June 12, 2016

Two die-hard dreamers, one Masque. Interview with Alessandro and Riccardo – Masque Milano.


Theatres are curious places, magician's trick-boxes where the masks tell the stories of life. Interview with Alessandro Brun and Riccardo Tedeschi from MASQUE MILANO - a scented Opera. 

I opened your website, and read all your tale. Then I did it again. I made a few notes, and sat down in an arm-chair. I put before me flacons and started to examine the opera in flacons. Act after act, scene after scene. Afforded myself silence and time. Yes ! It was a feast. My head full of images. This is art. Today from all corners a new perfume brand jumps out, it is difficult to orientate and try all of them is impossible.

1. How to differentiate real art from the pretended one? Do people really need art in perfumes, when it looks like the prestige of the logo is the movant?

Probably the market does not necessarily need art in perfumes. But some brands and artistic directors are stubbornly creating artistic fragrances. We believe that art in perfumery was born in the ’68 (and its long 70’s tail) when pioneers Gautrot, Knox-Leet and Coueslant (founders of Dyptique), Laporte (L'Artisan Parfumeur), Annick Goutal created the first niche / artistic perfume houses, succeeding in creating a disruption.

Today, we are witnessing to a “renaissance” of artistic perfumery (what we call Neo Artistic Perfumery). Each artistic house has its own unique concept, yet there are a few, recurring elements in all the brands that we consider "truly artistic". Thus we synthesized the quintessential artistic perfumery house in our "Neo Artistic Perfumery" manifesto.

(Note: The Masque Manifesto is attached at the end of the interview.)

2. Together you seem as one creative soul and all the concept looks consistent, integral. Everything happens totally natural, or on behalf of the good result often you have conflicts and arguments?

Masque Milano is the true expression of what we are, of our lives and our passions. As we declared in our manifesto, we do what we love and we love what we do, nothing is forced, if we are not convinced about something, we simply don’t do it. Getting to know each other (almost by serendipity) was a great luck: we share so many passions and we are so similar… perfect rapport and understanding are essential for an artistic directors duo. This is probably why artistic directors duos are so rare.

3. TERRALBA. The first scene, first act. What does it mean for you personally, what is your terra alba?

“Terralba” is the name of a small town in Sardinia. Not only it sounds beautifully: in Italian is a name full of imaginery, as “Terra” means “earth”, and “Alba” means “Dawn”. Every time we utter that word, our memories of summer vacations in Sardinia are immediately recalled. The Mediterranean shrubland – so earthy, so rough, almost wild – might seem in stark contrast with the lightheartedness of the sea breeze. Yet there is a moment in which the two different sensations are perfectly balanced: if you will ever have the chance to take a short break in Sardinia, when the world is still asleep, you must take an early morning hike through the shrubland. At sunrise, the salty and fresh breeze coming from the sea and the deep resinous smells of the thick vegetation would mingle and create the magic smellscape that we wanted to capture with Terralba.

4. MONTECRISTO. Dumas’s book is about injustice, love and revenge. Why Montecristo?

Montecristo is Dumas’s count, but it also is a tiny island in the Tuscan Arcipelago (the smaller sister of the famous Elba) famous for being a natural reserve, and for hosting several ruins including the bewitching Fortress of Montecristo. We were thinking about an old mansion, and the smell of the thick walls (we literally asked to Delphine Thierry, the nose behind Montecristo, to recreate the smell of “Old Mossy Walls”) made us think about the name Montecristo.

A technical note: to recreate the smell of Old Mossy Walls, Delphine mixed three very interesting raw materials: Golden Stone (yet another name for Hyrax), ambrette seeds and cabreuva. The effect, smelling the three raw materials on paper, first separately then together, is impressive. When you overlap the three mouillettes, bring them to your nose and smell, your eyes closed, you can “see” the thick walls materializing in front of you. An old bookshelf full of dusty manuscripts. And many other memories of glorious past times.

