Franfan20's Perfume Blog
Mathieu Nardin is one of the - meanwhile numerous - young, creative spirits in the world of perfumery. Already at the age of 23, after his studies, he started working at the company Robertet in Grasse and has since created a broad variety of fragrances for a diverse range of brands. Today, 10 years later, he faces new challenges with another company from Grasse, MANE, and returns to his roots in France after several years in the US.
Mathieu, since you’ve been surrounded by perfumery basically your whole life, was there ever another career option for you instead of becoming a perfumer?
I once considered the option of working in the raw material sourcing. It is a fascinating job, where the sourcer travels the world, preferably where nobody else goes, in search of new plants and rare materials, ready to integrate the perfume compositions of tomorrow. More than discovering new odors every day, what I admire in this job is the consideration of the raw material in all its aspects, from its history to the respect of its natural environment, and the preservation of the ancestral knowledge of indigenous peoples.
What is your favorite way to create fragrances? Do you prefer to work completely independent? Or do you love the challenge of trying on potentially difficult briefings as an example?
In general, I start by taking over the project, I analyze it in all directions and start working on the projections of ideas that I have. Of course, I also enjoy being stimulated, surprised, through the discovery of new stories, new people, or new things. Everything can be inspiring.
You’ve already created for a broad variety of brands. What are the main differences between „niche" and „mass“ market creations for you personally?
These markets are completely different challenges and ways to create. On the niche market for example, we take more time to seek new accords and push them much further, almost in the overdose, with more asperities and greater creativity. The mass market is a very nice and equally challenging market, the goal being to create a perfume with much less asperity, rounder and homogeneous so that it will please the greatest number. It is very rewarding to be able to juggle with projects of opposite markets, it allows me to develop my reactivity and extend my know-how.
I have read about rose and jasmine being your favorite flowers because of your childhood memories and first encounters with the craft of perfumery, as well as incense and labdanum being some of your favorite ingredients. But are there ingredients you don’t like to work with?
Of course, we always have notes that we appreciate more than others, that are naturally easier to compose with, it allows us to say that a perfumer has his own “signature". However, it isn’t the most important. What we are looking for in each raw material is its effect in the perfume: the facet that will bring everything up to another dimension. It takes a life (and more) to understand all their complexity.
In retrospective, is there a project you aren’t fond of anymore? Or is it rather unusual for a perfumer not to be enthusiastic about a piece of his work anymore?
There are perfumes that correspond more to my personal tastes for sure, but there are also those that I am very proud of because I slipped a significant part of myself in their creation. Then the others, that I would not wear but that have required a lot of work and adaptation to a specific brief and a brand image, and which remain very good memories. I must also confess that I am very self-critical. Even at the end of a project, I never feel the moment when the perfume is completely finished. With experience, I understood that there is a time where I have to let it free and live its best life on people who will wear it.
What fragrances do you like to wear? Are there any standouts in your collection?
In general, I do not wear perfume. However, I happen to wear some of the ones I am developing, to feel them evolve over time on my skin. It allows me to get a more precise idea of them, better understand them. It is quite different to smell on a smelling strip or on the skin. Otherwise, I really like citrus perfumes, especially classic colognes structured by woody notes. It takes me elsewhere, to unknown destinations.
Under the aspect of ever-changing trends, mass appeals and the big influence that Social Media has become… What is your personal perception of perfumery these days? Is it different to when you were a child?
Instant internet access is a transversal fact today, no matter where consumers might be, it enables them to find answers to almost any question, at any time. Besides the increased level of knowledge they ask for (and they have), it has been a great social equalizer, giving opportunity to everyone to enjoy the hidden world of perfumery. This effect has allowed the return to a perfumery of exception, close to the one of the beginning of last century. We also see more and more emerging brands claiming “mindful perfumes” or “100% naturals”. For few years now, I have been working with those brands. It is another way of approaching formulation that I really enjoy, close to the traditional one (when synthetic molecules did not take as much place in the palette as nowadays). Behind this authentic perfumery, there is a place for conscious sourcing, a relationship closer to nature and the legacy of people working in the fields; something more human to human I would say, even though the extraction processes have made great progress!
