Niko Dafkos and Paul Firmin have taken a passion project and organically grown, what they describe as, their 'thing' from a side-hustle into an inspiring International London based business. From beginnings in their Hackney space, they can now celebrate almost two years in one of London's most visionary and inspiring landmark developments, Coal Drops Yard. 
At Map Stores we have always admired their translation of fragrance and endless drive to build something loyal to their 4 key values to Create, Curate, Collaborate and Community, that clearly weaves through everything they do, with a palpable authenticity.
The Earls newest step in their sensory adventure has taken them into bath and body products. The ultimate celebration of ritual over routine, that feels very significant for the time we are living in.
"Our Japanese Bathing Line explores the concept of ritual over routine. When we visited Japan we were inspired by the care and attention that goes into everything and the idea that we should enjoy the simple things in life."
"Bathing itself isn't simply a routine but something to be enjoyed and celebrated, that can create both physical and mental wellness. We wanted to bring that concept back to the UK, encouraging people to enjoy the simple things and to dedicate time to self-care"
Yes, the Earls are just as lovely, inspiring and genuine as they sound....

What has brought you to where you currently are in your life?

Curiosity and a need to belong. We started this business because each weekend we would visit stores, cafes and markets and see a community of people with a shared passion. They belonged to London and were part of the fabric of the city that made it so special. We began to explore what our thing would be, and started with markets because that felt like the real grassroots place to start something. We've learned a lot and as we surrounded ourselves with makers and creators, it sparked an interest in finding 'our' thing. Fragrance became that to us, as it was something that we spoke about a lot when starting our relationship. 




Who or what influences you, and why?

Our major inspiration is travel, our scents are all inspired by places we have visited and fallen in love with. When we travel we aim to embed ourselves in places; our time isn't spent on the tourist trap, but in markets, discovering independent stores and cafes and speaking to their owners. In recent years the brand has allowed us to travel more, hosting workshops with stockists and bonding with them in a much more meaningful way.  It has allowed us to see what living in a place would really feel like and makes us feel more connected to those places.




When you are not working where will we find you?

To be totally honest the last 5 years have been constant work, for a long time we managed day jobs alongside the business and neglected the concept of spare time. With the current situation we find ourselves in, we have had time to reflect and whilst we wouldn't change any of our journey,  we are aware that now we need to find a balance. We want to spend more time with friends and family and we really have rediscovered the art of enjoying just being at home. It is a positive for us during what has been a very weird time for everyone. 



What is your all-time favourite trend?

Not sure it's a trend or more of a campaign, but when IKEA created the Chuck out Your Chintz advert it really created a movement that has remained since, it felt generational in some way, the youth of that time wanted to live a more simple Scandi life, and IKEA allowed them to. Seeing the power of a brand like that is pretty incredible.



What inspires you about where you live? 

London is the most incredible city, the energy is hard to replicate and it moves and changes with pace. That keeps you on your toes for sure. We live in East London, now in Leyton, but with the studio in Hackney we still feel connected to that neighbourhood. It feels creative, but also like a place where you can set your own agenda and create what you want, in the way you want to. 



Describe your dream home.

Mid-Century Modern, ideally sat in the hills of Echo Park, LA. A view over the city and lots of space.

When working on a new project, how do you overcome fears or challenges?

Being partners in everything has allowed us to play different roles. We are each other's sounding board and help support each other through decision making. In the last few years we have realised that owning a business is really just about identifying and solving problems. You can work through anything, and there are many different ways to do so. The most important thing to remember is to listen to your gut, if it feels right it generally is, and if it doesn't be prepared to stick to your guns and say no. 



What is your greatest accomplishment to date and what do you still want to accomplish?

We've had milestones like opening the shops, or releasing the book, but the greatest accomplishment has been to dream of working together and to achieve that. Not every couple can do that, but we love everyday, and whilst it still feels like a steep learning curve we are in it together and that's amazing. 



If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

We have alway dreamed of recreating that 'new car' scent and would love to work with a brand like Volvo or Mercedes to do so. We would also love to work more with hospitality and create more than just scent. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

There isn't one set path to achieve your goals so don't give up on them. Things have a funny way of working themselves out, and if you believe in yourself you can make anything happen.