Scarcely three years ago, Sylvie Loday, Olivier Royère, and Benoît Verdier launched Ex-Nihilo with the desire to provide consumers with custom perfumes. Markedly different than Le Labo or Commodity, Ex Nihilo offers its customers several base perfumes that can then be adjusted to suit a number of personalities. Once a customer has made their choices, they can witness their creation coming to life via the brand’s Osmologue, an industrial machine typically only used in perfume factories, but a part of the experience at Ex Nihilo’s Parisian store.
Only a few months ago, the group continued its collaboration with Olivier Pescheux (the International Fragrance Prize winner who runs Nose in Paris) to develop Les Sublimes Essences, a nod to the Middle Eastern custom of layering oils like musk or oud or jasmine. For Ex Nihilo, it’s just another example of how the brand can merge ritual with luxury without making its DIY ethos too kitcsh.
“Ex Nihilo is a work about personalization,” says Verdier. “We had this concept from the beginning, and in the Middle East it’s very common to mix oils with fragrances. So we wanted it to be an effortless process, and Musc would be a first layer.” Infused with oil, the essences have a moisturizing effect and are meant to be mixed and matched with other oils or a favorite fragrance, be it from Ex Nihilo or not.
“One of the reasons why we created Ex Nihilo was that we felt there was no mystery or magic in the industry—everything had become too formulaic,” says Verdier. “We just wanted to use the best materials we could find and didn’t want it to be overly composed. Now we know the market is booming. Big brands want to be niche and little brands want to be luxury brands. It’s a very exciting time.” Drawing perfume back to its roots of individual scents, in other words, has become an innovative way of building a luxury brand.
The small niche fragrance world has become mainstream allowing for more choices among consumers, and for better quality materials to stand out among cheaper mass-produced formulas. “Ten years ago it was more about making fragrance more accessible,” Verdier notes. “Now people want something personal—they’re educated and they’re listening to the smaller brand stories, which allows them to make more informed decisions.”
Ex NIhilo has only been in the US market for about a year, but Verdier says they’re already seeing consumers respond positively to the line. “We use the real Rose of May Narcissus,” says Verdier. “They like this idea of experiencing scent, especially high-quality scents.”
It doesn’t hurt that the brand is also a bit of a destination, both in Paris and in the United States, keeping the brand’s overhead down and making it more desirable. “ Ex Nihilo means “created from scratch,” and we try to keep ingredients and locations to a minimum to preserve the quality. It’s difficult to come see us, but our customers like this exclusive feeling.”
What’s next when the brand is so new, and doesn’t find expansions necessarily beneficial for its image? It’s all about target markets and trying to understand where development makes sense. “We are expanding in the Middle East. If we do something on this particular market, we won’t be too opportunistic. We aren’t following the trends. It’s a market that goes by the quality of materials and innovation and new experiences—we want to keep it like the layering as a Middle Eastern client would, but do it like a Parisian.”