Besides the return to a more authentic perfumery, I still have a nostalgia of the 80-90’s provocative ads that have crystallized in our collective imagination. It was a hyperactive period, and looking back at it now, you wonder how they got away with it! When muses where strong brand ambassadors and influencers, and someone’s perfume was shaping his/her own identity.
How important is traveling for you both personally and professionally?
Personally, it helps me to aerate my mind with fresh air, to take time to see things with more distance while enriching my mind with ventures of foreign places. Beyond that, traveling is a very great source of inspiration that feeds creativity in my everyday life.
What does a day look like when you don’t have to work?
Traveling when I can! On weekends, I regularly go to my parents house in Grasse, to take care of our olive trees. The rest of the time, I spend it exploring new places, alone, with friends or with family, in search of new surprises, amazements, by appropriating the city and its streets, its restaurants, bars, museums, parks, and boutiques. In addition, one of my favorite activity, yet very simple, is to lie down and read the pages of a captivating book.
What can we expect from Mathieu Nardin in 2019?
He continues to learn, but this year with a new palette of ingredients! It is my favorite period, as if I were starting perfumery over. I get to know new raw materials and how to compose with them, but I'm also very excited about the idea of developing new perfumes in partnership with new brands. In addition, after a few years in the United States, I am finally back in France. 2019 is also a year of personal challenges, where I will rediscover Paris and this delights me!
These fragrances were created by Mathieu Nardin.
The world of Imaginary Authors has finally been expanded to include the scented candles announced last year. There are currently two fragrances to choose from - "Meet Me In The Meadow" and "The Abandoned Mansion". And these also tie in seamlessly with the creative and fantasy-inspiring world of Imaginary Authors. The candles are made of soy wax, have a cotton wick and are colorfully packaged from the box to the glass with the smallest details. I can barely illuminate all details with photos, so I have only a small selection of angles to keep explorers curious. The candles are very big and heavy and therefore expensive. 11 oz (about 310 g) cost $ 65. The burning time is estimated as 60 hours, but I'm sure you'll enjoy the candles much longer with this sustainable product. It doesn't take long until the whole room fills with the particular fragrance, because these candles really have power. "Our candles have a very high concentration of perfume". I will sign this immediately. They smell very strong, even when not lit. This intensifies when burning accordingly. For me, "Meet Me In The Meadow" is a wonderful spring and summer fragrance, while I see "The Abandoned Mansion" quite clearly in autumn and winter, and only there.
"Meet Me In The Meadow": The fragrance notes are grapefruit, linden and pinot gris.
The smell is pleasantly fruity and fresh, very cozy and sweet. I like that immensely. For me, this creates a very dreamy mood, which suits the corresponding love story - a summer romance, very well. At the same time, however, the smell of a fresh summer meadow is imitated perfectly. Thus, the fragrance actually draws similarities to The Soft Lawn (the connection is inevitably, due to the linden note), but brings another facet to the scent with these fruity wine aspects. Therefore it is not primarily based on fresh grass, but the impression is there and I like it. It's another fragrance of the type "carefreeness, good mood, positive emotions". A scent to dream and watch shooting stars in the oh so sweet nature. I can recommend this candle to anyone because its smell is very pleasing. Here, the phrase "wine, woman and song" fits perfectly.
"The Abandoned Mansion": The fragrance notes are cedar, quince and paperbacks.
In my opinion, the scent is a special one, that I need to get used to. It is a very aromatic and woody smell with smoky aspects and apparently a pure cedar forest. Even if it is not smoked with cedar smoke, the smell reminds me abruptly of Black Forest ham. Ham?! Now of course you may think: Oh no, please don't! Yes, I also tend to think so, but getting used to is meant literal. Because after the candle burns for a while, I do not notice the ham impression so prominently anymore. And after all, this fragrance has also a corresponding story whose atmosphere is reflected appropriately. You can literally see the old mansion with the creaking wooden floors, the huge library and sense the smell of old, dusty wood. I would call the smell a classic fragrance for the fireplace, that's why I see it so strong in autumn and winter. It gives you that very special feeling of coziness at a warming fire with an old-time smell, which surely has its charm for the romantics among us. Nevertheless, I would recommend this candle clearly only to fans of smoky wood scents.
