Zoom: Philippe Di Meo, Liquides Imaginaires & artist Toxic

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Last weekend, during Tranoi trade show, I got to meet Philippe Di Meo, professional storyteller founder of Liquides Imaginaires that I discovered not long ago. He studied art, architecture then design and created his agency. With a real interest in the luxury industry, he is now head of the perfume brand. 

A: Liquides Imaginaires in one sentence…

PDM: There are volatile corpse that help you leave the material world to enter imaginary universes.

A: What I love is also the wording you choose whenever you tell your story!

PDM: I am indeed really attached to stories. In fact, I don’t think I know any creator who doesn’t talk about stories when he mentions his work! -laughs- What I say is trivial… but concerning perfume, it’s very literary! It’s more than a story, it’s very narrative, I tell more than a Sunday spent under a fig tree. They contain references to Baudelaire, to sounds… I’m not afraid of talking about severity when it comes to perfumes. We often relate to superficiality whereas perfume includes depth and not necessarily superficiality. The fact that I do perfume means I’m engaged. The approach is not about smelling good. If it smells good then good point but it’s not the initial bias. The stories are really thought and written. Then raw materials only help me translate the stories into scents. I’m gonna be presenting my latest perfume soon. It’s part of a trilogy around animality, sensuality, animal materials… I also like the primitive dimension of perfume which is the smell, the origin of man. The perfume is called “Belle Bête” and is inspired by The Kiss of Sphinx, a beautiful painting illustrating a feline woman, we don’t know if she is kissing or devouring the man. It’s gentle and feminine even if it includes pepper and saffron, with touches of iris.

A: It is incredible how each stories is thought from A to Z! Everything has been determined clearly from the beginning to the end!

PDM: I like hearing this because we spend time on it. And I always say about my perfumes that they have to be tamed. They can’t be sold just like this by a quick smell or simply according to the head notes. To me, we often don’t take time to appreciate the perfumes nowadays and unfortunately the industry has been reduced to the beauty field. The act of purchase becomes encoded by these reflexes. Once we know more about the scent and its story, we are obviously more convinced. Just like our ‘bar’ where our clients take time to discover the different scents. We refer it to whisky because it also takes time. Indeed, nose and palate are connected. Moreover I’ve been working a lot for alcohol brands in the past before getting interested in ‘alcohol for body’, if I can say so. It slowly brought me there but I had an overdose of all these packagings and in the end, we didn’t pay attention to the essential which the perfume itself. We don’t show a packaging and our clients are looking for a juice so we present the perfume simply with the juice in its bottle, and that’s it! In our shop, people don’t walk and smell the perfumes by themselves. We create a real dialogue with him in order to understand his expectations and also for us, to explain the concept of the perfumes. That’s what makes the difference between niche perfumery and the commercial one.

A: So tell me about this new project ‘indélébile’ (ENG: indelible)…

PDM: We are firstly on the space dedicated to artistic and olfactive purposes of the Tranoi trade show with a concept named ‘indélébile’. It refers to the olfactive memory that is primitive and at the same time, the most durable one. This is indeed a fact, beyond the taste and the sight. But as long as we talk about olfactive memory, we immediately refer to “la madeleine de Proust”. And it evokes a certain back to past, a form of nostalgia. I, don’t like nostalgia, and I found it quite annoying the fact that whenever we mention olfactive memory, it would emphasize a past moment. So, concerning perfumes, why not being an actor of the situation instead of being passive? The idea was to come up with a powerful scent – created by Flair – and by its name, there was the notion of permanent marker and fresh paint hence the color of it – blue, so, a strong smell basically. Not to be confused, it is a concept but not necessarily a wearable perfume! Thus, for clothes because it stains. It’s about living an unforgettable moment by staining ourselves, a garment, an accessory. It is a way to memorize, to olfactively save the moment. Therefore, this perfume will trigger an entire library of memories that we have previously decided to save. Moreover if we come back to actual perfumery, the patch is really a phobia for perfumers and for the brands because we don’t want a perfume to stain but we all know that some raw materials do. And we even bleach them sometimes to be sure that they won’t stain a white shirt or our skin. So here, the perfume resists the washing, but of course, it will disappear progressively. It’s not a nice ink that goes away once washed!

