After 10 years Aesop reveals a Japanese inspired fragrance named HWYL. I had the opportunity to visit the Aesop headquarters in London last week for the release. We entered a beautiful raw industrial space with clean lines with all of their ranges uniformly merchandised along a wall of minimal steel shelving and two large wood tables positioned at the far wall, juxtaposed with an island in the middle of the room decorated with fresh moss and rocks, adorned with the essential HWYL bottles. The typical fluorescent lighting fixtures were eclipsed by sheets of earthy muslin; which took down the anxiety that kind of lighting can induce, and covered too where the heating elements, keeping one connected to the natural vibe that was conferred. The team were casually dressed in clothes that give an Ann Demeulemeester circa 97 feel, while the stars of the show stood out with their unique style. The expert duo behind this new scent is french perfumer Barnabé Fillion and Kate Forbes, Aesops R&D Manager and an expert in ingredients and formulations, concocted this special scent with the idea of an ancient temple covered in moss. The temple was discovered by a group of monks, in which they took over leaving the moss as a sort of shrine. The key noses for this fragrance are cypress, frankincense and vetiver, a perennial bunchgrass native to india, but in this case, grown in Madagascar. Over a period of time involving a new technology, of course confidential, and an extensive formulation process involving distillation and mixing, and with precise timing gives us this authentic and exceptional scent.
We were met with a warm welcome of hugs, followed by an expert hand wash, yes our hands were washed by an Aesop specialist. Coffee was served immediately, which was perfect and we were encouraged to explore to Aesop HQs and absorb the setting and try the fragrance. Shortly after we all gathered around to hear Barnaby and Forbes speak about their adventures of the inception of HWYL. Capturing the base note from the silence and personal impact of ancient forests of Kyoto with trees that have been on earth for 700 years, getting inspired by the space between the trees and how they embrace. The interaction between elements, was the perfect setting for the perfectionist. Not a simple process, Fillion’s unique nose, tied in compassion and creative freedom, never stopping to look at the trends, compromising on quality was surely out of the question. After 150 trials and special time taken on alcohol tests paired with Forbe’s aforementioned expertise, HWLY was finally born.
The fantastic social elements of this fragrance are that there were no focus groups, no no social media updates, no spectacular campaign, just an insular group working on a final goal. Just a small creative team, inspired by the space between the trees, how they embrace, the interaction between elements. A short film was made to compliment the feeling, to give us a sense of the journey, by cinematographer Olivier Sévère, who works a lot with stones and rocks, he filmed in KUSHO, Japan.
We had a nice chat with Thomas Buisson, the general manager for Europe, and he SCHOOLED us with the brands philiosophy, which reiderated the ideas behind the making of HWYL. Respect for the retail process, the personal interaction with each client is taken seriously, no products are pushed, the client is able to discover products for themselves. There is a personal involvement that involves love, passion and exposure. They resist against the one stop shop and mass consumption, which seems to be the norm these days, a retail revolution must take place in order keep a sense of self and know who you are. Take time and make time.
As perfume is individual, each person’s skin captures and emits a unique scent, and with the ingredients, this scent is presented as unisex. When I tried it, It smelled quite ‘masculine’ on me, I’m blaming my plunge in progesterone and estrogen (aka pms) that day, so basically my hormone levels deemed me a man that day. It was very interesting to smell the scent on others at the event and discuss the different theories on how the scent reacts to each individual; diet, mood, sweet blood vs sour blood and even the female cycle.
Hwyl is available now at Aesop stores now and is launching in Sweden on September 25th.