And so I can't say much more than that I have the feeling these two candles will probably last forever, because after 3 hours of burning only a minimal amount of wax is used up. I am curious how well they will keep their fragrance over time and, above all, which fragrances Josh will present to us in the future in candle form. For the ordinary consumer, these are clearly luxury items, but they can be very special gifts that are worth their price. Having recently tried several brands of scented candles, I'm truly positively surprised that burning these candles is also a real olfactory experience. As a fan of Josh's work, I am once more pleased that he delights with quality and sophistication again.
Animals in their natural habitat - to transform their habits, their smells, their being into fragrances; with this concept Victor Wong launched his brand Zoologist, which is now very popular with fragrance fans worldwide. Various independent perfumers create a fragrance for him that is inspired by a certain animal or can be attributed to one. For me as a biologist and animal lover a wonderful theme, which I pursue with pleasure from the beginning.
What is your favorite animal (besides your cat)?
This is actually a very tough question. I have many favorite animals. I love small, cute, fluffy animals particularly and I have soft spot for rabbits.
I tend to persuade my perfumers to create cute animal perfumes for me, but most of the time we ended up choosing animals that aren’t cute-looking. Recently a perfumer just told me directly: “I am not a ‘cute’ person.” I guess I will save Quokka for a different perfumer.
What are your thoughts on Zoologist’s journey so far?
It’s really like having many dreams come true, except I didn’t have those dreams in the first place! I had never dreamt of winning the Art and Olfaction Award and I won. When I started, my goal was to sell my perfumes through the web shop only. I didn’t think stores would carry them, but now they are available at some local and international boutiques.
I also didn’t dream of quitting my day job to take care of Zoologist, which was the second bravest thing I had done since I launched my own perfume house four years ago. This doesn’t mean I am making big money, it’s just that I could no longer handle both jobs. There had been weekday nights that I tried to fulfill two retailer orders at the same time and I worked till very late – I do everything myself – diluting, filtering, bottling, shrink-wrapping, shipping, social media, etc. – and I woke up at five having nightmares of customers complaining about leaky samples and lost packages. And an hour later I had to get up and go to work.
Another big milestone for me is that Luckyscent has started carrying my line. I think this has helped Zoologist to get the snowball rolling, because they are the most successful online perfume shop in the US and they have a huge international mailing list.
I really didn’t know how well-known my brand was until I attended the Esxence in Italy recently. I wasn’t exhibiting with a booth, I was just wandering around and some people actually recognized me and told me they were eager to smell my perfumes. Sometimes on the show floor I received phone calls from unknown distributors who happened to be there too, telling me they wanted to meet me and get to know more about my perfumes. I had also met perfumers who showed great interest in designing a perfume for Zoologist. While I was very grateful this was a big contrast to when I first started and knew no one in the industry. I had crossed my fingers so many times in hopes that deals would go through.
Are there animal concepts that probably won’t see the light of day because they just didn’t work out or the collaboration with the perfumer wasn’t satisfying?
Yes, I have cancelled a few projects because they weren’t going anywhere. Originally Civet wasn’t designed by Shelley Waddington. Civet was a very challenging perfume to design, although it seemed obvious that it would have civet in it. The difficult question was how much civet to put in. If it was just a touch, what would you fill the rest of the perfume with? The original perfumer had spent a year focusing on making the perfume a “civet bomb”, but I knew no one would want to wear it. It’s like the YouTube “Cinnamon Challenge” – who really wants to eat a ladle of ground cinnamon for some bragging rights and laughs?
