Perfume, architecture and design are creative disciplines infinitely entwined in the mind and work of Atelier Materi founder, Véronique Le Bihan. And hers are fragrances combining consummate craftsmanship with a contemporary vision, to be worn fearlessly, forever…
Véronique, we are told, views all three disciplines – architecture, design and perfume – from the same angle, the object being to create beauty and pleasure out of matter. This creative process is the very wellspring of her inspiration.’ And that boundless creativity is certainly evident from first sniff of Atelier Materi‘s creations, all of which put a specific precious raw material at their heart, constructing astonishingly beautiful fragrances around them.
From an early age, growing up in Brittany, the olfactory world around her made an impact on Véronique Le Bihan: the sun-warmed sand, fresh-cut grass and salty seaside air. With her senses awakened by those natural scents, Véronique went on to spend 12 years developing cosmetics and perfumes for various other clients, before launching her own perfume house in 2019.
The vision was to found ‘a discreet luxury brand’. But this is truly modern luxury, as we’re coming to know it in a fast-changing world – with ethical, social and environmental values playing an important part. The three core values of Atelier Materi – integrity, respect and fairness – are reflected in everything they do. Firstly, the entire venture – from artistic director to product design and packaging – is staffed and run by women. (So, when Véronique says these fragrances ‘empower women’, she certainly doesn’t pay lip-service to the term.)
Secondly, but just as importantly, the house is obsessed with ‘sustainable local sourcing and products made in France.’ As Atelier Materi assert, ‘In our choice of raw materials, we require guarantees from our suppliers that their activities respect for the environment and do not involve any testing on animals.’
The pared-back, minimalistic designs of the bottles – all sustainably and painstakingly produced in France with traditional, artisanal techniques – accurately reflect the aesthetic of the fragrances inside. And when you hold these bottles in your hand, you will immediately understand the importance of design and architecture in Véronique’s life: they are stunning in their simplicity and a true pleasure to hold in one’s hand. They beg to be held, to be admired, from the sensuous curve of the midnight blue flacons to the textural concrete caps dipped with an aged, bronze patina – each piece entirely handmade and, therefore, unique.
Similarly, the Atelier Materi fragrances themselves require a special kind of contemplation. Each, as we’ve said, is built around the concept of showcasing a particular raw material in perfumery, with other fragrant ingredients carefully selected to highlight that central scented inspiration without ever overshadowing. So that each element, ‘precious, traditional or unusual,’ is refined by the perfumer to ‘bring out its intimate nuances and innermost secrets in a stark and unique unisex fragrance.’
These are scents to be cherished by anyone with an innate love of modernist luxury or appreciation for true quality. Think of them as the kind of fragrances you can inhabit, inspecting the nuances of the notes from every angle. So, in Poivre Pomelo, the pepper is the axis, using Timut (also known as Timur pepper) and accentuating the citrus tones this Nepalese berry naturally possesses with sparkling grapefruit and a tingle of pink peppercorn – the brightness carried through a radiant floral heart to the sunshine warmth coaxed from vetiver, dry cedar and mate in the base.
For Peau d’Ambrette, meanwhile, we explore every facet of the ambrette seed – from floral or fruity, rich amber to fluffy musk and powdery notes – the crispness of ginger-quenched mandarin making the deep purr of silky sandalwood and Ambroxan all the more animalic as it warms.
Proving just how much versatile and chameleon-like a single note can be, when we encounter sandalwood as the star in Santal Blond, it’s the smoky, ethereal side of the wood, swirled with cool cardamom, a translucency of jasmine and creamy tonka bean for added addiction.
And if you don’t think you’re one for gourmand creations, be prepared to have everything you think you know about chocolate turned on its head when Cacao Porcelana reveals the bitterness of the beans, rippled with rum and swathed in rings of tobacco. Or perhaps you’ll be most surprised by Cuir d’Iris? The leather here so soft it hugs you more as cashmere does, the iris smooth as butter and studded with a verdant chicness that feels entirely new.
One thing we know for sure: wherever you begin your fragrant journey with Atelier Materi, you’ll want to make time to explore each and every one on your own skin. Think you know how these iconic raw materials smell? Think – and smell – again…