Whether it be through historic preservation or fragrance conception, re-creating a moment in history is what drives Mexican-born architect Carlos Huber.
“So much of history has an olfactive experience associated with it,” said Huber, who in September will launch Arquiste, a collection of six history-inspired scents, exclusively at Barneys New York.
From the first meeting of Louis XIV and his bride Infanta Maria Teresa in 1660 to a sacred Jewish ceremony in Medieval Italy circa 1175, Huber’s goal is to transport his customer to another time and place through his well-researched elixirs. “You have to take into account people, place, vegetation and the building to describe the soul of the story,” said Huber, founder and president of Arquiste, a word he coined to symbolize his two passions, architecture and artistry.
With a résumé that includes designing interiors for Polo Ralph Lauren stores and collaborating on historically based art installations, Huber said he has “always been interested in perfumery.”
Huber said he “used clues” from his extensive research to olfactively relive specific moments in history.
“I use the same approach in the creation of scent as I do in historical preservation,” said Huber, who worked with Givaudan perfumers and took fragrance classes while working on the collection. “It’s about capturing the soul of the story.”
Launching at all nine Barneys doors as well as on barneys.com, industry sources estimate Arquiste could generate between $500,000 to $750,000 in its first year at retail. Each bottle will be sold with an accompanying booklet describing each historical story represented in the collection.
Huber’s six unisex eaux de parfum are:
• Fleur de Louis (June, 1660) — $175 for 50 ml. A woody floral with notes of orange blossom, Florentine orris and white cedarwood to represent Louis XIV’s first meeting with his young Spanish bride under a newly assembled pavilion of pine and cedarwood on the French-Spanish border. “This takes into account the woods and the iris powder and pomade [used by the French court],” said Huber.
• Infanta En Flor (June, 1660) — $175 for 50 ml. A floral musky amber scent designed to symbolize Maria Teresa, the Infanta of Spain, who was offered to Louis XIV in exchange for peace. The blend of orange flower water, Spanish leather, citrus resin and immortelle, is “a little more austere and discreet” than the version inspired by her French husband, said Huber.
• Anima Dulcis (November, 1965) — $165 for 50 ml. This “baroque gourmand” fragrance interprets the interior of the Royal Convent of Jesus Maria, in Mexico City, where nuns once prepared spiced chocolate with a mysterious blend of chilies and spices. “I used ingredients inspired by a Mexican cookbook from the 17th Century,” said Huber. “There was a lot of secrecy in the Royal nunneries.”
• Flor Y Canto (August, 1400) — $165 for 50 ml. Described as an “opulent white floral,” this aromatic juice has notes of Mexican Tuberose, magnolia, plumeria and marigold, and celebrates the feeling and smells of an Aztec festival. “To the Aztecs, flowers and plants were the most important offerings for the Gods behind human life,” said Huber, who set out to capture the sound of drums, wafting of incense and the freshness of outdoor air in the flower-based scent.
• L’Etrog (October, 1175) — $165 for 50 ml. Set in Calabria, Italy and inspired by the festival of Sukkot, this citrus chypre fragrance stars the Calabrian cedrat, also known as the citron, which serves as a meaningful part of Jewish holy ritual. “Here we capture the smell of the cabin [which is erected for the harvest-based holiday], palm leaves, willow branches, myrtle and date fruit,” said Huber, who added that etrog is the Hebrew word for citrus.
• Aleksandr (January, 1837) — $165 for 50 ml. Inspired by a frigid winter afternoon in St. Petersburg, Russia, this blend of neroli, fir balsam, Russian leather and amberette, tells the story of a burly fur and leather-wearing gentleman, riding off on a sledge to fight a duel. “I took the scene from a recorded true story,” said Huber. “This scent contains notes from woods common to Russian forests and actually gives off the feeling of [being] cold.”