Tonight in The Scented Salon we are talking to Carlos Huber, the founder and Creative Director of Arquiste, the niche perfume house. Carlos lives in New York.
Buenas noches Carlos. Welcome to the Antipodes. Thankyou for coming to New Zealand. What was your first cologne?
Carlos: Jordan thank you, I love this faraway country. My first encounter with fragrance was Agua de Colonia Sanborns, an orange blossom cologne very popular in Mexico, sold in the famous Sanborns drugstores.
Jordan: What did you wear in the 80’s and 90’s?
Carlos: As a young kid I wore Nautica Eau de Cologne and Polo Sport Blue , which were both gifts from my parents.
Jordan: From your parents? Very nice. What did they wear?
Carlos: Dad wore Ralph Lauren’s first fragrance, the eau de cologne Polo.
Mum alternated between Les Belles de Ricci Liberte Acidulee and Trésor.
Jordan: Do you buy for yourself?
Carlos: I do; its one of my favourite things to buy for myself. When I was 17 I was studying Art History and Italian in Florence. I wanted to buy shoes from the Gucci store so I saved my lunch money until I could shop there. When I entered the store I smelled Envy, and I bought it immediately; its been lovely olfactive memory ever since.
Jordan: How was Italy?
Carlos: Wonderful, though I confess I had a higher expectactions than what I encountered. I had this idea my experiences in Tuscany would be similar to the movie Stealing Beauty. Eccentric ex-pats, wonderful parties in Renaissance villas, afternoon walks in vineyards and olive groves. That mostly happened to the girls in my classes, to whom Italians were more than friendly. It’s different for a guy, you’re competition, expecially if you look somewhat Mediterranean.
Jordan: Does your partner buy for you?
Carlos: Once I received as a gift Tom Ford’s Champaca Absolute which is a rich, buttery, tropical floral. I love that fragrance.
Jordan: Cologne, EDT or EDP?
Carlos: Cologne to wake up, like coffee. Then I dress and have breakfast. Just before walking out the door I spray an EDP. In the evening I top up or change the EDP. I’ll usually take a quick shower before bed, and do a splash of cologne again, which is a routine I’ve had since I was a child and got tucked in bed by my Mom. The Cologne washes away the day and leaves me feeling clean.
Jordan: Aha, I have never understood cologne before. That sounds like a great way to start the day. What is the cologne that takes you to dreaming? Is this what you would call a sleep scent?
Carlos: Agua de Colonia Sanborns is still what I fall asleep with.
Jordan: Here is a mystery bottle from the Middle East. What do you smell?
Carlos: Rose and orange blossom, mineral effects, lavender, and rosemary.
Jordan: What are your perfume preferences or notes that you like?
Carlos: Orange blossom, gardenia, lavender.
(The circular photos can be clicked to view the captions)
Jordan: Is there a fragrant experience that you would like to share with us?
Nature captivates me. I am often late for appointments. Having left on time I become absorbed in the scents around me.
Yesterday I visited Waiheke Island and found rose-colored flowers that looked Mediterranean.
The island was a very aromatic environment. I smelt honeysuckle and tasted it too. The Stonyridge vineyard was surrounded by a wall of pine whose scent combined with the gravel path and olive trees.
What suits you for work?
Carlos: In the New York winter I wear L’Etrog which is like bringing summer to winter with it’s refreshing lightness. It also brightens up a winter’s night when we are all wrapped up in layers and layers of coats and scarves. In summer I am more promiscuous with scent and flit from scent to scent – I love rich, white florals with an edge.
The Love Angle
Jordan: What about love, if you care to share?
Carlos: Love happens. No strategy here!
Jordan: You are Mexican. Have you ever come across any discrimination?
Carlos: It’s sad that you have to ask that. Occasionally when I travel I have been surprised by people’s ignorance and lack of tact, usually by people who have never experienced Mexico. Mexico is a very old, extremely beautiful country with historic cities, good food and wonderful people. It has some problems like any country in the world, and considering our history, the country has been through a lot. However, its not as unsafe as people think it to be. The racism is more of a put down from people who are not so much ignorant as unaware that we are a very proud country.
Carlos: My family heritage is mostly Jewish from Poland and Russia, Greece and Turkey, we are Ashkenazi with some Sephardic, as well as a little Spanish-Mexican. We just celebrated Passover as a traditional family gathering with my Greek-Turkish grandmather. We are part of the 40,000 Jewish people in Mexico which has a population of 120 million people.
