By Gherardo Ulivi. Cover images courtesy of Extra Virgo.
The world of artistic and niche perfumery is mysterious and magical. What exactly niche fragrances are and what is the meaning? How is a niche perfumery brand born? Here’s everything you need to know, as told by an insider. We talked about it with Prince Alex Herbert Postiglione of Limbin, founder of the Florentine perfume brand Extra Virgo.
When did the magic of perfume originate?
It takes a bit of imagination to be able to imagine Cleopatra smelling herself, and yet that is what she was. Perfume originated in Egypt, where scents were used for both sacred and profane purposes. Essential oils were burned to communicate with the divine, while young women used them to prepare their bodies for seduction rituals. The god of perfumes, Nefertum, allegedly brought Ra a bouquet of lotus flowers to relieve his suffering. The original perfume used by the pharaohs is known as Kyphi; it consisted of more than 60 essences and was applied to hair and genitals to enhance sexual pleasure. Cleopatra herself was a great lover of perfumes, and she used to scatter rose petals around her rooms to seduce Marco Antonio. Researchers have found traces of scented oils in Tutankhamun’s tomb, confirming the important role of perfume in the embalming process. Egyptians used to keep these essences in alabaster cruets and jealously guarded the recipes for their creation, starting a tradition that continues to fascinate people even today.
What are the origins of perfume?
Perfume has characterised and influenced society since ancient times. Initially, its use was limited to religious practices, as priests and priestesses would offer fragrances to the gods in the form of incense. Even today, perfumes are synonymous with something magical and dreamy. The art perfumery, like fashion and art, is closely connected with the real world, which profoundly influences its evolution. In contrast to mass-produced perfumes, niche perfumery is a sophisticated and contemporary art form that involves in-depth research and a strong connection with the natural world, leading to unique experiences for users.
What really niche fragrances meaning?
Niche fragrances meaning is the result of in-depth study and meticulous attention to detail at every stage, from creating the fragrance to designing the bottle and communicating its story. A good perfume must have a compelling story behind it and a consistent architecture that ties together name, packaging, colours and ingredients.
There are two ways to create a perfume: the idea-based approach or the ingredient-based approach. The former is a more conceptual approach, where the creatives start with a thought and build the fragrance around it. The ingredient-based approach begins with a specific ingredient and is a bit more random. The Extra Virgo collection uses both approaches; the Forbidden Botanicals line takes inspiration from specific elements, such as cannabis, mushrooms, coffee, cocoa and tobacco, which have a rich history as both medicine and poison. The intention is to create a resonance between the ingredients, resulting in a four-dimensional fragrance that is an interwoven arrangement of scents, each anticipating the next.
How does a niche fragrance brand come about?
We wanted to create something that would make us feel good, and for us, perfume was the perfect combination of fashion and art, sensuality and rock’n’roll, sophistication and wild spirit. The name Extra Virgo has two meanings. The first is “extra virgin”, which stands for something pure; the second is “superwoman”, deriving from the Latin words “extra” (meaning beyond) and “virgo” (meaning maiden or virgin goddess). For me, Extra Virgo is another way to refer to Mother Nature, a woman who gives life. It makes me think of the Tibetan goddess Tārā or the Virgin Mary.
What does perfume communicate?
Perfume is a powerful medium of communication that conveys messages and expresses values. It can release an emotional charge and elicit specific feelings, such as wild sensuality with dark and sensual fragrances, lightness and romance through floral and ethereal fragrances, and body care with spicy fragrances. It is important to approach niche perfumery with awareness and respect, allowing ourselves to fall in love with fragrances that resonate with us personally, just like a painting or a ballet.
What is the future of niche fragrances?
The future of niche perfumery is increasingly focused on uniqueness and origin. The concept of “primoridy of future” summarises this trend well and reflects our desire for a primordial future and our belief that technology can help us achieve total freedom. Another aspect we must consider when talking about the future is performativity. This approach connects perfumery and art, which I have always considered two elements that have the power to transcend time and space, creating psychedelic experiences with a strong emotional charge.