There’s also a perfume project that I had to cancel because the perfumes that this perfumer makes all smell very light and fleeting and Zoologist perfumes are famous (or notorious!) for their potency. Scent-wise, that perfume was spot on – it matched the brief 100%, but it smelled like a 5% EDT to me. In reality, it was at 22% parfum concentration. I felt really sorry about that and I hope the perfumer will forgive me.
And there’s a perfumer who insisted on making a perfume named “Toad”. Even as an open-minded person, I felt no one would want to wear a perfume with such a name. Eventually I found a more interesting and challenging project for him and he’s willing to design that. Whew!
What exactly inspired the reformulations of Panda and Beaver? And why only these two?
It is a complicated subject.
I asked Chris Bartlett to redesign Beaver (2014) with the excuse that it had poor sales. But to be honest, like most people, I found it too challenging and I wanted it changed. Note that technically, the original Beaver was perfectly fine; it was very well-crafted, in my opinion. I have never received any complaint about it smelling harsh or unbalanced. It was just not what most people wanted, including me. But after its redesign, it is much friendlier, and I feel sexy wearing it. To tell you the truth, sales still haven’t improved, probably because of its name and scent genre, but that doesn’t bother me. What’s important is that I love my own perfumes. I can confidently tell people that it just may not be their cup of tea.
Panda (2014), on the other hand, is a different story. It had received quite a bit of negative feedback and it took me a while to get past the negativity with a clear objective mind and face up to what was wrong with it. I agreed with most people that there was something about it – too sharp, too aquatic, too green. Some even said it smelled metallic. When I first released Panda, I was inexperienced and impatient, I couldn’t see what was wrong with it. I thought that was the style of the perfume – and overall, a nice perfume. At one point, I diluted the perfume from 20% to 15% in the hope that it would smell less sharp and swampy, but it didn’t help much. Eventually I asked the original perfumer to improve upon it, by first separating the original Panda into different accords and look for the smell that most people didn’t like. Once he took those out, the formula just collapsed into a characterless perfume. I cancelled the reformulation project and looked for a different perfumer who would redesign Panda from ground up.
In 2016, at the Art and Olfaction Award show I met the perfumer Christian Carbonnel. He was also a finalist and we sat next to each other competing for the same award. He said he would love to design a new perfume for me. He worked very fast – he creates perfume by writing down the ingredients ratio and gives the sheet to his assistants to prepare – and the new perfume was done in a few months. I asked him if he would like to take a chance on Panda and he did. I told him if he could make a scent that matches the handsome panda-in-a-tuxedo illustration on the perfume’s label. The end result is something that smells nothing like the original Panda, but interestingly it shares most of the notes you find in the original Panda.
Is the idea of more merchandise products attractive for the brand?
The illustrations on the perfume labels are very attractive and important to my brand. I think the most-requested merchandise is posters/art prints. I have thought about it, but printing them in high resolution leads to a problem: piracy. Did you know that Zoologist perfumes have clones? They are sold in the Middle East. I think you could find them at the Iran airport! I have never smelled those perfumes, but Zoologist fans from the Middle East have sent me photos and they definitely stole our look and packaging. I think they have Deer, Bear, Panda, etc. and they stole images not just from Zoologist, but also from some Etsy stores. Shameless, really.
For the launch of Civet, I tried something new. I had 30 silk scarves made with the civet illustration on them to test the waters. They were expensive to make, and I did it for the fans; I didn’t make a single dime out of them. Merchandise is tricky. Fans say they want them, but if it is not the right kind of product, they won’t buy it and you are left with a bunch of inventory stacked in a corner. That said, recently I have been thinking of making little coasters for fans to collect when they buy a full-size bottle.
Do you know of any prominent people, maybe even people you’re a fan of yourself, who got to know Zoologist and became a fan of the brand?
