An Interview with Carlos Huber of ARQUISTE
November 1, 2011

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By Mark David Boberick
Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles
With a background in Architecture and Historic Preservation from universities in Mexico City, Spain, and New York City, Carlos Huber has taken his longtime love of fragrance, applied his other loves: history and art, and merged them together to form Arquiste Parfumeur, his new line of luxury fragrances. With an immaculate attention to detail, Huber joined with 2 top Givaudan perfumers to create a range of 6 perfumes. Each scent is an olfactive interpretation of an exact moment in history that is meticulously researched and finely tuned.

I recently sat down with Carlos Huber for his first interview with The Perfume Magazine.

TPM: Carlos, it is a pleasure to meet you. I want to start by asking, What is your earliest memory involving fragrance?

CH: As far as actual fragrance, it is Agua de Colonia Sanborns, an orange blossom cologne my parents used to buy for me when I was a small child and I insisted on wearing “perfume”…It is available everywhere in Mexico and is extremely affordable…but I love it. It made me feel important as a kid; it is such a good formula, it makes me proud to think that that’s what we grew up with in Mexico.

TPM: Your background is in Architecture. What is the artistic link between Perfumery and Architecture, for you?

CH: To put it simply, architecture is experiential. My fascination with historic architecture has always been connected to its experience, and if you are sensitive to scent, then what you smell and feel is just as important as what you see. Also, architecture and perfumery are both fields that involve long and complex processes. The research to create a perfume and actually base it on a real story is as thorough as the research behind the restoration of an old building. You need find clues to justify the structure that you are building.

TPM: You are a longtime lover of Perfumery. What have been some of the important fragrances in your life prior to launching your own line?

CH: It started with the Sanborns cologne of my childhood.  Polo Ralph Lauren, Chanel Egoiste, and Gucci Envy are very special scents to me. My first coup de foudre was with Gucci Envy, really. I couldn’t get enough of it. Later, when I was studying in Paris, somebody told me about the Serge Lutens boutique at the Palais Royal and it was unbelievable. I bought one for myself (Ambre Sultan), one for my mother and one for my sister. Recent favorites of mine include Chanel Sycomore and Le Nomade by D'Orsay

TPM: Can you describe the moment when you realized you wanted to make a complete readjustment with your Architectural career and pursue the development of your own perfume line?

CH: It wasn’t so much a readjustment; I don’t intend to stop my career in architecture or historic preservation. I will never stop being amazed about the power of architecture. What I realized is that my passion for scent and the culture around it was just as strong. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux was mentoring me, teaching me and recommending books, etc. and I became more and more fascinated with the entire world of scent. At a certain point, I decided I had to find a way for it to remain a constant in my life, to make it my own. I knew it had to be related to history, art and architecture.

TPM: At what point in the development process of ARQUISTE did you realize that you wanted the scents to revolve around a moment in history? Was this your idea from the start?

CH: It was the idea from the start. I’ve always been very connected to my nose and every time I would do research on a building or city for work I would come across an anecdote, a part of the story, where I would think “What did it smell like?” That’s when I wondered…could we actually “restore” that olfactive experience?  That was my goal.

TPM: How did you educate and prepare yourself for this fragrant venture?

CH: There were the original perfume classes that Rodrigo was giving me…When “in class” we were very formal; then we would get dinner and keep talking about perfume history into late hours. I spent a year of research in each of the stories behind the six perfumes in the debut collection. I visited the sites, spent many full days in libraries and archives; asked botanists, historians and chefs for clues into what the scents would involve.

Once the research was completed, I went through a yearlong crash course in design, manufacturing, and management by asking, asking, and asking every friend or contact that I had in the industry.

TPM: The fragrances in the line were composed by perfumers Yann Vasnier and Rodrigo Flores-Roux. How did you come to work with these men? Were they assigned to your project or did you seek them out?

CH: I sought them out. There was no question in my mind. They taught me and inspired me. They are incredible perfumers…and they are my friends, first and foremost.

TPM: You have pinpointed 6 precise moments in time for the inspiration of the Arquiste debut fragrances ranging from Calabria in 1175 to St. Petersburg in 1837. You have meticulously researched their back stories in a most intriguing way. History is so fascinating and rich; I can imagine that many stories ended up on the cutting room floor. What was the decision process for choosing these 6 stories like?

CH: Yes, sometimes I would start research on a story but I couldn’t get enough information on what the scent would be; when it left too much room for interpretation, I knew I couldn’t continue with it and still feel proud of its authenticity. I have to admit that during the entire fragrance development, I was really bent up on making it as seriously academic as possible…Also, if I couldn’t use the original ingredients, it felt like it was missing a piece. For example, L’Etrog is about Calabria because it contains real citron from Calabria, and not from somewhere else.

TPM: How immersed in the creation of the actual fragrances did you get?

CH: Very much. From compiling the research to create each perfume ‘brief’ (which were actually not very brief), to the step-by-step development: tempering the modifications, guiding the process so that the impression communicated in the story matched the scent. I also worked on the packaging design with French designer Marion Brazier, who is outstanding, and created the logo and the visual identity. I’m involved with the filling plant and on the retail level. I love every part of it.

TPM: In our October Issue, I interviewed Yann Vasnier. Of working with you on the Arquiste line, he said it was “a breath of fresh air to work with someone who required something daring and new with great signature. [He] looks for the highest quality and has great expertise.” How does that make you feel?

CH: It makes me feel extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with him and very, very proud for what we have created.

TPM: Perfume is an invisible art form, and yet one of the most evocative and personal. The Arquiste line is incredibly well-developed and refined and definitely deserves to be very successful. Every year, however, the number of new fragrance releases surpasses that of the previous year. How confident are you in releasing a niche perfume line into, if you’ll pardon the pun, a seemingly “saturated” market?

CH: Very confident, I think Arquiste is distinguishable not only because of the beautiful product, but because I feel that the market itself is receding back into fragrance lines that have more depth, more meaning. I know that the launch is the easy part, what I want is to create something successful in the long-run. I won’t lose sight of that.

Thank you, Carlos. It was a true pleasure and honor to speak with you. We appreciate your time and look forward to speaking with you again in the future.


Read the Arquiste Press Release from our October Issue Here

ARQUISTE Perfumes can be purchased online through Barneys New York or through their website...

Special Thanks to:

Dana Turek

Picture of Yann Vasnier provided by the Perfumer.
Yann Vasnier
Carlos Huber
I’ve always been very connected to my nose and every time I would do research on a building or city for work I would come across an anecdote, a part of the story, where I would think “What did it smell like?”