When I past spoke to the perfumer Barnabé Fillion, he was leaving artist Danh Vo’s farmhouse north of Berlin. For the duration of his stop by, he’d helped with the backyard and experimented with deriving essences from nearby plants like red currant working with a transportable C02 extractor — the method only yields a handful of drops, he explained, but it is plenty of to operate an evaluation on fragrance molecules later on.
From Germany, Fillion was headed right to Mexico Town to monitor progress on his renovation of Casa Mobius, a modernist composition that he’s doing the job to convert to an artist residency and exhibition house for his “institute of synesthesia” — the phrase which is equally the tagline for his fragrance manufacturer, Arpa, and a declaration of his exceptional angle in the increasingly dynamic significant-perfume area.
Synesthesia — the notion that senses intermingle, with smells and seems evoking their possess textures and colours — is a central tenet of the perfume industry’s guarantee that specified scents can unearth fantasies, recollections, and needs in a way which is both addictive and gratifying.
But whilst all those connections are normally subliminally baked into the wildly free of charge-associative (and normally absurd) movie adverts and billboards for significant-spending plan, highly gendered fragrances (consider shirtless Adam Driver as a centaur, swimming at dawn) Fillion wishes to make checking out those connections involving the senses an finish in alone.
“Honestly I am not a significant enthusiast of the fragrance current market — I would even say I have an aversion to it,” Fillion explained. “I imagine a good deal of that is because of the discourse perfume advertising one-way links you to … To me it seemed apparent that you could do a thing diverse, to communicate about perfume a further way.”
For his new enterprise Arpa, which released previous yr, the brand name has forged collaborations with the worlds of art and music, commissioning sculptures, vinyl documents and playlists to launch along with just about every scent, the notion getting that the resulting works can each complement and affect users’ knowledge of what they are smelling.
It is a organic extension of Fillion’s practice as a perfumer. As a storyteller and aesthete, he typically capabilities as a just one-cease store for both the scent alone and the narrative that goes with it.
His most recent scent, Manta, is intended to evoke the sensation of going via a chilly place when swimming. Fillion states it was motivated by a vision he had whilst meditating, of a manta ray crossing the sunshine, witnessed from underwater. Manta opens on notes of petitgrain and frankincense, offering amazing and scorching sensations at the exact same time, ahead of settling on base notes of ambroxan and cedar. It was launched in May possibly along with two tracks by the musician Buvette and will get a probability to court the art environment this fall when Arpa levels an exhibition motivated by the scent at the Galerie Chantal Crousel, showcasing works by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster.
The past 12 months has been a breakout for Fillion: in addition to breaking ground on the house in Mexico, in the past 12 months he’s released three perfumes for his major consumer, Aesop, 4 scents for Arpa and solid a buzzy partnership with the designer Rick Owens, who introduced the collaboration throughout his Autumn/Winter 2022-2023 runway clearly show by obtaining models shoot a person of his fragrances out of handheld fog-equipment guns.
And even though Fillion describes the self-funded venture Arpa as a passion task, the manufacturer has now captivated 25 stockists for its perfumes, which are quickly recognisable for their apothecary-satisfies-Memphis College bottles by London glassblower Jochen Holz.
The perfumer is now weighing bringing on investors to help gasoline its growth as it prepares to open its 1st retail store future year.
Noses ordinarily continue to keep a very low profile in the luxury marketplace — often doing the job in the shadows as staff of major fragrance suppliers like Switzerland’s Givaudan or France’s IFF for many years in advance of receiving the option to set out on their own.
But Fillion has never ever aspired to be cooped up in a laboratory. After dropping out of college at 17 to grow to be a model and photographer, he worked as an assistant to Helmut Newton just before likely on to examine aromatherapy and natural medication. A images guide focused on his extended-time obsession with synesthesia put him in contact with Victoire Gobin-Daudé (a previous dancer-turned-nose who was a pioneer of independent fragrance), who turned a mentor. He also educated with the perfumer Christine Nagel (who designed strike perfumes together with Armani “Sì” and Dolce & Gabbana’s “The One” before likely in-household at Hermès).
Fillion’s early tasks in fragrance involved scents for Paul Smith and Le Labo, which he juggled with working as a marketing consultant to Royal Salute whiskey and Pernod Ricard’s gin division.
Partnership With Aesop
Fillion’s most significant break arrived when he was tapped by Australian cosmetics brand name Aesop, the place he was brought on to reformulate an early push into perfume called Marrakech. The resulting scent, Marrakech Intensive, included rhythm, composition and overall performance to what experienced beforehand been effectively a mix of important oils — and stays the basis of Aesop’s fragrance line.
He went on to function carefully with Aesop’s founder, Dennis Paphitis to create a whole variety of perfumes, place sprays and candles. With scents like Marrakech Powerful, Hwyl, Rozu and a new trio known as “Othertopias” launched previous 12 months, Fillion has founded an herbaceous, spicy and resiny id for the brand with notes like green peppercorns, Hinoki wood, juniper and cumin — pure elements that continue being legitimate to Aesop’s natural and organic ethos, as effectively as inspiring globetrotting, all-normal marketing details for the juices.
