Their studio is covered in paint and tiny glass bottles whose scents invite you in. The organized nature of the desk is a far cry from the chaos of Lucien and August's street art. August says he is meticulous when testing out a formula.
Les Vides Anges has always been in the shadows. Before they decided to make fragrances, Lucien was running through the dark corridors of Montreal, with photographer — and LVA perfumer — August in tow, leaving his tag; a simple “PAS.” Translated from French, it means “Can’t.” It’s not something they are used to hearing.
Why start a niche perfumery?
August: I hate the word niche. It’s meaningless. We’re indie perfumers. We don’t have captive materials to rely on. Yet we can make something distinctive. It’s really about time.
What do you mean “about time”?
Lucien: It takes time to work the formulas. It takes time to mature the experiments. Time is the only thing we can’t make more of though.
You’ve decided to focus on limited-run fragrances. What if someone falls in love with a fragrance and it’s sold out?
A: If they’ve loved one of our fragrances, then they’ll enjoy one of our newer creations. We archive all our formulas, but I’m not interested in looking back. I only want to see how else I can manipulate the ingredients. And it’s not like we don’t have a permanent collection.
You mean la 1e?
A: Yes. It’s a favorite for a reason. It’s hypoallergenic, simple yet powerful. It’s a quintessential modern perfume. And it smells amazing on both men and women.
How important is it to you to make your fragrances unisex?
L: All perfumes are unisex. Any man can wear Channel №5. A woman is stunning with a touch of Tom Ford Oud. It’s ridiculous that we’ve created these false corridors between scents. Perfumes are an extension of how you are feeling — or want to feel.
How do you start a fragrance?
A: We start with my list of materials. I like to focus on a particular aroma which has piqued my interest. Then it’s time and dozens of experiments. Failure is a big part of perfumery.
Do you fail a lot?
L: All the time. Sometimes the failure leads you down a different path. That’s why I love when things go wrong.
What do you learn when things go wrong?
A: Everything. The only way to honestly know what you like is to understand what you don’t.
Is there one ingredient that, as you say, has piqued your interest?
A: I want to say there are a lot, but one has really gotten me recently — Humus Ether from Takasago. I’d love to build a fragrance with it as the central pillar. I’ve yet to figure it out.
You came to perfumery after years as a street artist. Why did you make a change?
L: I love the solitude of working on an art commission or just going out tagging. But the commissions started drying up about 10 years ago. We found ourselves obsessing on our hobbies. Perfumery was the one that meant the most. Plus, have you ever tried running from the cops at 45 years old?