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Barneys Newcomer Inspiritu Explores Spirituality Through Scent

The Italian candle and scent brand has entered the prestige department store's fine fragrance assortment in New York and Beverly Hills.

During their 15-year friendship, Italian actor, television personality and model Luca Calvani has relished discussions with branding strategist Olivia Mariotti on music, books and spirituality. So, when he was considering developing a meditative candle and fragrance line, it was unsurprising that he mulled over the concept with Mariotti — but her response was decidedly surprising.

“She loved it so much that she jumped on board,” recounted “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” star Calvani, who with Mariotti, founder of the agency REM Ruini e Mariotti, appeared at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills on Saturday to launch the resulting line Inspiritu. Mariotti explained she was attracted to her friend’s idea because it deftly tapped into the zeitgeist. “The spiritual quest is very much of the moment. We are all on that search,” she said.

Inspiritu, which made its U.S. debut at Barneys New York’s Chelsea store in late March, has four scents and candles based on the cardinal virtues of fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice, and a fifth scent and candle called Lux, the Latin word for “light.” The eau de parfums are priced at $210 for 100-ml. bottles, and the 14-oz. candles designed to last 100 hours are $130.

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Elaborating on the virtues, Calvani said, “They go beyond religion. They are transcultural. They are something anybody can relate to because they are archetypes that have inspired human beings since the dawn of time.” On Inspiritu’s bottles, a lion allegorically represents fortitude; a young woman with two heads embodies prudence; two jugs signify temperance, and a pair of scales connotes justice.

The fragrance and candle Lux, an early bestseller, is at the heart of the brand. Formulated with the objective of creating a contemporary twist on incense, the scent contains notes of vanilla, vetiver, cedar, ginger, pepper, elemi and rosemary. “Incense is present in most spiritual practices whether you go to a temple, mosque, church or even if you go to a spa for a massage,” said Calvani. “We wanted to step out of the church. We added rosemary to make it fresh. It smells like a sacred place.”

Calvani suggested Justice could be a strong performer on the West Coast. He noted the fragrance’s combination of Brazilian orange, fennel, dill, cedar, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, amber, vanilla and elemi has a marine character. “It’s like the Mediterranean waters,” he said. “It’s the first one we sold here in L.A. It was gone the moment we put one on the counter.”

Calvani and Mariotti were adamant that Inspiritu’s products showcase the highest level of craftsmanship Italian artisans could muster. The weighty fragrance bottles are covered in lacework patterns and are topped off with heavy bronze caps. The packaging opens up intricately, akin to origami. “These details give it a sense of quality,” said Mariotti.

In addition to the Beverly Hills and Chelsea locations, Inspiritu has entered Barneys New York on Madison Avenue, and is set to roll out to the department store’s San Francisco and Chicago units in about a month. In Europe, the brand is available at Printemps and the Four Seasons Hotel George V.

Within the fine fragrance assortment at Barneys and elsewhere, Mariotti commented that Inspiritu has been “incredibly well-received. It’s doing very well.” Going forward, she continued, “We see it exploring this world of enhancing inner values and emotions. Of course, we will be making a wider line of fragrances and candles, but also we are going to diversify into home fragrances and other directions.”

The brand has been a welcome change from Calvani’s day job. “It’s been a lot of work. [The amount of work] definitely beats sitting on a set and getting green juice between takes,” he quipped. “But there is something to be said for having an idea come to life and being able to show it to your peers.”