Well, I don’t know if he’s a fan of the scents of Zoologist, but I am happy that he knows about Zoologist, and he has said some encouraging words to me in person at both Esxence 2016 and Art & Olfaction Award 2017. I’m talking about the perfume critic Luca Turin. He first learned about Zoologist when he was a judge for 2016’s Art and Olfaction Award. He wrote a very good review of Bat. At Esxence 2016 he said to me that in music (I assume classical music) it is rare to hear funny or humorous pieces, and Zoologist is kind of like that in the world of perfumery. At A&O 2017, he told me that it was not easy for an artist to be a good creative director, and I have been doing a good job. He also said that Nightingale was a very interesting piece of work. Well, let me use this opportunity to say that without Luca Turin’s book “Perfumes, the A-Z guide”, there would be no Zoologist. His book was one of the catalysts for the creation of my project. I actually felt a bit out of myself when I told him he was my idol in person. I think he felt a bit awkward, too when he heard that.
How do you think would one of the animals respond to Zoologist’s interpretation of it?
The natural odour of musks and stinks are very complex and I think a real beaver or civet would not find the synthetic castoreum and musks used in my perfumes particularly arousing to them.
I am currently working on two new scents with Tomoo Inaba (the perfumer of Nightingale) and one of the scents is a “gourmand” scent. Humans might not find the scent particularly delicious, but I’d imagine it would mean something to the little animal that the scent is based on. I found it amusing that Tomoo has successfully created an accord that smells very close to the food that animal loves.
What is your current plan for the brand’s further development? Do you have a plan for a consistent release cycle for example? Or do you say after a total number of X fragrances you feel your line is complete for now and after that you would like to see if it can maintain its current success in the coming years?
People might agree that it’s best for a perfume house to release one or two perfumes a year – it creates awareness that the brand is still “alive” and customers should have enough time to catch up with the brand and digest the new releases. As a perfume snob, there are so many perfumes to buy and if a perfume house releases new scents too frequently I feel overwhelmed and financially stressed and give up collecting their perfumes (for example, Penhaligon’s). It is also good for small retailers, because you are not tying up their money by asking them to constantly stock your new releases.
I now worry about having too many open projects and the risk of releasing too many new perfumes in a year. You might notice that I collaborate mostly with indie perfumers and most indie perfumers have a day job. Compounded by the insecurity that you never know how many revisions you need to call a perfume “done”, I have reached out to too many perfumers in preparation for having no perfumes to release for a year. The stressful moment comes when a perfume suddenly is “done” in just a few rounds of revision and you still haven’t released the perfume that is waiting in line. I don’t want to let the perfumer down by telling him I will release his perfumes in two years, but it seems like I have no choice.
That said, my goal is to have a total of 20 perfumes in my collection. When I do, I will do a full review. Maybe I will discontinue some of them. In terms of “animal bio-diversity”, I would feel incomplete if Zoologist doesn’t have any reptiles, sea creatures and insects. In terms of perfume genres, I still haven’t got a fougère and an aquatic scent in my library and there are still a few important musk/perfumery ingredients for which I haven’t found an animal to represent them.
Josh Meyer is the creative mind behind Imaginary Authors, a niche fragrance brand with a unique concept that intrigues the mind. He and his brand surprise with well-conceived, fun scents that tell stories and reveal the people behind them. All imaginary, yet so detailed and creative as well as exalting your own imagination while experiencing his world.
As the theme of your fragrance brand are novels, fiction and story-telling as well as the person behind it all… Are you a bookworm and what kind of literature do you like?
I love so many! I love John Barth, Nabokov, David Foster Wallace, Donna Tartt & John Irving… But recently, i’ve also been reading a lot about painting, art and cooking as each are so similar to perfume. A lot of chefs are putting very engaging books about running a restaurant business while also being at the top of their game creatively with some of the most fun food concepts, and it’s very inspiring to me, as both are so important to the Imaginary Authors brand.
I love to read, however, the brand idea was, for me, a new way to help explain the world of niche perfume. Many of my favorite niche brands from 7 or 8 years ago use no color on their labels and don’t publish simple note lists. So reading web copy doesn’t always give a vibe and tone to how the fragrance actually smells, which makes it difficult to know which bottles to buy. We wanted to create something that vibrantly told the story of the fragrance, while also trying to create something unique to the market. The only rule, on my end, was to make sure every element was extremely fun and work to make the fun concept more highbrow than not.