“Dennis, like me, experienced an aversion to most of the marketplace,” Fillion claimed. Aesop’s achievement in fragrance has been about “avoiding a significant advertising and marketing tactic,” changing campaigns with easy storytelling that backlinks the elements to journey-influenced narratives. “It’s about exploration, intimacy and authenticity. We invite people to build their senses.”
Fillion’s tranquil charisma, all-natural sense of model and touche-à-tout curiosity have opened doorways in fashion, structure, architecture, and artwork. Add to his checklist of calling playing cards an eye-catching, retro-futuristic bottle for Arpa and a studio in the Paris suburb of Pantin intended by Aesop’s go-to architect Jean-Philippe Bonnefois — where by collectible styles by Gae Aulenti and Gerrit Rietveld sit alongside custom furnishings in stainless metal and travertine.
“Barnabé is a genuine aesthete with beautiful style,” explained Rick Owens, who, possessing taken discover of Fillion’s do the job for Aesop and Arpa, made a decision to make contact with him instantly for their perfume collaboration, circumventing the blind-tasting cells and promoting briefs that generally manual manner brands’ participation in the classification.
Fillion ended up serving to to broker a offer with Aesop for a constrained-operate, co-branded Rick Owens perfume known as Stoic, in which the perfumer included a heady combine of black pepper, herbs and elemi wooden. “He is a person of the most exquisite individuals I know,” Owens reported.
In the custom-steeped, extremely-secretive earth of fragrance, Fillion stands out for his multi-disciplinary strategy targeted on cultivating ties with other industries. He is also a person of couple perfumers to regulate to establish himself as an unbiased player without the need of obtaining been through formal schooling in perfumery, or many years operating for the huge suppliers who preserve limited control over the industry’s know-how and producing.
Still, Fillion does act as an middleman among a single such provider and the broader entire world. He is effective intently with flavour and perfume producing big Mane, and as such has obtain to some of the company’s systems and major-conclude ingredients. He’s partial to their components using CO2 extraction, a approach in which stress and fuel can derive essences using rarely any heat, permitting for a extra real-to-daily life outcome than boiling-incredibly hot distillation, which alters components drastically as it cooks them down.
Fillion’s formulations for Aesop and Arpa are neither large skin scents that adhere to the wearer, nor do they have an aggressive throw. Fairly the scents float evenly about the wearer. “It’s a bubble of inspiration, or of safety,” he claims. “The perfume is an expansion of your individuality but not towards the other. It’s to start with a dialogue with by yourself.”
Arpa’s start arrives as the perfume market pushes upmarket, with product sales of super-top quality niche fragrances from firms like Byredo and Le Labo doubling last 12 months, in comparison with around 50 p.c development for the over-all sector, which continues to be dominated by promotion-pushed commercial blockbusters. Prime-conclusion personal lines from luxury makes like Dior’s “Collection Privée” (such as €240 Bois D’Argent and Ambre Nuit) and Chanel’s “Les Exclusifs” also surged, developing 85 per cent in 2021 according to consultancy NPD.
Arpa is positioned a reduce earlier mentioned even individuals luxe names, at €265 for a kit: just about every blown-glass vial is currently sold with a refill, a funnel and a vinyl of the accompanying tunes commissioned for the scent by the “institute of synesthesia.” The perfumes are encased in a waxy housing that can serve as a travelling circumstance or be used as soap (the plan is to evoke a form of multi-sensory time-capsule).
The concept looks to beg for editing and simplification — and Fillion suggests simpler, much more accessibly priced formats are on the way. More compact vials will be rolled out together with a line of leather fragrance extras, which includes wearable fragrance-case lanyards, devised by previous Hermès designer Isaac Reina.
For now, the higher cost issue and rather elaborate notion haven’t stopped the model from successful orders, with stockists together with e-tailer Ssense, Dover Avenue Perfume Marketplace in Paris, Andras Murkudis in Berlin and Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York.
“We were being attracted to what Barnabe Fillion produced at Arpa Studios for the reason that it’s a complete sensory working experience … In addition, the hand-blown and refillable glass bottles are an exquisite objet,” Ssense merchandising govt Lori Legaspi Moores claimed.
Fillion suggests that just after funding Arpa himself in its initial yr, he’s weighing taking on buyers to enable it increase, notably as the brand eyes opening its to start with boutique. The problem, he claims, is to discover companions that will not request to realign Arpa with the fragrance market’s commercial norms, but would rather respect the brand’s goal to provide as a laboratory for innovation.
“I know there is a worth to [Arpa] — and the best value is my passion. So, I am on the lookout for buyers that have the vision as I have,” Fillion mentioned. “I wouldn’t dare sabotage this.”