Candle Luxe

Jo Strettell has done everything there is do with with makeup: movies, TV, commercials, fashion shows, and many Chico's mailers. Besides making the world a more beautiful place, she has a stunning candle line, L'Eau de Feu. When she's not globetrotting or candle-making, she lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.

I’ve known my sister-in-law, Wendy, (who is married to my ex-husband’s identical twin, if you can wrap your head around that), since she was a 21-year-old art student. She grew up making candles with her father, who is an inventor. One day, when she was a child, he dropped wax in the swimming pool, and was like, “Oh. Cool!” He invented a way to make the outside of the candles high-temperature wax that was really beautiful, instead of glass. He did them in tons of colors, so they looked like tie-dye—very sixties.

About five years ago she came to me and said, “Dad’s getting rid of the candle machine and I’d like to get it going again, but I don’t know where to start. Will you do it with me?”

I said, “Absolutely. Let’s treat it like a makeup line. And, instead of putting lots of colors in, like he does, let’s simplify. We can do a red one, a pink one, and a blue one, and make really gorgeous fragrances to go with them.” She agreed. I do the fragrances and Wendy does the colors and the packaging. We started with four colors and now we have twelve. People had been asking me to do makeup lines forever, but I could never bring myself to do them. This was a new way for me to express my creativity. I was ready.

We do a color launch every season. We have a rainbow of colors and very simple, clean fragrances. We did our final launch this fall, which was Citron. We started the business in the garage, and now we have a studio. Wendy’s dad comes and helps us. He has an RV he drives around; he comes and parks at the studio. He makes the casings—the outside of the candles—in a tank he created. Then he makes the candles’ tubes and cuts them to the right size, bottoms and wicks them, and then I do all the filling. The high-temperature wax arrives in pallet loads to make the outside of the candle, and then a pallet load of soy wax comes, and then I work out the fragrances.

These candles are truly all made by hand. I torture my parfumier. From the beginning I knew I wanted a Night Blooming Jasmine—that evening scent that happens when you open the door and it just hits you. Fracas is one of my favorite fragrances, and I wanted a tuberose that reminds me of that. I wanted patchouli, but it had to be that beautiful, sexy patchouli where people know it’s patchouli, but they can’t quite believe it. It’s spicy, not funky.

Ignorance is bliss—if I had known how hard this was going to be I never would have done it. But I love it. We’re moving ahead with another line that’s going to be even more sophisticated. I have to do a lot more research on how to put it together. Creatively, the candles are really fulfilling, and it’s made makeup, which I’ve been doing forever and ever and ever, far more exciting.

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