Beauty / IN THE BAG

Starting something new with Barnabé Fillion

The perfumer behind the iconic Aesop Marrakech fragrance and the new Hwyl EDP shares how he got his start and his thoughts on the industry.

How did you come to be making fragrances? What drew you to the business?
I was working in photography. I think almost everyone around me was photographer – my family and other people. I [needed] to challenge me, at the time I was in Puerto Rico for photography and I just wanted to kind of get into another way to feel. The thing is, Aesop was a great influence in the beginning because I remember smelling perfume in the bottles of Aesop for a long, long time, and I wasn’t thinking of perfume at that time, so it’s an influence definitely. It is amazing to now be working together.

Is it a hard industry to come into? Do you feel like you’ve had your big breakthrough moment?
It’s definitely not a very friendly industry. I’m not hanging out too much in the perfume industry; I’m really trying to stay at the spot where I am – being an independent perfumer, which allows me actually to not accept projects that I don’t want to do. It gives me freedom to do other projects, like more artistic things. So I think it’s difficult to start doing perfumes, I was pretty lucky because I had somebody that taught me the way … somebody that was really [a] visionary, and that helped me to go quite quick in what I wanted.

What do you think is the hardest part of creating a fragrance?
That one particularly, it’s very hard to let go and say this is the final version. It’s the moment I think where you have to decide on the final version.

Is there anything that you want to change about the fragrance industry, or influence the way it works?
There are a lot of things I would like to change. We were talking about it earlier. The legislation is something, which is sort of killing the creativity of the perfumer. They are prohibiting the use of a lot of ingredients, which are amazing ingredients.

Do you use a lot of beauty products personally?
Not really, strangely. I try new things, some perfumes that I love. I’m always using this Aesop cream that I use. It’s called Perfect Cream, I think, I use a lot of this [as] working in a lab can sometimes give you irritation, and this is the only cream that totally solves everything. It’s quite incredible … I kind of can’t stand to go to the big shops with lots of perfumes. I don’t like the smells so I try to avoid them. I’m very protective with what I smell and what I want to smell.

Do you wear a fragrance?
I wear what I’m working on because I need to test how it goes on the skin and everything. Sometimes I wear Aesop Marrakech. Just as a kind of matter of thinking about how we created it. But I don’t have a personal fragrance.