What’s the process when you create a new scent? How do you imagine an author, the story around him and his work? Does it just come to your mind randomly or do you make some sort of concept first?
This is very important. For us, the fragrance comes first before any titles, imagery or story. The story, the imagery for the label and box and the note list all come after the fragrance is made. It is created to tell the story about the scent, it’s tone and vibe, and provide details about where the ingredients are found. Generally, i’m using 3 or 4 key accords to bring the scents together to become something more than the sum of the parts. Each perfume is made up of between roughly 20 and 50 ingredients, but the concepts are generally much simpler with each note or material adding something to the accord.
For instance, Memoirs Of A Trespasser has a lot of vanilla notes going on with a hefty dose of guaiac wood and it’s accord of a trio of myrrh, benzoin and ambrette really bring the entire composition together. It’s not something I smelled in nature or with world experience, but simply just looking for a unique combination of notes to create something new.
I guess Bull’s Blood is probably the stand-out scent from your collection that leaves people with the most controversial opinions. At least from what I heard, a lot of people seem to have a problem with the image of bull-fighting. Even though it is just imaginary. How do you feel about these kind of reactions to the scent and the story behind it? And how do you experience the reactions to your scents in general?
Both Bull's Blood and A City On Fire have the same love hate relationship for many people. They are both fairly polarizing. I think there is something absolutely visceral and frightening about bull fighting. I think there is also something visceral and frightening about the fragrance Bull’s Blood.
Fragrances are so personal. I always hoped when I was first starting making fragrances with the realization that I wanted to share them with the world that I would be immune to criticism… nothing could be further from the truth. It’s very difficult when someone says something opposite of how I intended the fragrance to smell. On the flip side, when a review or post is made describing the scent in words that have the same vein as how I imagined it when I created it, it is utterly thrilling. Like speaking a new foreign language together.
Is it possible for you to name a favorite scent of your own collection?
I always like the newest release. Better than that? I always like what’s coming up. They are always the most interesting and vibrant to my nose. It’s super important to me to keep making fun stuff, simply for me personally. Working with the same fragrances doesn’t inspire… However, not that I think it’s the best, but if I had to choose I would say I reach for Every Storm A Serenade more than any others, it’s a very expensive perfume to make and I really like the way the individual elements sit on the skin, it’s very easy and enjoyable for me to wear.
Imaginary Authors has gone through different stages of bottles in the past 4 years. You started with 60 ml and introduced 30 ml sometime later. By now they are both gone and you downsized the big bottles to 50 ml and recently introduced travel sprays as well as outer packaging for the scents. How important are these alterations for an independent brand like yours on the one hand and how difficult are they on the other?
Yes, every stage has been a huge learning curve. The newest iteration of 50ml bottles is much higher end than the previous version, not just aesthetically with nice labels and a better overall “book shape”... the labels are literally 8x thicker than the previous version. Also the atomizers are much nicer and higher quality pumps. Our caps are branded with the IA logo. The boxes and the travel sprays are each just our own way of growing the brand and having fun with what we have to offer the world. The world of packaging is not easy to navigate when you’re looking for something unique. But, I’m happy with what i’m learning and hopeful we can continue to create new and interesting things.
You also did something different by collaborating with The Sum for his scent line. Is there any other brand you could see as a possible collaborator? Or do people reach out to you as well and ask for a collaboration?
I love making perfume. I really wish I could spend all my time creating and adjusting fragrances. I worked with The Sum because he loved my vision for how his scents would work and function, not to mention that his line is very different from anything Imaginary Authors has done or will do. It’s a lot of fun for me personally to be able to make something different with a cohesive brand. I also just recently worked with Sam Rader from Dasein to create “Winter Nights” which was limited to 400 bottles and sold out almost immediately.
I am often asked to make custom fragrances or exclusive fragrances and it really needs to be a special circumstance for me to have the energy to want to create it. I want to believe in what i’m doing and working on. I feel very fortunate to have the ability to do that.
