Carlos Huber: Scented dreams

Carlos Huber of Arquiste

Portrait: Hector Arjona — Courtesy of Carlos Huber

How did you come up with the idea of Arquiste? What makes the products special?

I was on a flight back to New York after a long weekend sometime in the spring of 2010. I realised the day I was looking forward to the most was the day I had my perfume course with nose Rodrigo Flores-Roux. At the time, I was reading a book on a wood pavilion built for the meeting of the French and Spanish courts in the 17th century. There were so many references to building materials, vegetation, fashion, and even comments on 'how it smelled' that it made me concentrate on what that olfactive experience would be like. I asked myself if you could 'restore' the experience of that place in time by recreating that scent. For this, the approach needed to be accurate, detailed, honest. I believe the minute research, the attention to original ingredients, and the talent of the perfumers I work with (Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux) has resulted in a concept that has depth but is tied to very wearable creations. I hope people sense the passion we have put into these fragrances.


Do you have a personal favourite fragrance?

Fleur de Louis and Infanta en flor are my favourites — I love iris and orange blossom. There's something about these very seemingly clean, traditional scents that actually is very dark and sexy to me.

What is your most vivid memory connected to a specific scent?

I have many. But most of them are linked to people… I never forget what somebody I love smells like.

Could you tell us a little bit about your thought process behind the creation of your line? What kinds of stories intrigue you the most?

Each scent I create begins with a story, springing from a particular place whose history I want to re-discover. I really enjoy reading history, because it creates a retrospective experience in your mind. The deeper I dig in research, the more details I find about a specific era and the customs of its people. Visiting the site is also super important, since it clues me into what the 'present' of that historic site is like. From building materials, to cosmetic habits, to botanical references, I seek to find all the possible angles that will aid me to restore the olfactory dimension of that particular time and place. The stories that intrigue me the most are exactly the ones that urge me to re-imagine the experience from the olfactory standpoint. Once I have gathered enough information to experiment with, I work with noses Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux to start 'reconstructing' the scents, reaching out for the accurate raw materials. This process seeks to develop creations that are both historically accurate and artistic.

Cire Trudon candle

What is the most memorable comment that you have heard about your fragrances?

Once, at a perfume fair, a big, butch-looking man approached our stand and said that he loved Anima Dulcis, the spicy/woody/gourmand scent in the line. Turns out he was a detective with the NYPD, and he loved the fragrance because after a particularly hard day, it made him feel protected. He said he would fall asleep sniffing his wrist. We all let a collective "Awww" when he finished his story… It was really endearing and of course, made me think how special something like scent can be.

What was it like working for Ralph Lauren?

It was great! I actually met many of my best friends there, and I was lucky to work with very talented and wonderful people. Ralph Lauren is a company built on entrepreneurship and passion, and this gave me the impulse to pursue my own dream. The brand is one of the best in creating an environment and a life around its products; it taught me that creativity doesn't stop at only one discipline. The brand itself brings together fashion and beauty, interior design, and even historic preservation, filtered through a strong and consistent point of view. This multi-disciplinary approach gave me the confidence to go into perfumery, without limiting or interrupting my love for architecture.

Arquiste bottles

What are your plans for the future?

Arquiste saw the launch of a new fragrance this November, Boutonnière No.7, the seventh scent in the Arquiste line. It was a real challenge to create a scent based on the story of a boutonnière flower and make it appealing to modern men. It's green, fresh and woody, all very masculine, but throughout, the gardenia is at its heart. In essence, it's a fragrance that really sums up the excitement of a night at the opera — the equivalent of a modern night out. The first 500 pieces of Boutonnière No.7 came in a numbered edition set with a custom-made gardenia stickpin designed by talented jewellers M. de Phocas and silk-knot cufflinks. We also produced a travel set with a refillable atomiser that I have personally found to be one my most useful accessories for holiday. And most recently, we collaborated with renowned French candle maker Cire Trudon on an exclusive candle scent called "Mérida." It incorporates the scent of ripe fruit, tropical woods, and celebratory fireworks, and takes its inspiration from a warm night in 1865 when the Empress Carlota visited the ancient Mayan city of Mérida. Carlota captured the moment forever in a love letter to her emperor, Maximilian. The candle pays homage to my home of Mexico and features bright guava, warm blossoms, woody mahogany, and just a whisper of gunpowder. I was so honoured to be the first outsider to create a fragrance for this incredibly well-respected and well-recognised candle maker. And of course, more preservation projects and more "smelling" always lies ahead. Stay tuned!

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