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Carlos Huber | Arquiste: The Architect of Scents

May 6, 2024 | Scent Talks, By The Nose

Carlos Huber, architect turned nose, opens up about his personal journey, culminating in the creation of ARQUISTE. He explains how his fragrances are inspired by diverse global influences, blending cultural stories. Givaudan’s master perfumer RODRIGO FLORES-ROUX talks about his long-time friendship with Carlos, whose appreciation for the construction of scents was deepened. They also discuss Arquiste’s recent achievement: a second Fragrance Foundation Award win for L’Or de Louis.

 

So, Carlos, with your background as an architect specialized in restoration, can you share how the realms of architecture and perfume converged for you, eventually leading to the creation of Arquiste?

I studied architecture in Mexico City and Paris and then came to New York to do my masters in Historic Preservation at Columbia University.

After graduating, I started a job at the corporate office of Ralph Lauren, joining the team of architects carrying out store development and design. That’s when the worlds of retail, fashion, merchandising, architecture and restoration first converged for me. Around that time is when perfumers Yann Vasnier, Rodrigo Flores-Roux and evaluator Sophie Bensamou and I became good friends. I had always been interested in the world of scents and perfume, so learning from them was fascinating.

Eventually I asked Rodrigo to teach me in a more formal way, and he mentored me for over a year. I understood there were indeed a lot of similarities between architecture and perfume: both are experiential. Both have a construction made of “layers”: foundation (base), structure (heart) and ornament (top). And both are inherently tied to a place, a zeitgeist, a culture.

Rodrigo [Flores-Roux, master perfumer at Givaudan], how did you meet Carlos and what has your experience been like working alongside him and Arquiste?
Carlos and I met through a common friend in New York, Sophie Bensamou, a French evaluator who used to live in Mexico, where we both come from. One day, we went to the opening of a boutique in the city, and he started talking about how interested he was in perfume, and that he wanted to do something about that – at the time he was working at Ralph Lauren in the design department. That’s when I invited him to learn more about ingredients and classics, and he started coming to the office every Tuesday, for a year. Eventually, he decided to make a career change and founded Arquiste, together with me and perfumer Yann Vasnier. Sophie became the evaluator. We began with 6 fragrances, and that was 12-13 year ago. Carlos and I became very good friends. We have lots of exchanges all the time, and we are always looking to create fragrances that are new, interesting and appealing. It’s just wonderful.

 

 

ARQUISTE 13 1512x.progressive

 

You were born and raised in Mexico City, started to travel the world from a young age, and are now based in NYC. How have the diverse places you’ve lived in and visited influenced the fragrances you develop for Arquiste?

I have an incurable case of wanderlust. Even if travel is not always easy or glamorous, I have to admit airports are happy places for me. My grandparents came to Mexico as immigrants from Europe, and I myself moved to New York 19 years ago. I grew up feeling like my family and I came “from somewhere else”, and that made me both really attached and “detached” from my home country. I’ve always valued and cherished Mexico, but I feel inherently at ease outside of it too. I guess there’s something nomadic in me.

Travel, curiosity and discovery is at the root of every Arquiste fragrance, because all of them are rooted in a time and place inspired by a trip that then promoted further research, or the inverse. So Sydney Rock Pool is a love letter for my trips to Australia, and L’Or de Louis is based on a story about the Grand Orangerie we learned on a trip to Versailles. Misfit and Nanban are stories researched after visits to the South of France and Japan respectively. All of them are meant to be transportive and evocative of those places.

 

Sydney Louis Misfit Nanbanfrom left to right, top to bottom: Sydney Rock Pool, L’Or de Louis, Misfit, and Nanban

 

Beyond historical places, what are the other sources of inspiration for you? Do you have any favorite perfumers, scents, themes, accords…? Is there a note or material you couldn’t live without?

I’m really interested in stories around cultural exchange. Melting pot kind of stories. I love learning and confirming that we’re more alike than different. Perhaps my immigrant family history is a reason for that.

As far as fragrance notes and accords, I love orange blossom absolute. It’s probably my favorite ingredient. I also love bergamot, iris butter, vetiver, tonka bean and a synthetic note called amber max that’s ever so subtle but present. I think bergamot is perhaps one of the most versatile ingredients. I’ve learned from perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux that every time we add bergamot to almost any type of fragrance the result is more expansive: it gives amazing volume and “air” to a perfume.

