Barnabé Fillion’s new multisensory perfume project incorporates artistic and musical collaborations, inviting you to “celebrate life in all the details”
- Who is it? Arpa is an interdisciplinary perfume brand and a “synesthesia institute” launched by the famous “nose” Barnabé Fillion
- Why do I want it? The evocative line of fragrances is inspired by sacred geological sites and intimate memories, and is enhanced by retro-futuristic design and musical collaborations
- Where can I receive it? Via ssense.com and arpastudios.com
Who is it? Arpa was founded by Barnabé Fillion, model and photographer turned perfumer-creator who has been Aesop’s “nose” for almost ten years. After assisting photographers including Helmut Newton from the age of 16 to 25, Fillion was brought to collaborate with artists who worked in different mediums – poets, architects and yes, a perfumer – by a common interest in the concept of synesthesia. “I totally fell in love with the language of perfumery,” he says. He then pursued studies in botany and phytotherapy and completed an apprenticeship with Christine Nagel, nose at Hermès. A little later, he will meet Dennis Paphitis, the founder of Aesop, starting their ten-year working relationship.
Alongside his work with Aesop, Fillion continued to cross creative boundaries, producing fragrances in close collaboration with visual artists such as Anicka Yi, Marguerite Humeau and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, and fashion brands such as Comme des Garçons , Paul Smith, etc. recently Rick Owens. Cooperating with interdisciplinary creatives he admires is his “inspiration” to found Arpa (the name itself is an allusion to the lyre in Greek mythology, a symbol of the arts). “The project is dedicated to these friendships,” adds Fillion. “It’s really to celebrate those friendships and those collaborations.”
That being said, the first fragrances released by Arpa draw on Fillion’s more personal memories of his travels around the world, from Ethiopia to Belgium to Japan – synesthetic memories, in which fragrances are intertwined with sights and sounds. “It was a way of sharing very personal moments,” he says. “They are so lively for me. They’re so full of synesthesia, so it’s easy for me to convey.
Why do I want it? So far, Arpa has launched three of the seven main fragrances, each representing a site of cultural, geological and personal significance. With notes of juniper, musk, incense and vetiver, Arco Spettro evokes the volcanic acid baths of Dallol, Ethiopia – one of the hottest places on earth, with links to the French poet founder Arthur Rimbaud. Recedere, meanwhile, reflects sunlight through the trees of the Blue Forest, south of Brussels, with scents of iris, myrrh and sage.
Finally, Fosforo is inspired by the Japanese island of Kyushu, and more specifically the town of Beppu, famous for its hot springs and its annual fireworks festival. “I went there and I had this shock to see these cracks in the ground,” recalls Fillion. “At the same time, I was looking at the beauty of the fireworks in the sky and seeing all these families with their children playing in this scenario. It was inspiring.
Fillion takes care to emphasize that Arpa is not just a brand and designates the project as “the institute of synaesthesia”. This institute, he says, is building an archive of “primeval nature and geological landscapes” through its perfumes, with the awareness that these landscapes may not last forever.
The striking glass bottles that hold Arpa’s fragrances combine this retro-futuristic approach to preserving the natural world with Fillion’s love of collaboration. Crafted by London-based glass artist Jochen Holz, the laminated glass bottles are inspired by Italian futurism, as well as landscapes that match each scent: the Belgian forest, for example, is evoked in rich yellow, green and blue glass . , depicting the sun through the leafy canopy, and wisps of morning mist. These bottles are also housed in a two-part glycerin case that doubles as a scented cleansing soap, while the composers have contributed melodies – or “frequencies” – to add an experiential element to each scent.
“I believe perfume is a gentle weapon, a courteous gesture,” says Fillion. “I believe in the importance of ritual, the importance of having moments where you create a safe bubble that nurtures you. For me, Arpa is an inspiration to celebrate life in every detail, everything that you taste, everything you see and hear.
Where can I receive it? Via ssense.com and arpastudios.com
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