More than 100 guitars hanging in the living room give it away. Yet when it comes to the Argentinian botanist and founder of niche fragrance brand Fueguia 1833, there’s always more than meets the eye. And a lengthy conversation in the comfort of his home reveals it wasn’t music that was central to Bedel at first — but the act of creating itself.
He approached the world of guitars at the age of 12, more to build the instrument from scratch than merely learn how to play it. His sculptor father and in-house workshop have always inspired his hands-on attitude and experimentation with different artistic media, while an Italian master luthier in Buenos Aires, Argentina, charmed him with his lessons and classes.
“I was super excited about what I was learning,” Bedel recalls. “It was this idea of thinking how cool it would have been to build my own instrument and then compose or play with it. It was like the full circle: playing music with your own guitar that you created literally from chunks of wood.”
This holistic mindset was destined to shape his attitude toward life and business in the coming years. In 2010, his independent spirit led him to launch a fragrance company that is vertically integrated and responsible for the whole manufacturing process, with Bedel directly involved in each step of realizing the scents — from the botanical research and formulation to the design of the final packaging.
“In a way, I only changed the palette and switched to create by using extracts of plants, which for me are building blocks like a pigment or musical note could be. But it was that same exercise [to have forged me]. I thought I can be a sculptor or builder or create perfumes as long as I dedicated vast amounts of time to it, had a message and was true to it,” says Bedel.
Asked if he ever thought of continuing to build instruments rather than moving to scents, the founder laughs and says, “Of course, but I’m better at fragrances!”
Several guitars in his collection might cause one to momentarily doubt his words: his handmade creations perfectly mingle with the other vintage pieces, which are mostly electric guitars from the ‘50s and ‘60s, with a particular focus on Gibson items.
“They all look the same, according to my girlfriend, who says: ‘So why bother?’ But they are very different, indeed,” Bedel says with a smile, pointing to different energies and characters. “The nice thing is when you grab one with no particular melody in mind and follow the feeling that guitar is starting to give you.…It’s a relaxing thing, a kind of ticket to get out of the world without necessarily ingesting something.
“When I started buying guitars there was no internet,” he continues, proudly showing an old edition of the Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, with his name and a date in 1992 on its first page. The tome, which he started consulting at age 14, was the first of a long series of books on the topic.
In his scouting activity, Bedel mostly focuses on two markets: Nashville, Tennessee, and Japan, for their concentration of avid collectors and local guitar shops. “But I like to guitar safari in every place I go,” he adds.
As for the two decades of reference for his collection, Bedel defines them as the golden era of the instrument.
“[Antonio de] Torres was the luthier that kind of defined the shape of the guitar in the 19th century. Antonio Stradivari defined a shape [for the violin] that hasn’t been improved ever since. So technically or technologically, a violin achieved its pinnacle in the 17th century and all the science and knowledge afterward still couldn’t beat it.…With guitars, it happened the same in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and we’re just repeating that shape ever since,” explains Bedel, adding that those were times of his “heroes” — Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. In general, he expresses a penchant for South American music, especially the bossa nova genre, as well as blues and jazz.
While the instruments have the most visual impact in his house, they are not the only objects that reveal Bedel’s hobbies and craftsmanship.
He also made the red wood tables and walnut wood coffee tables in the living room, along with smaller objects like Fueguia 1833 candle holders. “There are four people in our workshop in Milan, but when I carve furniture like this I do it on weekends, so I’m all alone,” he explains, running his hand over the hefty dining table, the result of two weekends of work and different pieces of wood glued together and burned for a sleek effect.
The rest of the room is quite simple yet cozy. A minimal sofa, few design lamps and two plush Iranian carpets covering the wood flooring counterbalance the “visual stimulus of guitars that is more than enough,” he says, but also contribute to optimizing the acoustics of the room — one of the assets that convinced Bedel to settle in this apartment. Nestled not far from the picturesque Cinque Vie district in central Milan, the 17th-century building housing it is quintessentially Milanese with its hidden courtyard adorned with classic sculptures.
Even if Bedel shied away from including art pieces, a series of drawings — including an original one by Tadao Andō and a 1730 illustration of South American plants — punctuates the staircase Bedel’s cat Pincho likes to scale nimbly, and which connects the living room to a recording studio.
As far as whether there’s an album in the making, Bedel jokes, “There is one but it can take 16 more years.”
More seriously, he details his love for the sounds of nature and technologies that allow for the acoustic enhancement of single elements in a specific place, be it a forest or the ocean. These sparked a new idea of his relentless creative mind, that is to pair fragrances to respective soundtracks.
“If I distill ingredients from a forest and can give you the sound of that place, you’re going to enjoy [the perfume] better.…Imagine if I can take you exactly to the place that inspired me to create that scent…” he says.
Along with capturing sounds and making new botanical discoveries, Bedel returns from his frequent travels across the globe with spices and food to stack his minimal kitchen. Overall, he enjoys cooking — keeping things easy and healthy with recipes based on veggies and legumes — and sipping mate (a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink) for a taste of his homeland.
“Argentina is fantastic because it’s so far away and not in the way of going to another place.…It’s very disconnected and preserved like an island,” says Bedel.
This led him to consider moving abroad, further encouraged by his homeland’s political situation and the economic hurdles he had to confront when launching his business. “In 2014 I already opened the shop in Japan, and Argentina was kind of an obstacle.…It’s good if you want to only sell there, but if you need to ship your product, you can’t,” he says.
In moving to Europe seven years ago, Bedel found in Milan his sweet spot thanks to the city’s central and well-connected location, quality of life and the region’s expertise in pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries that could have further propelled his business.
“The Italian lifestyle is also close to the Argentinian one, considering all the Italian descendants there,” he notes.
Yet, as for his personal sense of style, Italian tailoring has not infiltrated his wardrobe. A denim and T-shirt guy, Bedel defines his style as utilitarian, since he pragmatically prioritizes comfort, protection and “lots of pockets” every day at work and when traveling. To this end, he mentions Vollebak among his go-to brands, praising its waterproof and high-performance textiles.
“I need fabrics that don’t get impregnated with scents while working. This is what dictates my fashion choices today,” he says.