Since the early days of Arquiste, you’ve collaborated with Givaudan’s master perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, and more recently with Calice Becker. How do you choose the perfumers to work with?

There needs to be a click: a common interest in history and art, a sense of humor, a warmth to our relationship. The perfumers I work with are my friends, and my teachers in fragrance.

 

Arquite Perfumers(Yann Vasnier, Carlos Huber, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, and Calice Becker)

 

What do you see as the main obstacles in establishing Arquiste as a leading name in niche perfumery? Looking back, is there anything you might have approached differently?

Arquiste has been around for 13 years this year, and I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve created. There’s always things in the short term that seem challenging, but looking back with more distance I very much like the path I’ve taken. Keeping the brand “boutique-level” has allowed me to survive challenging times, and I’ve been able to experiment and try different things without sacrificing too much. Perfume changed my life and I’m so fortunate to be able to do what I do on a daily basis.

There’s always going to be obstacles. You can never really sit down to “smell the roses” even if that’s part of the job description, but to establish Arquiste I’ve had to push through and keep falling in love with what I do. My advice is: don’t get lost in logistical minutia, don’t ever lose your passion or your North Star.

 

Arquiste Class 02

Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Carlos Huber’s masterclass at ScentXplore (2023)

 

Arquiste has just received the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Award for Indie Fragrance of the Year for L’Or de Louis. Congratulations! Tell us about its creation process. How are you feeling?

I’m on cloud nine! It’s such an incredible recognition and I’m so grateful for Rodrigo and Givaudan’s support and of course the Fragrance Foundation judges for celebrating our work. L’Or de Louis is a project Rodrigo and I had been refining and experimenting with for over 12 years. The first iteration for it was something Rodrigo made based on Fleur de Louis, one of the first fragrances we ever developed. From that moment on, we’ve explored working with orange blossom absolute and neroli in many projects, such as Esencia de El Palacio Azahares, a scent we created for Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro. Then, in 2021 I traveled to France with my partner and visited Versailles and learned the story of how Louis XIV’s gardeners would light bonfires inside the Grand Orangery to warm the orange and citrus trees and help them bloom earlier, so that the King and his Court would delight in the scent of orange blossom. I wanted to smell that… the concentrated scent of orange blossom, almost honey-like, with a background of warm woody notes and a faint whiff of smoke.

[Rodrigo Flores-Roux] Arquiste always looks into history, reproducing an olfactory moment in history. One of Arquiste’s first fragrances was Fleur de Louis, which was based on the marriage of Louis XIV to Marie Antoinette. That perfume represented the magnificency of the Palace of Versailles and its flowers: jasmine, orange flower, tuberose and iris. We both adore Versailles and orange flower, which is very dear to Mexico and a theme that we always worked around. One day, Carlos goes to France in the winter and he experiences the smell of L’Orangerie, from inside the Palace, where they burned fires in this little ceramic chimneys. He was completely enamorated with the smell of the smokiness mixed with flowers and citrus leaves. So he asked me to do an accord with burning wood mixed with orange flower. We added a little bit of iris and jasmine, and a slight glimmering fruitness with pomegranate. We wanted it to be molded like gold, honey-like, very ambery. Carlos went the extra mile by putting gold flakes inside the bottle, which is absolutely gorgeous, and the name became very obvious, meaning “the gold of Louis”. It’s a fragrance that shows a lot of care, beauty and innovation.

 

Carlos FF AwardsCarlos receiving the Fragrance Foundation Award for Indie Fragrance of the Year for L’Or de Louis

 

What mark would Arquiste like to leave in history?

A brand that brings inspiration, artistic merit, historic gravitas and above all, joy to your everyday life.

In 2 or 3 words, how would you define perfume?

Pleasure, joy, and beauty in diversity.

Carlos, thank you for your time and for sharing valuable insights with us. Would you like to add something before we wrap up?

Thank you for inviting me to participate! It’s such an honor.

 

 

Lor With Gold 9 16 Sq Winner 1296x

A gift for the ScentXpress readers: Arquiste has generously provided a bottle of L’Or de Louis for a special giveaway exclusive to our readers. To be eligible, you just need to sign up for our newsletter and leave an insightful comment below. The winner will be drawn from the comments within 2 weeks from the date of this article’s publication and contacted via email directly.

Follow Arquiste on Instagram: @arquiste

Check out Arquiste’s website: https://arquiste.com

(images cortesy of Arquiste)

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