At number 352 on Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris stands the flagship boutique for the contemporary French fragrance house Ex Nihilo. Framed by an electric blue awning and avant-garde marble signage, it offers a distinctive change of pace from its neighbouring stores – classical Parisian institutions such as Goyard and Moynat. Which, is precisely what the brand’s founding members – Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère and Benoît Verdier – had intended, conceptually and aesthetically. “We are the outsiders,” exclaims Verdier. “The perfume industry is so conservative, we wanted to challenge convention and create a totally new experience for people to enjoy,” he adds.
Founded in 2013, Ex Nihilo distils the antithesis of mass-produced perfume, offering a niche collection of scents that can be subtly customised to best suit to the wearer using a pioneering Osmologue machine, installed in the brand’s aforementioned flagship store and standalone concessions New York and London. “The idea was to get back to the earliest history of French perfumery, when everything was bespoke,” muses Verdier, adding: “It was unique and personal, which to me spells real luxury.”
Next week, Ex Nihilo unveils its tenth unisex fragrance, Sweet Morphine, a floral concoction by the celebrated nose Nathalie Cetto, which is both delicate and lascivious, with a heart of iris and mimosa. To celebrate the launch, AnOther spoke with Verdier about his sensory inspirations.
Why is personalisation so important to Ex Nihilo?
“In this modern world, people can personalise everything, from your sneakers to your car, so why not fragrance? We wanted to offer a luxurious and intimate experience in our boutiques, inviting customers to create their own demi-bespoke fragrance. You tell us your emotional preferences and we will translate this by modifying your preferred scent with the addition of a single raw ingredient of the highest quality.”
Tell us about the concept behind Sweet Morphine…
“This is our tenth scent and although it’s unisex, I feel it’s slightly more feminine. We were interested in creating an unconventional floral perfume that’s modern but comfortable. We enlisted Nathalie Cetto, who works in Paris and has concocted many fragrances for luxury fashion houses.”
Why the name, Sweet Morphine?
“Because it’s addictive! There are feminine, floral notes of lilac, bergamot and iris, infused with sweet but subtle powdery vanilla. It’s very yummy! We also loved the idea that the scent would change slightly on the skin; it adjusts to its wearer and becomes comfortable.”
And yet it’s unisex?
“Yes, its unisex. The modernity comes from this contradiction. We love the paradox. For example, for Vetiver Moloko we took something that was traditionally masculine and gave it a feminine perspective.”
How long does it take to concoct an Ex Nihilo scent, from initial concept to final spritz?
“Honestly, it's different every time. Sweet Morphine took at least eight months, while our inaugural fragrance Fleur Narcotique was very quick – we barely touched the formula because we just loved the result.”
Tell us about your creative process…
“It’s very organic. Fortunately, Sylvie, Olivier and I have very similar taste, so we actually agree on a lot of things – we just continue until it’s perfect. We create the concept, set the tone and provide the mood-boards, it's teamwork.”
What is your signature scent?
“It depends on my mood and the season. I tend to wear a customised version of Vetiver Moloko, but I also love Bois d’Hiver and Cologne 352."
Sweet Morphine is available from late November.