Arpa is a new fragrance brand inspired by synesthesia

Arpa is a new multidisciplinary brand inspired by synesthesia

Perfumer Barnabé Fillion launches genre-defying project that extends far beyond the world of fragrance

In May 2020, we previewed Arpa, a new multi-platform brand from perfumer Barnabé Fillion that combines fragrance, music, architecture and imagery into an all-encompassing, immersive experience.

Now, in November 2021, Arpa has officially launched at Dover Street Perfumes Market, and the final collection is just as captivating as originally promised.

Photography: Sophie Gladstone and William Lakin. Originally featured in the May 2020 issue of Wallpaper* (W*254)

Fillion is best known for his work as a home perfumer at Aesop – where he created all of the brand’s fragrances and first candles – and for his collaborations with Lemaire and institutions such as the Guggenheim. Particularly noteworthy are the ‘Biography’ perfumes he created in collaboration with artist Anicka Yi (one of our best perfumes for women), who sought to recreate the personalities of historical women, such as Fusako Shigenobu, or the imagined body odor of future AI- entities .

Arpa sees Fillion reuniting with many of his past collaborators, drawing on their diverse talents to create matching pieces for the brand’s fragrances; these include a range of sculptures and records to match the fragrances, by the likes of Yi and French DJ Pilooski. Graphics were designed by Memphis Group heavyweight Nathalie du Pasquier and an office space designed by Aesop’s house architect Jean-Philippe Bonnefoi. Meanwhile, limited edition bottles have been hand blown by the artist Jochen Holz.

Arpa scents

Photography: Julien Thomas.

The fragrances are at the heart of this collaboration. Like most of Fillion’s work, these perfumes are inspired by his personal travels and historical stories. The first three fragrances (with three more coming soon) include Arco Spettro, inspired by the acid bath craters in Dallol, Ethiopia; Phosphoro, a scent of petitgrain and iris, inspired by the waters around the island of Kyushu, Japan; and Recedere, an earthy blend of licorice, neroli, and gypsum intended to recreate a plaster workshop in the Belgian Blue Forest.

Synesthesia and ‘physiological nostalgia’

Arpa’s launch was delayed by the pandemic, but the impact of that event and what followed has given the project new meaning.

Photography: Julien Thomas.

Over the past two years, there has been a wave of projects that fuse scent with other sensory experiences for both artistic and therapeutic purposes. As a 2021 study into the future of beauty put it, the use of sensory relaxation or “physiological nostalgia” will become a new norm as people look for a screenless way to transform their home space into a meditative zone. Projects that combine audio escapism and aromatherapy, such as the Haeckels x Kelly Lee Owens candle, photographer Lea Colombo’s perfume line, Co incense and Sruli Recht’s incense burner are examples of this trend, but Arpa was early to explore the broader sensory possibilities. to discover smell.

For Fillion, however, this project will always be about synesthesia (experiencing one sense through another) and what we can learn from the merging of our senses. ‘At Arpa I work with the purest natural materials’, he says. ‘I listen to them to generate broadcasts of extra-conscious wavelengths; to eschew a future of artificiality in favor of merry poetry.

‘Everything I do in perfumery is visual and related to my own synesthesia, to convey not only a memory but also a texture. I’m always chasing a blurry image that gets sharper over time.’ I


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