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Meet the co-founder of EX NIHILO

How Benoît Verdier Co-Created EX NIHILO

Inspired by the finest ingredients and the French Avant-Garde, a trio of industry veterans set out to create a fragrance brand like no other. Join us, as we step into the world of a boundary pushing perfumery
By: Harriet Brown

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By: Harriet Brown
How Benoît Verdier Co-Created EX NIHILO

How Benoît Verdier Co-Created EX NIHILO

Inspired by the finest ingredients and the French Avant-Garde, a trio of industry veterans set out to create a fragrance brand like no other. Join us, as we step into the world of a boundary pushing perfumery

By:

Champions of the creative spirit, we've always spotlighted those who go above and beyond to deliver the unexpected – and now we’d like to help push them forward. Join us as we share the stories of the most courageous changemakers, experimental artisans and progressive innovators that make the Liberty community so extraordinary.

Think of perfumery, and you likely think of Paris – home to many of fragrance’s most storied, heritage names. It’s precisely this image that the founders of EX NIHILO sought to reimagine, when they launched the brand back in 2013 – rapidly establishing themselves as a vibrant new name in haute perfumery, crafted to reimagine and reinvent fragrance traditions.

Focusing on the finest raw materials and a sense of radical creativity, founders Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère and Benoît Verdier were inspired by the spirit of the French Avant-Garde movement – constantly seeking to push the boundaries of the expected.

With this ethos at the heart of its creations, EX NIHILO's growing suite of hypnotic scents has gathered a dedicated following around the globe. This spring, it finds a new London home in Liberty’s exclusive sensory destination, The Fragrance Lounge.

Here, Benoît Verdier shares how his childhood spent in perfume’s Provençal heartland helped shape EX NIHILO's pursuit of the unexpected…

Read More: Discover everything to know about the Fragrance Lounge at Liberty

THE MAKING OF EX NIHILO

How did you first become interested in perfume?

I was born in the south of France, in Provence, on the Mediterranean coast. Growing up there, it was very much part of the culture to be interested in scents – so perfume is part of lots of my childhood memories.

When we set up EX NIHILO we were three veterans from the fragrance industry, frustrated by the existing brands on the market, so we decided to create the brand of our dreams. In Latin, EX NIHILO means “created from scratch” and that’s what we did. Partly from the culture and taste of my childhood and partly from our experience of the industry.

How is EX NIHILO different to traditional fragrance houses?

The difference for us is the freedom that we give our perfumers to be creative: there are no limits for them in terms of materials or cost. We only work with the best materials we can find on the market – for example, the Rose de Mai from Grasse, which is at the pinnacle of haute perfumery. We are also very inspired by the French Avant-Garde and push the boundaries of creation and creativity.

Our identity is also unique, we use an iconic, dark blue colour, which is very symbolic of France. You would find the same colours in our architectural and cultural traditions, even in the Elysee Palace in Paris or on Air France.

You have one minute, give us your brand’s elevator pitch

Our three founders, Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère and myself are all veterans of the industry and, as EX NIHILO, we are the Parisian specialists in haute perfumery, representing the French Avant-Garde. We are timeless and elegant but also modern and disruptive.

Do you have a favourite ingredient or a scent that means a lot to you?

A difficult question, but our iconic, crazy creation Blue Talisman, which was created by the perfumer Jordi Fernandez. It contains the ingredient Ambrofix, a low-profile ingredient [with a potent, amber note], and its impact is amazing. I also love Fleur Narcotique, by Quentin Bisch: a creation based around the peony, with bergamot, peony and musk. At EX NIHILO, we love to be addictive at first smell.

When are you at your most creative?

When we work, we start from scratch, but we create a frame for our creativity. Otherwise, you can go in too many directions and lose track of what you’re creating. With EX NIHILO, we took inspiration from many other fields to take us to new places. I see a fragrance as a little piece of art – and so we are trying to inject inspiration throughout the process.

What’s your biggest distraction?

Smartphones! It’s impossible to concentrate when emails and WhatsApp messages are popping up on your screen. Sometimes I feel that when I come to my office, I should lock my phone away in a box, as you always need some space and time to think.

What does success look like to you?

Success is always related to independence, freedom and liberty in the true sense of the word. Success allows you to push boundaries of what is possible – creating without constraints.

What are your three best tips for creativity?

Do your homework before you start. Creativity is all about preparation. We collect a lot of vintage magazines, such as Dazed, as well as other materials to inspire us.

Disconnect from social media. When we are scrolling through social, we all just see the same stuff. Make your own personal library, and make sure to disconnect from the mainstream way of thinking.

When it comes to perfume: smell a lot of other scents before you start. You’re not here to reinvent the wheel, but you want to be disruptive and make sure you don’t accidentally replicate something that already exists.

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