Are you a fragrance collector and if so, how big is your collection? Is there any scent you love very much and wear on a regular basis besides your own?
I have a huge collection! I wear a lot of my own trial formulas mostly… and buying perfumes has turned into buying new raw materials. I love the amber animalic Lui by Mazzolari, and the relaxed strange Oud 27 by Le Labo, Domenico Caraceni for date night and Knize Ten for a long cold weather drive, Sadanne by Slumberhouse, Lampblack by Bruno Fazzolari, actually anything by Bruno is outstanding. Everything Naomi Goodsir is doing is blowing my mind, I love her new Iris... Oud Cuir d’Arabie from Montale is a long time favorite. Lubin’s Vetyver is perhaps my favorite take on that note, Czech & Speake’s Oxford & Cambridge is an exquisite and unique take on Lavender that doesn’t get talked about too much. I could go on and on… YSL Rive Gauche was a fav for a long time when I was younger.
Are there any plans for a wider distribution of Imaginary Authors internationally or is it still difficult?
I love working with retail and I am always on the lookout for good boutiques around the world. We are slowly adding new international retailers. I want our retailers to have a good experience with Imaginary Authors and I would love to continue to add more when a good relationship can be formed.
What’s your current bestseller? Still Memoirs of a Trespasser?
Any news to tease for 2017 yet?
So much exciting stuff coming up! We have a couple of releases for 2017 along with our first foray into candles, that has taken a very, very long time. I’m so thrilled to share them! Sign up for our mailing list to stay in touch!
News to tease?
“Tomorrow I will fight, but tonight, I recline into a dream of muddled mint and ice” - Milton Nevers
Carlos Huber is the founder and creative director of Arquiste, one of the younger niche brands on the fragrance market. Huber, who studied architecture, incorporates aspects of his two passions - architecture and history - into his perfume creations. An olfactory caption of certain moments in time, put in a bottle and constructed like a building.
Your biography offers a lot of different professions and skills. Did you already have a certain profession in mind for yourself when you were young?
Actually yes, I always had that love for architecture and history in me, so I knew early on that I wanted to do something related to these topics.
Speaking of your background in architecture, is there any specific kind of german building that you like or do you have any favorite place over here?
Although I’m not an expert in German architecture and It may not be the most beautiful building in the world, I really like Schinkel’s Bauakademie in Berlin. I was very excited to see it when I first visited, because I had studied it a lot in Architecture school. I do think that German architecture is some of the best in the world, so there’s a lot of beautiful places over there. I found Hamburg to be a very beautiful city too! I hope I can travel more through Germany in the near future.
Your fragrance brand Arquiste is in the game for 4 years now and receives a lot of positive response. Did you feel welcome in the industry instantly? How would you describe your journey in a few words?
Of course there were ups and downs, but I was fortunate enough to start my brand in New York and had lots of support in the early stages already. I was able to get in touch with magazines and other media outlets, stores and retailers (nationally and internationally) as well as the house of Givaudan. It helped putting Arquiste out there and getting recognized relatively quick. The theme of my brand is very special to me and is part of my authenticity. But one thing you need to learn is to stay calm and be patient because growth needs time and if you want to put the best product out there, you need to work accordingly to be able to do this. It’s an on-going process and I’m constantly learning.
Social Media nowadays is a very important part of everyday life in general. Also a lot of fragrance brands use it for marketing and display of new products. Would you say that the ability to give people regular insight in your work makes it easier for a brand like Arquiste to get recognized and increase its popularity, especially in the beginning?
Definitely yes. It supports me in showing that perfumery to me is a passion that I put my heart and soul into. People are able to recognize that there are actually real people behind a brand that have a certain devotion to something and that it’s a full-time job. So my intention with Social Media is to get people’s attention to the whole crafting process as well. There are of course positive and negative sides that come along with it. It’s always nice to hear feedback on your creations, but critics can tear you apart as well. I read feedback on my brand because I think the interaction with my followers is important as well. I’m paying attention and read it frequently, also to give something back to my customers. But if somebody is criticizing something just for the sake of bashing, I think it’s better to say nothing at all.
