Perfume has a habit of triggering memories of places, to be sure. Sometimes it can even pull you back to a specific time, too. Carlos Huber the owner and creative director of Arquiste is one who regularly does both. His career in architectural restoration has combined with his passion for fragrance to make sure the brief for his perfumes come from a specific time and place. Up until now those times and places have not been during my lifetime. The newest pair -Él and Ella become the first.
Carlos Huber grew up on the stories his parents told him of the Acapulco disco Armando’s Le Club. In the early 1970’s Acapulco was the hip destination in Mexico and where the jet set could be found was dancing the night away at Armando’s Le Club. It was a resort version of Studio 54. The only difference here is the party moved from the pool in the daytime on to the dance floor at night. Disco and Acapulco were meant to be together and Armando’s Le Club was its intersection.
Armando’s was situated on the beach, in the bay. Imagine this pool and a garden and the disco inside with songs like I Feel Love, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and Knock On Wood. This place was where Elizabeth Taylor would go. Bianca Jagger, Halston, Grace Jones, Sylvester… It was like Studio 54. The same people would be there. So if you would go and be successful flirting with someone, then you would go out to the beach and go skinny dip. That’s a really cool idea.The idea of applying a fragrance in the morning, then you would go to the beach and after that you would go to someone’s house with a pool and have cocktails. After that you put a fresh shirt and you reapply your fragrance to go out dancing at this club. The idea of a fragrance that has been ageing on skin and has macerated. It has been warmed up by the sun, by the euphoria of the night, smoking, drinking… It was also a very liberating time, sexually speaking… “when we were working on the development I told Rodrigo Flores-Roux that I wanted to have this vintage 70’s feeling with a little bit of dirtyness in it”, Carlos Huber said.
Armando’s Le Club
Carlos Huber wanted to capture a feminine and a masculine take on this particular setting. He enlisted regular collaborator Rodrigo Flores-Roux to complete this vision. They decided to name these creations Él and Ella (he and she in Spanish). They are each meant to pick up on a part of the experience in 1978 at Armando’s Le Club. Flores-Roux created two distinctly gendered personalities in each of these perfumes.
Ella is the scent of the woman who has finished her sunbathing for the day and has nipped up to her room to slide into a Halston sheath. The neckline plunges as the sheen of perspiration forms droplets which disappear further down. Ella is this woman who stalks the pool deck imperiously only to prowl the dancefloor looking for her equal.
Ella opens with that scent of clean sweat beaded skin. Sr. Flores-Roux uses angelica root and carrot seed to form this accord. We then follow one of those beads of sweat as it coalesces at the waist. Rose coated with cardamom and honey. This is the scent of seduction as Ella puts out her lure. It all heads into a magnificent animalic chypre base composed of patchouli, vetiver, and civet. The last little bit of dazzle is a cigarette smoke accord which swirls very lightly throughout the base. This is so perfectly balanced to not disrupt the overall mood but to capture a time when smoking was what was hip.
It’s a sultry night of disco, plunging necklines and champagne-soaked skin. Lights flash and strangers kiss, but it’s her, dancing, that commands the attention. She moves, panther-like, her honeyed skin creating an addictive sweetness and magnetism that only a deep chypre fragrance can deliver. She’s met her match on the dance floor, and it’s her animalic instinct that follows him outside, onto the golden beach, under a silvery moon.
Él is the scent of that man who also enters Armando’s Le Club. He is dressed for the evening wearing a Nik-Nik shirt unbuttoned down to his navel. There is gold around his neck, more than one, but not too many. There is also a sheen of perspiration underneath his strong chest hair. He is an Él looking for his Ella and across the dance floor that might be her standing there.
Él opens with a 1970’s power herbal chord of laurel, clary sage, and rosemary. This is so typical of powerhouse men’s fragrances of the time it is almost the equivalent of ‘I am Man hear me roar’. It would have been so easy to let that beast out. Instead Sr. Flores-Roux works at making this a man of intellect as he uses cinnamon leaves to twist that herbal opening into something fantastically satisfying. Cinnamon leaf is an ingredient almost used as an afterthought. Not here. Sr. Flores-Roux uses it as a harness to keep the rampaging herbs from being too strident. It has to be done because the same cardamom and honey that we met in Ella are also here. This is the heart beating underneath the hirsute chest and gold chains. For Él, Sr. Flores-Roux fashions an animalic fougere base. Vetiver and patchouli are transformed with a double dose of animalic as castoreum and civet provide the fur. Oakmoss provides the toothy smile. It is that moment when Él sees Ella and passion takes over the night as the music and lights swirl around them.
Nighttime at Acapulco’s sultriest disco. Revelry on the dance floor. In the heat of the moment, he smiles coyly and motions to the beach outside, hinting at a midnight swim. He unbuttons his shirt, flashing bronzed skin and the scent of his cologne, a virile muskiness loaded with patchouli, oakmoss and elegant woody notes. A masculine impression of a day under the sun, intensified by the thrill of the night.
Both Ella and Él have 12-14 hour longevity. Él has a little more sillage than Ella but neither is something I would consider quiet.
It was also a very liberating time, sexually speaking… when we were working on the development I told Rodrigo Flores-Roux that I wanted to have this vintage 70’s feeling with a little bit of dirtyness in it. In every disco of the 1970’s a mirror ball held central position over the dance floor. The ability to reflect the light in many directions feels very similar to what Él and Ella achieve. Through their collaborative efforts Sr. Huber and Sr. Flores-Roux have made two fragrances which contain a mirror ball of cardamom, honey, and civet within. The reflection of the other notes in both Él and Ella are what makes them distinctive. Él and Ella have reached a new pinnacle for Arquiste. These are both amongst the best this brand has to offer….
Él and Ella come in 100ml bottles of frangance in Eau de Parfum concentration for the price of $190 USD.