5. TANGO. It is a passionate dance. Do you dance it? Are you passionate?

I attempted (Alessandro) for a few years, with small success (but a lot of fun). Tango requires dedication. Many regard Tango as the quintessential expression of passion. So to us, Tango encompasses all of life’s passions at once – sentimental relationships as well as passions expressed through art.

We could have chosen other artistic forms of expression, including playing music (which we both do since our childhoods). Yet, while you can play passionate music alone, in a duet or with a band, “it always takes two to tango”.

6. Each epoch identifies itself with some character, with some symbols, that mirrors the atmosphere of the specific epoch. ROMANZA. Central motif of the fragrance is Narcissus, atypical in perfumes, with an addendum “Victorian”.
The insinuation is clear…the ageless picture of Dorian Gray? Or it is totally different?

If we had the chance to travel in time, we would certainly go back to London in the Victorian age. Gentlemen had many ways to enjoy life. Yet, according to the accounts, the city smelled very badly – burnt coal, sewage and body odors.

The way dandies enjoyed life in the Victorian London is perfectly described in Wilde’s masterpiece. So we took inspiration from the first pages of the novel, where the studio of the painter is described in a vibrant way. Roses, Lilac, Pink-Flowering Thorn, Laburnum Blossoms, Woodbine, … so many different flowers Wilde mentioned, while the Narcissus Poeticus he did not.

Yet Lord Henry addresses the painter, referring to Dorian, as follows “Why, my dear Basil, he is a Narcissus, and you…”. So, yes, of course, the Narcissus we used in our Romanza aimed at representing the duality of the never-ending beauty of Dorian and the ineluctable ageing of the portrait.

Narcissus di nome e di fatto.

7. In your fragrances we find Russian tea, Champaign, absinth, rum…what about Italian espresso? Did you ever play with this idea, as a proud Italian?

Ahaha! Yes, we would love the idea! But to be honest, we did not think about it so far.

If you think about all the experiences that we have been turning into fragrances, one of the common thread is “time”. In “L’Attesa” you uncork a bottle of champagne while you wait for your date; in Terralba you are there, lingering between the shrubland and the sea, while in Montecristo you are sitting in a comfortable leather sofa in front of a fireplace. Russian Tea tells the story of the Russian Tea Ritual, with the samovar, sour-cream and jams…

Espresso for Italians is entering into a cafè early in the morning, ordering an espresso, drinking it in three rapid sips standing at the bar, and rushing to work… we love this, we couldn’t live without having this every morning, but we still aren’t sure how we could translate that into a perfume.

But thanks for the suggestion!

8. L’ATTESA. All is set for the rendezvous. The fragrances of iris and Champaign. Very interesting combination. Whose idea it was?

We developed all the concepts together. When we started thinking about the act of Sentimental Relationships (that was long time ago, before we even started working on the first perfume of our line), we thought that we didn’t want Act III to start with the “falling in love”.

One remarkable pleasurable moment of a sentimental relationship is when you are waiting for your loved one. So we imagined the perfect scene and the perfect fragrance for the wait: a bouquet of freshly cut flowers, and the yeast of the champagne hovering in the air. The perfect flower for those delicate moments certainly was to be iris.

9. Why did you decide to change the flacons with newest editions of Romanza and L’attesa ?

At Esxence in March 2016 we presented our two latest fragrances in a brand-new bespoke bottle. We [Alessandro and Riccardo] are the creative directors and designer, and therefore we simply put down to paper the shape (both of bottle and stopper) that we had in mind since the beginning.

And therefore you shouldn’t ask why did we change the bottle. The right question is - why didn’t you start from the beginning with the bottle you designed.

The main answer is Budget. Many small niche perfumery houses, especially in their first years, cannot afford a bespoke bottle. So we started with a standard bottle (we used a Bormioli cylindrical bottle) and personalised it a little bit with the hand-aged pewter label on top and the pattern at the back. 

