their candles at a discounted price.

Caia started with muted torso candles named after Greco-Roman figures, in scents like sandalwood and musk, oud, and neroli – but recently they’ve started experimenting with lurid neon hues, too (including two-tone variants). We spotted a soft pink one on the Instagram page of blogger Cruelty-Free Becky, who showcased it by her bureau mirror, but we also like this shocking pink colourway.

Kali Home understands that their candles – inspired by contemporary architecture and ancient sculptures – might look too good to burn. So they bundle “imperfect” versions of their candles (which might feature a dent, scratch, or occasional air bubble) with each purchase – so you have one to light, and one to admire. As well as their minimalist torso candles, which come in both male and female forms (plus a pregnant one), they sell a bust candle of Laocoön, the son of Acoetes, and Apollo.

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When Did Torso Candles Replace Bust Candles?