Astier de Villatte cofounders Ivan Pericoli and Benoît de Astier de Villatte are dedicated masters of the hands-on approach. Their ceramic line is created and finished in-house with traditional techniques, and their notebooks and guide to Paris are printed with an elderly Linotype machine at a firm they purchased to save from extinction.
But the world of fragrance proved a different kind of enterprise for the artistic pair.
“It’s like we’ve discovered the fifth dimension,” declared Pericoli, who introduced the brand’s line of seven eaux de cologne at its German launch event at Berlin’s MDC Cosmetic last week. The Astier de Villatte team also presented their newest scented candle, Palais de Tokyo, created for the Paris institution.
“It was an incredible experience for us because in art school, we’ve been trained to develop our eyes, our visual sense, and no one ever explained how to develop the nose,” Pericoli said. “So these perfumers have been our teachers.”
Chief among them is Takasago’s Françoise Caron, who has worked with the brand for 10 years, and developed Astier de Villatte’s scented candles.
Astier de Villatte entered the personal fragrance market in 2008 with three scents she created, Eau Chic, Eau Fugace, and Eau de Cologne. 2010 brought Commune de Paris 1871, made with the fashion brand of the same name. All Astier de Villatte’s scents were reintroduced this April after three years of redesign, adding Caron’s Grand Chalet, and Elixir du Docteur Flair to the lineup, as well as Splash Orange Amère by Christophe Raynaud of Firmenich.
At MDC Cosmetics, where they mingle with Santa Maria Novella, Mykita, and Susanne Kaufmann products, Astier de Villatte eaux de cologne retail for 85 euros ($95) for a 50-ml spray, 130 euros ($145) for 150-mls, and 320 euros ($357) for a prodigious 900-ml splash bottle.
While the brand’s home fragrances can be evocative, heady and rich, Pericoli said they prefer the subtle citrusy chic of eaux de cologne when it comes to scenting the body.
“We’re not very keen on very strong scents which can stick on you. We like the idea of, you wake up, you’re a little bit ‘Mmm’ [yawning] then you refresh,” he said. “You have the cologne splash which wakes you up and makes you happy. This is more or less the concept.”
And when it comes to scenting the world, Pericoli and team take the slow, selective approach.
With the launch in Berlin, Astier de Villatte fragrances are now sold in only five stores worldwide, including the brand’s two flagships in Paris, New York’s Aedes Perfumery, and Arts & Science in Tokyo. In total, Astier de Villatte products — ceramics, candles, fragrance, incense sticks, dishwashing liquid, hand soap and cream, notebooks and a city guide — are sold in around 300 doors globally. No department stores, no chain stores, and not discounted.
With a view to its newest market, Pericoli said Germany was important for the brand, and that consumers here have both a love of natural quality ingredients and an appreciation for the new and modern. Astier de Villatte is also currently in discussions to enter another store in the country, Cologne’s Kenkawai, which already carries its candles, said the brand’s sales manager, Kelsang Gonnot. It’s also, he noted, the natural place to showcase the brand’s love of the fragrance classic, which was, after all, born in its namesake German city.