Q&A: Aesop's Barnabé Fillion on the Newest Fragrance Gloam, His Creative Process, and More
"The Othertopias [is] a collection of fragrances inspired by spaces where we are transported from the real to the abstract," perfumer Barnabé Fillion explains when asked about how Gloam relates to the rest of the fragrances in the range. Gloam—which has notes of saffron, pink pepper, and mimosa—is inspired by the Divan, a day bed, that is a portal for self-observation. With every spray, Fillion hopes people embrace nostalgia and dive into their memories.
We spoke with Fillion to talk about the newest fragrance Gloam, his creative process and how it helped the Othertopias collection, and being one of those keeping the essence that is the magic of Aesop.
Esquire Philippines: You have a background in botany and phytology; how did this lead you to become a perfumer?
Barnabé Fillion: My interest in perfumery really began to evolve when I was studying at a Visual Art School, and was specializing in photography. I used a Polaroid camera to take pictures of botanicals to reveal the 'architecture of nature'—all the patterns and repetitive structures across the elements in nature. This was how I developed my interest in ingredients for fragrance—even today when I create a perfume I explore this same style of photography as inspiration.
You have an enduring partnership with Aesop, dating back to 2012. What is it like to collaborate with Aesop?
With Aesop, I get to work with the greatest experts, who work as a team to continue Aesop's legacy and really keep that extremely special signature and essence that is the magic of Aesop. I'm always excited to work with them, because the people and the dialogue we have are really important in the process, it's always a discussion. I don't often receive a clear brief, asking me to do certain things, which is so important to me, because I like to propose an idea and the whole team bounces it around. It's full of pleasure to work like this, but it's very different from what I do for my own project.
What is your creative process like when you are creating a new fragrance?
When I create a new perfume, my process really starts with the visual. Scent evokes associations, creates images and patterns in the mind. I always start off with a blurry image which becomes more focused over time.
Once I've found the initial ingredients I want to work with for the concept, a crucial part of my creative process is to wear the fragrances on different textiles as well as my own skin, so I can smell them at different times of the day and over and over again to understand its effect in different contexts. It is a very circular process: each time you move a new ingredient may come to the surface, or maybe you notice another layer of the complexity that continues to inspire and inform the whole procedure.
Aesop Gloam Eau de Parfum 50ml
What prompted the creation of Gloam Eau de Parfum?
Gloam is about when we lie down, when we are not sleeping but somehow inviting dreams, inviting a different way to think, a different way to analyze. Somehow perfume is part of this imaginary guide or a sort of stimulation that is an entry to this mindset of 'horizontal thinking'. It's very pleasant. It's almost like when you are listening to yourself in both a good and a bad way. In French, we say that listening to yourself can be very negative but it is important to enjoy listening to yourself, you should be a little bit proud of all the imagery and stimulation that comes to you with this fragrance.
The 'divan' or the 'bed boat' was an important reference and Gloam very much centers around this object, acting as a passage between worlds real and imagined, a taking off point for travel and exploration, and the creation of the intimate world of the mind and how we can journey within it. There is definitely something a little bit powdery, something a little bit musty, and something spicy to reference travels which you can find in this fragrance with spices like Pink Pepper and Saffron.
Was there anything new that you explored when developing Gloam Eau de Parfum?
We use essential oils, we use absolutes, Saffron is really something we haven't used in any other Aesop fragrance. The Saffron makes a really big difference in terms of ingredients. It is a very powerful note here and we use two or three different types of synthetic extraction to achieve the right strength and balance. It's actually microdosed, otherwise, it would take over everything else. Saffron is not a scent you will find in many other fragrances, but it's a very classic blend in the tradition of Indian perfumery and co-distillation where it brings color intensity and scent for sure.
Gloam Eau de Parfum is the fifth addition to the Othertopias collection. Scent-wise, how does Gloam Eau de Parfum relate to the other fragrances in the collection?
Gloam Eau de Parfum is the fifth installment of Othertopias, a collection of fragrances inspired by spaces where we are transported from the real to the abstract. Gloam is inspired by the Divan, or the Day Bed—a place where we lay down and it becomes a portal for self-observation, as the outside world recedes, we rest, and our thoughts turn inwards. The notes of the perfume capture this landscape through rich florals, warm spice, and a soft, powdery base, rousing the senses and enchanting the mind.
The first three Othertopias were inspired by the boat, the shore, and the urban wasteland, which means they have much earthier or more mineral notes. But because Gloam is inspired by being in this horizontal manner and losing the gravity on our body, the notes are much more focused on entering this dream-like state. The fourth fragrance in the collection, Eidesis Eau de Parfum, also had these much warmer notes, but Eidesis is almost about becoming no one, disappearing into the mirror, but with Gloam it's much more about acknowledging the body and allowing it to rest, to be able to dive into memory, or even melancholy.
With Othertopias, were there any specific aromas that were discussed during the creation of the collection?
There was not one fragrance or aroma profile that I started to develop first. I think the development of Othertopias as a collection was where the idea started; each perfume has a facet of spacial exploration.
This collection is about the study of interstitial space; it is a piece of research on the boundaries between real and imagined. The concept served as scaffolding the development of these perfumes. They are an homage to the work of many philosophers and thinkers that have worked with the idea of these spaces that are relative to realities, and have this capacity to make us travel and unlock reveries.
What do you hope people feel when they wear Gloam Eau de Parfum?
For me, Gloam is really a late afternoon or evening fragrance. There's something a bit nostalgic about Gloam, so you should wear it at a time when you want to embrace that sense of nostalgia, and dive into your memories. I like to do this at the end of the day because I have more time, I've done my work, it's a good moment to nap, to dream of what I will do and digest what I've done.
I hope people feel enriched when they wear Gloam—it's a very sweet, soft relation, connected to introspection and the comfort of reminiscing. I hope people feel they can embrace self-observation.