Launching exclusively at Barneys New York yesterday, Arquiste, a line of scents that recreates historical moments in history took our noses by surprise. Created by architect Carlos Huber (and partner of Oprah fave Nate Berkus) each scent not only stands for a specific historical moment, but the notes that make up the fragrance are pulled from what is known about that point in time.
Not only will you walk away with a bottle filled with an intoxicating scent, but each purchase also comes with a booklet explaining the notes and correlating historical representation. Read on for our interview with Huber as he explains his passion behind this project and what we can look forward to developing from the line!
Can you walk me through your fragrance line and tell me the story behind it?
The idea behind it was very simple. I’m a preservation architect, so my experience is with buildings — restoring buildings, traveling to sites, and doing a lot of research on building a city, a neighborhood, anything — to see what is significant about it and what we’re going to restore. That has always been my passion — history and architecture. A third thing that I was always interested in was fragrance. I had the chance here in New York to meet two noses that became my mentors really, and I took classes with them for a year and a half. One of them was Rodrigo Flores-Roux he’s a nose at Givaudan he’s a senior perfumer, and the other is Yann Vasnier who also is at Givaudan. They’ve done amazing stuff with Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs (Bang and Lola) they’re really incredible. So, after taking classes with them I thought, ‘What if I really love doing this? What if I could combine my expertise with preservation and sort of answer the questions that I have when I visit a working site in Venice? What did it feel like, what did it smell like?’ Going to Versailles and learning about Marie Antoinette and thinking, ‘I wonder what she wore, I wonder what all the people in the gallery smelled like?’
I started doing the research, the noses actually approached me and said you know what, you really need to present this to Givaudan because they’re going to love it and there’s not anything like this. So, we presented it and opened the account and this whole thing became a reality, little by little. We started designing the packaging, I worked on all these images, which are done in Mexico City with an antiques dealer there, every object in these tablets are antiques or integrated with the store. I had all these sort of dossiers on each of the fragrances — the moment, the place, the notes, anything to do with it. After that, it was just translating them into a formula. So if someone said that at the meeting of, you know, Louis XIV and his wife in 1660 their pavillion was made out of wood and smelled still of pine and tar, you take that into account. If you know that she was perfumed with orange blossom, you take that into account.
It’s almost like you’re bringing history to the present.
Right, and you’re wearing it on your skin. It’s a little bit of a time travel. You become another ingredient really, when you wear a perfume. So why shouldn’t you participate in the story?
Do you have an idea of which scents you want to do next?
I’m actually working on two right now. One is sort of like the next episode of Fleur de Louis, what is Louis XIV when he’s already in Versaille and he built this orange grove that was incredible — it’s actually the most interesting part of the garden architecturally, and I wanted to focus on what that scent was. So taking into account still the formulas of what the people would wear at the time, but now saturating it in with a really rich, honey-like, sweet orange blossom. The other one is a gardenia that is incredible. That one is based in Cuba, 1930s, and is this idea based on this Cuban singer — a real story, once again, and imagining her with the gardenia in her hair, and the gardenia sort of withering a little bit after the end of the night, very potent, alive still, but it’s the final moments.
Since some of these scents go so far back in time as the 1100s, do you ever think you’ll go to the 1960s or the 1970s?
I used to live in Ibiza, Spain, working for an architecture firm. When you walk around the island there’s rosemary and lavender everywhere, growing on the side of the roads. When you’re there, you learn a lot about the hippie invasion of the 1970s, and so what I wanted to do was the hippie invasion of the 70s, and combine that rosemary and lavender, and all those herbs from the island with the scents that are being brought from those hippies from England and France and Germany — the patchouli, the rose, everything that was very popular at that time. So it’s going to be an interesting mix, because you have that Mediterranean side to it, but also a very oriental, hippie inspiration behind it.
Arquiste fragrances $165-$175, Barneys.com