Finally one year ago we realised the time had come to take this bold step. We first approached small glass-makers, since we were afraid that we wouldn’t be very appealing for the big manufacturers.

Then we decided to give it a try, and we approached Bormioli Luigi [one of the top players in the world of luxury glass perfume bottles] and they accepted to collaborate. Working with them - a company with a century long heritage, and in particular having appointed for our project a supervisor with 35+ years of experience - was enriching, to say the least.

We are of the opinion that all top niche fragrance houses should have their own signature bottle.

Think about Andy Tauer …and his Pentagon. Villoresi? Hexagon. L’Artisan Perfumer? Heptagon.

Now Masque has its signature design - with the three parallel horizontal lines already characterising our previous cap.

10. On each of your bottles, there is some pattern, ornament, drawing. By what it is inspired and what it represents on the flacon of LUCI ED OMBRE?

Every bottle is the result of a collaboration with a young designer of Politecnico di Milano university. In each case, a simple pattern described graphically the content of the bottle, trying to capture the essence of the fragrance. In case of Luci ed Ombre the inspiration came from Vincent van Gogh paintings: Luci ed Ombre represents the unsettling clash between light and shadow, and the skies in Van Gogh paintings – in The Starry Night there is darkness yet the skies are conveying a feeling of relaxation and calmness; while in the Wheatfield with Crows, the flight of the crows is somehow gloomy. What a beautiful contrast! Exactly like the contrast we aimed at creating in Luci ed Ombre.

11. RUSSIAN TEA. The drinking of it is a ritual. What are yours? The daily ones?

Well, we are Italian, aren’t we? So, as we mentioned before, espresso is one of our daily rituals; there is a weekly ritual – so typically Milanese – which we call Aperitivo. It is our “social life” moment. And then the Opera ritual: going to our beloved Teatro alla Scala, at least once a year for the opening of the Opera season. Black tie, printed libretto, some good Italian bubbly at the Toscanini foyer, … you know, small details to which we give great significance.

12. What means more? Perfection or natural?

There is no such a think as perfection in nature. At Masque we strive for excellence, yet in nature’s imperfection we rejoice.

Thank you for the interview.


BE PASSIONATE_Create something that would allow you to express all of your passions at once. And if there is something that you don't like, just don't do that.
Do what you love. Love what you do.

BE EARNEST_Do not pretend to have what you have not. Do not pretend to be what you are not.

BE ETHICAL_Respect nature and scarce resources. Abide by your pledges, and don’t make promises you cannot honour. Always be a gentleman.

BE PART OF IT_As an Artistic Director, focus on the selection of the right noses. Work with them, in order to find out the most appropriate raw materials. Ponder on the first accords, fundamental to "create the mood". Fine-tune the creations, discuss untold variations, until a masterpiece is created.

BE CONSISTENT_Pick your own style and make sure that the whole fragrance line is an unwavering expression of this style.

BE RECKLESSLY BRAVE_Do not be afraid to dare. Do not stay on the beaten track. Do not chase market's tastes. 

PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS_Design and materials. Words and colours. Every minutest detail should declare how obsessed you are with the smell as well as the other senses. The new artistic perfumery does not share the conventional wisdom not to judge a book by the cover. Rather, it advocates that every true masterpiece be kept in an appropriate shrine.  

BE HUMBLE_Never criticize, accept different viewpoints: in diversity there is richness. Learn to see. When you are wrong, just plainly admit it. Learn from your mistakes. 

BE STUBBORN_ Sometimes things are not going as expected. Don’t give up at the first failed attempt. If you really believe that your idea is the right one, go on. Sooner or later you will succeed.

BE AMBITIOUS_With your fragrance line, aim at creating perfumed artworks. Resort to your creativity and artistic sense. Never copy. You can make the world a better place.

TAKE YOUR TIME_ The world doesn't need more perfumes. Rather, it needs better ones. Do not rush. Take your time.

1 comment:

  1. The world doesn't need more perfumes. Rather, it needs better ones. Do not rush. Take your time.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...