As an artist, you have quite a relevant biography which includes collaborations with big museums such as the Louvre, you’ve been the official organist of some relevant Italian cathedrals, you’re a painter, a photographer, you organize music festivals and you’re the founder of Lavs, an atelier which focuses on studying, projecting and manufacturing religious vestments and regalia. How did you get to perfumes and decided to co-found together with Marcello, UNUM?
At this point, my activity concerns all of me, my background. Things who fascinate and trouble me become a language, everything I do is all about myself and my life. I don’t allow anymore people threatening my artistic freedom, which is also my private one and my personal life’s mirror. In this evolution process there are no compromises. UNUM is the result of it, an exigence. At first it concerned LAVS, the excellence robes and vestments atelier. Marcello is by my side since the beginning of LAVS, he is a perfect right hand man and put my visions into practice. We use to add perfume to the vestments. Here came the idea of a scent able to make our work even more unique.
What’s the main concept behind UNUM? Do you have a general theme you’d like to explore within your line of fragrances?
UNUM world embrace arts, truth, Spirit, reasons of life. It has roots in the intimate universe where the most contrasting sentiments dwell. A painful mysticism, a sort of madness that fuels beauty, through forest sounds. UNUM concur to create Music, writes painting and paints poetry. Into the most fruitful silence uproar, from the deepest world.. UNUM is the bright light of a new Middle Age, maybe it is a wrong word, but is into this that I draw part of my sensibility. A restless heart who emits archaic sounds, a mystic geometric symphony.
Unum is an intelligent and cultured mix of avant-garde and classicism. How these two elements interact in your vision as an artistic director for a line of fragrances?
The artist’s task is to go towards the dark side of reality, always evoking hidden drives and releasing secret potentialities of the self. Not the unexampled , not the selfish, the individualist, but the one who is also plural, formed by many faces. Perhaps this is the possible turn, in the artistic fragrances world. We are artists , children of this time and researchers outside of power games, without commercial interests, without academic ambitions, without critic acclaims, out of the worldliness who put fake artists into golden cages. Avant-garde allows to act rapidly, without soppy romances, catching what lies beyond things. The energy is strong and it hurts, creating blood dashed images. It ’s like digging with his hands until the centre of the earth into a symbiosis between substance and our own unconscious. here is the idea who scratches the page, engraving the material.
One of your fragrances is called LAVS which is, as far as I understand, both the acronym of your atelier’s name Laboratorio Atelier Vesti Sacre and the latin word Laus. How this fragrance is related to your work as an ecclesiastic tailor and how is related to the word Laus (latin word for praise, glory, fame)?
This question contains his answer. LAVS (laus) means laud, praise in latin. We wanted to strengthen the bond between the latin word “laus“ and our work. The Atelier concurs to the praise to God through the expert works of ours hands. This is the base of sacred art. That ‘s the way UNUM chooses to celebrate The Atelier with LAVS at first, LAVS is synonym of enchantment, incense, a real hymn to the Spirit of Bois de Rose, Rosewood and Tonka bean, all tied together by a Opoponax base, the golden resin‘s sweet myrrh.
Opus 1144 is conceived to celebrate the gothic style from it’s very early days in year1144 to nowadays. In you personal vision, how the final result translates this artistic style into olfactory language?
In my opinion, the St.Denis foundation is not a stone, is like a blade producing sparks from where precious clouds spread all around and persist in the centuries. Gothic is a vertical flower, is a light out of the substance’s darkness, an infinite and uncertain perfume, a sort of music which is not here, it is an ecstatic journey, is the way itself.
It’s a lyric who has to be silently listen and throw us into a non ordinary dimension. It is very close to the pain : when men suffer interrupt rough things and go beyond. Only sounds and perfumes who comes from horrible depth can be true witness. We, the artists, the musicians, we live a suspended life, out of the common time, we touch just for an instant something similar to eternity and we naturally think about our work the same way as religions think about “glory“.
