Ex Nihilo co-founder Benoît Verdier introduces us to his innovative brand that could change the way we buy fragrances.
So often when it comes to fragrances, the backstory is one of a brand’s long and storied history and a perfumer’s journey of olfactory inspiration through childhood. However, in a refreshing diversion from the norm, Ex Nihilo, is a new company that pays precious little attention to the past, instead forging a new path towards fragrances for the modern generation.
“We are proud of our French background, but compared to some of the other brands that have a long heritage and history, we are brand new,” Benoît Verdier, co-founder of the fledgling French house explains. “It’s very challenging to create a new luxury maison that didn’t exist three years ago. Now is just the beginning, but at the moment it’s going pretty well.”
The brand name itself, Ex Nihilo, is actually a Latin word that means “out of nothing” – which is quite apt considering the way Verdier and his partners, Sylvie Loday and Olivier Royère, have built the company, breaking the conventions of traditional perfume houses.
Perhaps the biggest departure from the norm is the option Ex Nihilo offers its customers to personalise their own fragrance. Using a new high-precision dosing machine situated at the brand’s flagship store in Paris, customers are able to specify the addition of a range of top-quality raw ingredients into their chosen base to create an entirely bespoke fragrance.
“The bespoke element is part of the DNA of the brand,” Verdier says. “Our idea was first to start from the best ingredients, second to collaborate with the best artists – because perfumers really are artists – and third to respond to the customers who are now used to everything being personalised and come up with a way of taking that a step further.”
While the bespoke service offers customers a much wider choice than most other high-end fragrance brands, Verdier is keen to stress that every creation they make has to do justice to the precision of the perfumer. “There is a very romantic idea about perfumers like they are writers or poets or something like that, but in actual fact when you work with a perfumer you see just how precise he is, Verdier explains. “It’s crazy. Obviously perfume making is an art, but without the science the perfume would smell terrible. You have to start from this sound scientific background and then you can add your creativity.”
As well as its bespoke offerings, Ex Nihilo also has a range of standard unisex scents, which have more of a universal appeal – something Verdier is proud of. “Our product is for everyone,” he beams. “We have experts who buy niche brands and love the rare materials that we use, but we also have newcomers who are curious and love the technological and innovative aspect of what we do. I love the fact that both types of customers can enjoy the product.”
In terms of his personal source of inspiration, Verdier is acutely aware of the clichés and he tries his best to avoid them. “The classic thing to say about inspiration would be for me to give you some story about my personal history and how I was inspired by my time growing up among the roses in the south of France, but to be honest we are a modern brand and we take our inspiration from everywhere,” he says, frankly.
“We are constantly on Instagram and Pinterest and I read as many magazines as possible. Inspiration can come from a tiny picture on social media, or sometimes it can even come from someone you meet. Fleur Narcotique [Ex Nihilo’s best-selling scent] was actually inspired by a girl. It’s not an industrial process.”
Ex Nihilo is available in Bloomingdale’s The Dubai Mall