Discover Drake’s favourite perfume house: Ex Nihilo

Haute couture fragrance.

[P]ersonalisation has been one of the biggest trends in fashion and luxury over the past few years. From our silk pyjamas to our luggage – we want beautiful pieces that are unique to us. The same goes for our scent. With so many fabulous niche fragrances to choose from these days – who wants to smell like anyone else?

Named after the Latin phrase for “out of nothing”, Ex Nihilo is the Parisian perfumer bringing its bespoke approach to fragrance around the world. Using only the finest ingredients, each of the house’s signature scents can be personalised using their innovative in-store technology.

Step into the Paris or London boutiques, and you’ll find yourself immersed in art deco luxury, ready to be guided through the process of finding your dream scent. And you’ll be in good company: Drake is a huge fan, as is Pharrell.

Co-founder Benoît Verdier talked to us recently about the avant-garde inspiration behind the brand.

Hi Benoit, what’s the philosophy behind Ex Nihilo?

Ex Nihilo is founded by a team of three of us – all friends who have a background in the fragrance industry. Our inspiration was to take something from the past – recalling the French glory days of high perfume, but to make it modern for today. We love the idea of having something timeless that is precious.

Why was it important to be able to personalise the scents?

Personalisation is a mega trend. You can personalise everything from your Nikes to your cars, but at this time there weren’t many options to do something personal with fragrance. It’s such part of the history of fragrance to have something unique, to have something made especially for you in front of your eyes. We wanted to make it entertaining too, something that’s fun and sexy!

When you travel a lot you can find the same things everywhere else in the world. For us it’s important to create an exclusive experience – to be different. Fragrance is such an intimate and important thing to people.

How does the personalisation process work in stores?

It’s really something new – the technology exists by itself in the big labs, but we managed to downsize it and make it convenient and easy to use in our stores. The machine we have in Paris takes up a whole wall. When we were only six months old we met with Harrods who wanted us to create something smaller to work in the Salon de Parfums. This uses the same technology that’s in Paris – it works with wi-fi and a database that holds all the formulas for our fragrances.

When you start it’s about emotion and mood. You choose one base fragrance, then you can tailor it with three additional selections to play with it according to how you feel. It’s a process of discovery and it’s all about the magic of fragrances. We try to propose to you two choices – something that’s most comfortable for you and then something outside of your comfort zone. You sample it and then we create it there and then using the machine. We produce your fragrance in front of your eyes, you also receive a certificate of authenticity and when you’ve finished your bottle, we can recreate it.

How should it feel when you find the perfect fragrance?

It should be very immediate. Like good food! We’re not about trying to convince someone to like something. We shouldn’t have to. It’s even more immediate than fashion – it’s an emotional connection.

In France we speak a lot about having an olfactory wardrobe.  It’s also a statement – if you wear some new Gucci shoes they say a lot about your personality. With fragrance, it’s more difficult. It’s less obvious, but it can express even more about who you are than clothing ever can.

Your customers are very fashion focused – could this lead to any interesting collaborations?

We take a haute couture approach to what we do. Living in Paris we’re always looking for new talents to work with. We are working with a fashion photographer in September. We’ll work on the scent and imagery together. All of our marketing images are shot by fashion rather than packshot photographers. For London Fashion Week Men’s we scented the Craig Green show. The creative world is very important to us.

What’s the starting point for a new fragrance collaboration?

Moodboards, visuals – thinking about our different universes. For someone like Craig Green, there are links between his avant-garde universe and ours.

I love Iris Van Herpen and that would be a dream collaboration for us.

We’ve heard Drake is a big fan of the brand. Which is his favourite scent?

He loves Amber Sky and Oud Vendome, he buys from us in Toronto. Drake is drawn to the woody, musky scents. I like the idea that people come to the store even when they’re celebrities and buy the product. We are pretty low key and not celebrity driven, but when we have people like this embracing the brand it’s very exciting. Pharrell is also a fan from finding us in Paris a few years back.

How do you want people to discover the brand?

We focus on the material and the service. We are growing our fanbase slowly but surely as the brand is new. It’s about quality and word of mouth. We are outsiders in an industry with many big companies. Supporting young creative talents through collaborations is something that’s really important to us. We work with eleven perfumers and when we work with them there’s no limits in terms of the quality of the materials. They have a lot of creative freedom.

French Affair, Venenum Kiss, Midnight Special – your fragrances have very sexy, distinctive names. How do you come up with them?

When we’re thinking about new products, we produce a lot of moodboards with visual inspiration. We pay attention to the trends in magazines, as well as what we discover on Pinterest and Instagram – it’s very digital for us!

Thanks Benoit!

Find out more about Ex Nihilo on their website, and visit their boutique in Harrods, Salon de Parfums in London, or on 352 Rue Saint Honoré in Paris.