You mentioned that Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier became close friends of yours and that you learned a lot about perfumery from them. I assume your friendship influences your creation process differently compared to working with random people. Would you say it’s always harmonic working with your friends or do you have disagreements on scents sometimes?
What’s kind of special about our work is that we became friends first and then decided to work together, so we work together because we are friends. Of course you have to be more sensitive then and evaluate things more carefully at times, but as with every creative process of course there are disagreements sometimes, but never arguments. Rodrigo and Yann know very well what they are doing and with Givaudan we are able to use the best ingredients we can get, so I profit from their experience quite well. I’m a developer and creative director, so I know a lot about marketing and setting a brand up. I may talk to different people than Rodrigo and Yann would, so I can give them feedback from other perspectives of the market they may not get to hear. What’s also important for my collaboration with them is that they understand me perfectly. I usually have a certain vision in mind for a scent and I wouldn’t work with people that I feel no connection to and therefore wouldn’t be able to transfer my vision into a scent.
You also started creating scents specifically for other outlets like J. Crew and most recently El Palacio de Hierro. How did it came about? Was there any approach for them to be significantly different to Arquiste’s concept?
Wth these releases I can work on something slightly different than Arquiste. The Arquiste collection is very consistent in it’s approach of each scent evoking a specific time and place. Each scent is a story that comes from the heart and is faithfully researched and the scents must communicate every detail of it. This makes the scents more complex. With collaboration such as J. Crew, El Palacio de Hierro or St. Regis hotels we can work on concepts that are slightly different, always transmitting a little bit of the ‘storytelling’ aspect of Arquiste, but in this case, telling a story that relates to the specific brand that we are collaborating with. We can also work on reaching another type of customer, another market. The J. Crew and El Palacio de Hierro fragrances have different styles than Arquiste. For example with the ones for El Palacio de Hierro, which are basically soliflores, we went into a direction that emphasized very natural accords, with a very fresh and light feel, more on the Eau de Cologne side. They are cheerful, lovely scents, which doesn’t mean they lack in elegance. They are just a lighter, more accessible and splashy type of collection.
Did you ever think about creating a fragrance totally on your own?
I’m a nose and a fragrance developer, but not a perfumer. I don’t have the formal, professional training and diploma that a perfumer has to go through. However, I have studied the craft a bit and have experience as a developer, which is an integral partner in creating a perfume. I don't feel the need to make a perfume by myself because I respect the talent and real expertise the perfumer brings to the table. He/She is the one working on the formula… as a developer, I’m the one that comes up with the concept, and that ultimately evaluates and directs the process. So it’s a collaborative creative process, we can’t pretend to cover everyone’s role, and I would never be that presumptuous.
What other fragrances do you wear? Any specific scent or brand you like?
Of course I wear other scents, too. I like Sycomore from Chanel very much for example and I also have a fragrance collection, so I wear different scents here and there, but mostly my own. It’s actually not that easy because I constantly need to evaluate and market a brand. People should realize that I don’t throw scents on the market just because I can and see where it leads and if it’s not successful, I just let it go. I truly believe in my work, so not wearing my brand is no option and wouldn’t be authentic at all.
Apart from your fragrances your style of fashion is also well-received. You manage to look perfectly fine always, especially now that you decided to change your looks a few times. Do you do it all by yourself?
Oh well, yes I do it all by myself. For me it is less about fashion itself, I put my emphasis on style. I just wear what I think works best for me and I think I know what I’m doing. Of course I feel flattered by such compliments, but I wouldn’t consider myself a kind of fashion icon. Sometimes the world is a bit too obsessed with image and the need of being perfect.
Can you think of any other goals or things you’d like to achieve either this year or in the near future personally or professionally?
I would like to establish Arquiste as a brand even further and make it grow. I want to have own Arquiste stores in the near future, so the history and architecture concept can also be displayed in a place visually. I would like to keep this concept which is very close to my heart and be able to keep the quality of my products. I just wish that my brand is recognized as something real and long-lasting.