The gothic vaults carry you into an other dimension, raise the spirit and perfume the infinity.Opus 1144 is the sky, the scented leaden grey of Normandy, is stone and Music, thick and delicate, pure energy. Concerning OPUS 1144, we have White Musks “in concerto“ with Grey Amber, Leather, Vanilla and Sandal, and then Cashmere Wood, finishing with Elemi’s resins and Jasmin fantasies… we also feel Tangerine and Bergamot’s acute archs . Like gothic cruises they cross each others,and generate the extrait spiritual composition’s harmony.
One can feel the scented grey, one can listen to the stone and to the intense but delicate Music.
The disturbing charm of Gothic.
Your general aesthetic both as an artist and as an individual seems pretty far from what you’ve done with your atelier LAVS. How did you decided to start LAVS and how did you get to dress two Popes (Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis)?
The commonplace : “Never judge a book by its cover“ doesn’t belong to me nor should belong to any other artist. Art is free spirit. Without freedom there is no truth. Sometimes ago someone had identified a “watershed“ event in my life. I was 38. This number always walk with me. Recent facts trigged strong changes in my life .today I ‘m a new person, aware of receiving many incitements that have been reason of renaissance. I think that freedom is the noblest feeling one can get. I thank all the people who tickled my inner torment, because ,unawares, they pushed me to change , certainly for the better. To be an artist is not a job. One born artist, and to be aware of being one embody the capacity to absorb everything is around you. Artists are alive , always able to change , until the end. Painting, sculpture, photography, music..people, friends, enemies. I didn’t know of the existence of this figure : the sacred clothes designer ! LAVS is born during the years of my musical studies in Vatican. At the end of my studies, going back to my hometown I asked to myself : ‘ And now ? What have I to do ? “ I studied, drawn,I was inspired, I choose. My mom always said to me : no matter what you will do, do it aiming at the top, we always have the possibility to go down, eventually.. That’s what I have done. LAVS is also a fruit of this thinking. One day I received the call from the Papal Liturgicals Celebrations’ office.
Yohji Yamamoto once said: “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: I don’t bother you - don’t bother me”. One of the first things immediately noticeable about Unum is that it relies a lot on the color black. What’s your relationship with this color?
Yamamoto was right, and UNUM will have reason to exist if its character will remain black. Black as divorce from society, even being part of it. Black as an underground life, without roots, a mysterious journey into the self ’s subversive imperatives . One can love this way, too. Alone. ten steps forward, going through the existence and trying to avoid pain. But you can’t . You can’t avoid pain. Free. Black. This is the true aristocracy.The real achievement: decide what to do tomorrow, in spite of everything. A black wind that move one only soul. UNUM is the traveler’s bag, a traveler who is nomad and free . I hope that, in spite of his packaging, UNUM could keep talking about Black, that is the summa and the rejection of every colors. As well as my life: summa and rejection.
What influenced you the most when it comes to fragrance?
I’m always struck by what is new and by the desire to get involved. As I already said, the perfume was a need, and everything developed as the will to embrace a new public, elitist, but certainly wider. A public who shown interest in our history, in the bravery to have told it . We are happy, we didn’t expect such a clear and positive response, such a beautiful response. So..now, perfume is part of our lives, too. It is among arts, one of the most complete sensory, mystique and spiritual experiences.
What’s next at Unum?
We are working on others ambitious and beautiful projects. During the Esxence days in Milan we announced the closure of the three fragrances project and the entry, next September of environment fragrances. At this moment I just finished writing a news having Music as leading actor. I’ll cooperate with people able to get even closer to me.We’ll talk about free spaces, Gothic again, meetings, nights,but also about life.. Only the Music produce metamorphosis of thought. Because the sound is untouchable and shapeless , I decided to juxtapose it to UNUM . I believe that perfume and music are strongly tied and connected to the nature. The work takes shape like a tree (I know trees very well…people who look at my pictures know that..) an object able to create his form by itself. I will let myself go towards this Nature, into a black sand desert, between the rocks, in solitude, looking for surviving,the mine and the art’s one , that live of its own strength.
To find ou more about Unum, check their website here.
This Interview Originally Appeared on Basenotes.