A personal touch: perfumer Ex Nihilo on its made-to-measure operation
As alternative Parisian perfumer Ex Nihilo launches its very first – and very exclusive – limited edition fragrance box set, we sat down with Benoît Verdier, one of the French maison's three founders, to find out more.
'Choosing a fragrance is more intimate than picking a dress or a jacket,' he says. Latin for 'out of nothing', Verdier cofounded the brand in 2013 with close friends Sylvie Loday and Olivier Royère, the latter of whom he met while studying at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (commonly known as Sciences Po). 'We are big consumers, and one day we thought, let’s create our own brand. We wanted to deliver exclusive, destination services, which disrupt and challenge the traditional approach to fragrance,' he explains. 'We wanted to give it a twist, that je ne sais quoi.' Their unique slant is undoubtedly working – the luxury brand is currently enjoying a moment of expansion, with a newly opened space in Moscow’s TsUM shopping centre and an upcoming concession within Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York launching in September.
Of course, this summer the French maison also launched a first limited edition fragrance box set at its store within Harrods’ Salon de Parfums, where the exclusive scents will be made and blended on site. Priced at £2,500 each, just ten of the box sets have been produced, each painstakingly made by craftsmen in Italy from wood, brass and Mother of Pearl sourced from Tahiti. The bottles themselves are equally as ornate; each decorated with a specific graphic pattern and topped with a special gold coloured stopper.
One part boutique, one part laboratory, each of Ex Nihilo’s spaces are outfitted in wood and marble with a royal blue colour scheme, created by architectural doyen Christophe Pillet, with a large Osmologue 'mixing machine' robot as a centrepiece. 'It was a challenge to make [the Osmologue] so small, as it is normally designed to fit in a laboratory,' Verdier explains. 'Despite his celebrity, Christophe supported us from the very beginning, when nobody knew us and we didn't have big budgets.'
Verdier’s background is in brand consultancy and strategy, easily identified in his attention to detail and astute design. The entire Ex Nihilo experience is a considered, made-to-measure operation. Customers chose from eight unisex base scents, before personalising to taste with raw ingredients ranging from vanilla and jasmine to sandalwood and iris. 'Usually, a bespoke fragrance can take up to one year. We offer a demi-bespoke service which will show you how this is made, but you are able to take it away with you.'
Fusing artisan craft and ornate tradition with modern design, each glass fragrance bottle comes encased in a graphic, foam box. There is also an option for fine bejeweled toppers, created by the man responsible for Hermès' opulent buttons, a name kept closely guarded by Verdier. He did, though, reveal that there is an upcoming fine jewellery project to create precious stone perfume caps set to launch later this year. Watch this space.