A TikTok Exec — and Candle Expert — Names His Must-Haves

Kudzi Chikumbu, TikTok creative community director

Kudzi Chikumbu moonlights as @sircandleman on TikTok and Instagram, where he unboxes and reviews luxury candles, from a Whole Foods check-out line find to his first Parisian obsession

Since April of last year, TikTok's director, creator community, Kudzi Chikumbu has had a public alter ego: Sir Candle Man. Under the handle @sircandleman, he posts unboxing videos reviewing his favorite luxury candles on both TikTok and Instagram. “Working in online video and entertainment, it's really important to have a place online that is creative and expressive that isn't only about being perfect.” he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Chikumbu’s fascination with candles developed while in Paris for Beyoncé's OTR II concert. He strolled into a luxury department store and casually took a whiff of Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Au 17. “Ever since then I became obsessed with the idea of scent and fragrances, in particular candles, transporting you to a different place even if you aren't able to go there," he says.

He notices a trend in the market and believes candles are no longer a quieter sister to designer fragrances. Case in point, he predicts more celebrity creations in coming years, like Kim Kardashian West's debut candle, Crystal Gardenia, which sold out soon after it debuted in September. "It's a great business venture if you get the branding right [and] the distribution.” He sees candles as a method of self care without an enormous price tag. “It's a luxury that feels like a splurge for yourself. It feels like you are doing something for you. With clothes you wear them to be seen, with candles you get to transform your space into another space. It's luxury feeling without breaking the bank.”

Chikumbu says the packaging of a candle is just as important as the aroma itself. “It’s like opening an iPhone, more excited to look at it before you even use it, [and] you always remember that you want to buy another unboxing moment.” 

Given the wide range of candle prices, does Chikumbu see a noticeable difference in quality from low to high end? The short answer is no, he says. A $20 candle can have the same lasting power and pleasing fragrance as a $60 candle. The price difference can often be attributed to marketing and branding. He does caution that candles less than $10 can often have an oilier wax and a fragrance that doesn't travel and can be harsh. The reason he spends a bit more: "A candle to me is a nice pick-me-up, a nice little splurge."

Below, Chikumbu reveals and reviews six of his current favorite candles.

1. MAKANA ACACIA SANDALWOOD

"Found this one in Whole Foods. The checkout line was long and I was next to the candles so I thought, why not? This candle is more affordable and has the vanilla note, which I normally stay away from, but for some reason the vanilla vibes are mellowed here. This candle is perfect for a Sunday chill day where you clean your apartment and do your laundry." $29, makanastudios.com

2. MALIN+GOETZ DARK RUM

"This is basically like going on vacation. I had the perfume and loved it so much that I got the candle. Tropical, Caribbean, sweet cocktails — I feel young and fun with this candle. Carefree, hopeful, possibilities, romance. This is a pleasantly intoxicating candle. This is a fragrance for when you’re feeling a little sultry and a little seductive." $55, malinandgoetz.com

3. OTHERLAND RATTAN

"This candle is sandalwood and musk, enchanting and magical. It transports me to Morocco, wearing kaftans and having a great vacation. This brand has some of the best packaging I’ve ever seen. I recommended the candle to a friend and she said that opening these candles is like opening an iPhone box." $36, otherland.com

4. MAISON FRANCIS KURKDJIAN AU 17

"Intoxicating gorgeous smell of Japanese incense and firewood. When I light this candle, I imagine myself owning a gorgeous apartment in Paris, inviting friends over for dinner parties and working on my side-hustle jewelry line for fun. This candle lasts for hours in the house. This was my first luxury candle and I can’t wait to buy another one." $85, neimanmarcus.com

5. LAFCO FEU DE BOIS SKI HOUSE

"This is my all-time fave, well for 2019 at least. This candle has frankincense, sandalwood and leather notes. I don’t even ski or love the snow, [but] this candle makes me actually want to be cold so I can light it. It’s so cozy, so comforting and so ashy and wafts through my whole apartment long after burning. And the hand-blown glass vessel feels super luxe!" $65 at lafco.com

6. RUKSKE HIROKO

"I was in Petit Trois, the delicious French restaurant in Los Angeles, where I ordered myself a delicious steak frites, went to the restroom and my senses were surprised and captured by the most gorgeous smelling fragrance. You don’t expect that from a restroom. It was the incense, orange and musk combination that enthralled me and took me from this French restaurant in a strip mall to the middle of beautiful Paris. Lastly, the black glass combined with the black wax? What a statement! Gorgeous!" $60, rukske.com

This story first appeared in the Jan. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.