Jordan: When did your ancestors arrive in Mexico?
Carlos: I’m the second generation born in Mexico. Most of my family arrived in the 1920s.
Jordan: Have you ever met Chandler Burr?
Carlos: Yes he designed an Arquiste scent dinner in New York last year. Anima Dulcis was paired with hazelnut duck in mole. Mole is a Mexican savoury sauce with very complex flavours and ingredients, including chocolate.
Jordan: Besides architecture, historic building preservation and perfumery, what are your interests?
Carlos: I am a running man, especially when travelling. It’s great way to see a city, it’s architecture and to take photos. An hour is a good amount of time although in a new city I may only actually do the cardio for five minutes as I stop to take photos of buildings.
The Gaining of Knowledge
Jordan: Where and how did you gain knowledge?
• Perfume mentorship under Rodrigo Flores-Roux, senior perfumer at Givaudan US.
• Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University.
• Professional Architecture Degree from Universidad Iberoamericana, with a semester abroad at the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris.
• Italian, Photography, Art History and Interior Design courses in several art schools in Florence, Italy.
• Interior Architecture for a New York Townhouse apartment. The concept was to create a Modern space, yet filled with historical references.
• Project Manager with the Architecture team at Polo Ralph Lauren Store Development, NYC.
• Planning and execution of art/preservation installation The Ethics of Dust, Venice, Palazzo Ducale & Bolzano, Manifesta Biennial, concept & direction by artist & architect Jorge Otero-Pailos.
• Columbia University Preservation projects included: Proposal for the reuse of Madison Square Garden structure and redevelopment of the historic Farley Post Office, in NYC.
• Internship at Li/Saltzman Architects, Architecture firm and preservation consultants.
• Construction management in several residential projects with developers Grupo GA & A, Mexico City.
• Collaboration in the design and execution of several competition-projects in Spain, with Coll-Barreu Arquitectos.
• Development of studies for the Basque Govermnent’s Housing Department , under Architect Arantza Ruiz de Velasco, Urban planner.
• Design of oceanfront and countryside properties. Also the renovation of a Medieval masonry house in historic D’Alt Vila, Ibiza, with local architecture studio MINIMUM.
Jordan: Do you think perfumery is art, artisanal, design and manufacturing, molecular architecture or something else?
Carlos: Perfumery is all of the above.
Jordan: What is the purpose of perfume?
Carlos: You can’t reduce this to a classification. Perfume encompasses a lot of things, its more than just a beauty product. It encapsulates grooming rituals, olfactive memories and their connection with human experiences.
The Purpose of Art
Jordan: What is the purpose of art?
Carlos: For me, art is a way to communicate an experience.
Art is emotional, it can either give us a sensation of awe and well-being when it is beautiful, or it can intensify emotions when it is complex and provoking.
My goal with Arquiste is to create art for the skin; an artistic, ‘emotional’ experience on your skin.
Jordan: Do you and your partner/family/friends exchange fragrant gifts?
Yes, with my immediate family and always and often for a partner.
Jordan: Pick a person you admire in Perfume Land and tell us about this person.
Carlos: Can I pick three? Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Yann Vasnier, and Sophie Bensamou.
Rodrigo and Yann manage to be incredibly talented and professional as well as being happy and warm people. I met Rodrigo in New York through Yann Vasnier. Rodrigo is a fellow Mexican and the three of us have now worked closely creating the Arquiste range.
Sophie Bensamou, from Quest/ Givaudan, has one of the best noses in the industry. The fact that she is behind so many blockbuster fragrances is not known to the general public, but as the evaluator, she is the master in finessing the formulas and harnessing the perfumer’s talent for the ultimate bang.
Jordan: Thank you Carlos. We look forward to your next adventure in New Zealand as well as your next perfume. Vaya con perfume.
The Cire Trudon / Arquiste Candle – Mérida
Sanborn – Agua de Colonia – Orange Blossom colonge
El Naranjo (1994), a book by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes.
Fuentes is concerned with the collision between old worlds and new ones, particularly in Mexico; his conclusion is that cultures are not destroyed but go underground, to bloom again in unsuspected ways.
-The Orange Tree – Book Review by Nick Caistor / The Independent
The Orange Tree (English Version) – Carlos Fuentes