A: Last but not least, what is luxury for you?

PDM: I would define luxury by a life philosophy that says: instead of taking account, be unaccountable, it’s simply freedom! Not being accountable to anybody is a real luxury because it means we are biased, we don’t make concessions, no compromise, and in creation it seems essential!

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*special guest* artist Torrick Ablack alias Toxic

It was above and beyond expectation how humble and how down to earth this person is. After an hour of deep conversation sharing experiences, I couldn’t write everything he said. But remember that conversations are key and I keep saying that I’m learning everyday. Here are some extracts:

“All I care about is to give my work to museums”

A: What is your definition of luxury?

T: Things that money can’t buy. That’s luxury. Time is a luxury. Objects if you don’t use them take up space. Luxury is time. Maybe time to go shopping but if I had time I would not go shopping, that’s for sure. If I had time, I’d be on the beach or doing something else. A friend of mine who is a designer said “look you know, I really don’t want to be like this way because I’m not gonna make another object, I’m just gonna take all the old stuffs I did, take it apart and put it back together, because we don’t need more things!” It’s really funny because once upon a time, salmon was a luxury. You could buy a salmon steak and it was luxury because they had to go to Alaska to find it. It’s everywhere now. (…) Musicians to learn, you have to go learn from a master musician. You make jewelry, you can’t fake making jewelry, you have to really go in. Guys who make watches, they make you wait five years to give you watches because it takes almost five years to put it all together! They can’t do a hundred. In that case, really beautiful luxury things are the things that your money can’t buy. (…) In necessity, people become hyper creative if they create, if they’re making things and they don’t have access to art stores and materials. They make the most incredible things. I saw a leather jacket in East Berlin in the 80’s and a guy had this jacket made out of leather straps from old shoes. It was the most beautiful jacket I ever saw. That’s a piece. I would never forget this jacket and I always tell people ‘man, they don’t even have food’ and they make a bomber jacket out of shoe straps. Wow. Necessity is another form of creativity. You create or you consume. You make things or you consume things. If someone is creative then you can feel someone else who makes things because the questions are not gonna be typical. Any artist or anybody creative, the first thing I look at is how is something made. Other people look at the price, how many,… We look at how it’s made, even the simplest things, we’re like wow. And when you have conversations with people who are on the same level as you, it’s always stimulating because we are constantly searching for new things. (…) What is lost in Paris are the very few boutiques where you have people who are making things. If you go to India, we can just get in and put our labels inside and sell it for profit. So creative people got jumped over. When Photoshop came out, everyone became a photographer. When Illustrator came out, everybody became a graphic designer. And when Serato came out, everybody became a DJ. Now there is 3D printing, and everybody is a sculptor and artist. What’s next? You don’t really need to learn things, you can just get it all on the internet.

One day someone asked me: How do you feel in the art world today? I had to think about it, then I said I feel like a tomato. You go to the supermarket with all these tomatoes, the yellow ones, the green ones, the black ones,… they’re all tomatoes, you pick the prettiest ones, you pick the ones that are cheaper,… How do I feel? I’m doing what I do. It’s the people who connect with my world, who look at my world, you gotta ask them. I don’t want to talk about the art world, my world is art. Their world is business. It’s not the same.

“Life is strange. The only thing you can’t choose is when you die. Everything else is a choice. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something or it’s impossible, it’s too hard. That means that they gave up and they don’t know how to do it. Normally somebody is gonna tell you ‘yeah you can do it’ if they have done something.”

“I don’t know if I’m the best spokesman about what luxury should be but I think it’s time… no. A nice watch that tells time!”

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