The average human body temperature sits at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That natural heat is part of what propels a perfume through its lifecycle: after a few minutes of wear, top notes burn off to reveal the perfume’s middle and base notes, which will then persist for a number of hours depending on the scent’s composition.
But as anyone who has inadvertently sprayed their shirt sleeve rather than their wrist has likely noticed, fragrances can last longer on fabric rather than skin, even if they don’t offer the same sensuous experience.
“Fabrics are great diffusion elements. They are good carriers in order [for scent] to ascend or evaporate,” says perfumer Julian Bedel. Bedel founded his fragrance house Fueguia 1833 in 2010 in Buenos Aires, using aspects of Argentine nature and culture as his inspiration; his Biblioteca de Babel perfume interprets the enigmatic Jorge Luis Borges story, while Ceniza de Coca conjures an ashy coca leaf note. Now based in Milan, Bedel experiments with new methods, like the use of supercritical fluid extraction to create purer ingredients. One of his most recent projects is a line of perfumes designed specifically to be worn on textiles.
Indigo, inspired by denim, was launched in Fueguia’s Milan and New York boutiques this summer. Seda, named for silk, arrives for the American and European market this fall. Vicuña, inspired by wool, will follow this winter, and a final linen-style scent, called Lino, is slated for 2022. The perfumes are intended to be worn on their respective fabrics, but can also be sprayed on the skin, or even hair, depending on the wearer’s preference.
But the composition of this collection is distinct from traditional perfumes, Bedel says. “My idea was to have less volatility and more persistence on the fabric,” he explains. “So first you need to add ingredients that are kind of like a glue of the volatile molecules to the fiber.” (The ingredients that constitute that “glue” are, however, a trade secret.) “[I] remove also some evolution that you have in a typical skin perfume, some top notes. I flattened them. And I lower the volatility of them. So it’s completely different, it’s more like a home scent.”
Fueguia originally conceived of the line less as an olfactive experiment and more as a solution to a practical problem: Bedel wished to open a Tokyo store. But Japan, despite its appreciation for incense, does not have a robust tradition of skin scents; many find Western-style perfumes to be off-putting. “It was kind of a suicide act to to be a small perfume brand company and go to Japan to open a standalone boutique,” he says. “And then to sell them something that they don’t buy.”
The brand nonetheless opened a Tokyo store six years ago (and found enough of a market that it recently opened a second boutique in Tokyo’s Ginza district), but Bedel wanted to create a product suited to the Japanese taste. “They don’t like to wear [perfume] on the skin, they actually like to wear them on fabrics, on their clothes.”
Denim proved a natural starting point, given Japan’s love for raw denim, which also inspired Bedel to think of fragrances that might have an antibacterial aspect. In 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Bedel evolved the concept to create Aguas for Skin & Textile, sanitizing spray versions of many of Fueguia’s core scents.
The textile perfumes, first conceived as a Japan exclusive, now finally get a global launch this year, starting with Indigo, which features geranium, marjoram, and mint. The notes have an everyday quality like denim but are also, like the indigo plant itself, perennial plants that thrive in temperate climates.
This fall’s launch, Seda, is a nocturnal jasmine perfume. The flower is beloved for its indolic qualities, but Bedel uses a range of jasmine sources, including jasmine sambac and jasmine grandiflorum varieties, to bring out both the flower’s green and carnal notes. “It’s this animalic aspect of jasmine that is the beauty of jasmine, but I like to combine them in order to balance that,” he says. Vicuña sticks to Fueguia’s roots; named for the relative to the llama that produces some of the world’s most prized wool, the scent is a recreation of “the feeling of smelling the neck of a live animal,” Bedel says, with an earthy blend of vetiver, sandalwood and oak.
The concept might prove especially successful as Fueguia expands its global presence, having received an equity investment from Middle Eastern firm Ilwaddi WLL earlier this year. “We’re working a lot with Middle Easterners. There is an intention of appreciating the beauty of perfume, and not necessarily on the skin because culturally, you don’t have skin to show, you have the fabric,” Bedel says.
The use of fabric as an aroma carrier is a jumping off point for other ideas as well, Bedel says, not merely for personal use but for scenting everything from cars to airplanes. It’s merely the beginning of an olfactive universe.