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From Silicon Valley to Scent Visionaries: Aeir's Web3 Fragrance Model of the Future

September 22, 2022
September 22, 2022
Aeir

Perfumery has, by its very corporeal nature, always been grounded in primal human nature. But with the increasingly digital future that lies ahead, we are seeing increasing adoption in the online realm, from NFT fragrances by the likes of Rook Perfumes, Look Labs, and D.S. & Durga, to AI-fueled customizable scents by NINU and NoOrdinaryScent.

Rodrigo Caula, Jana Bobosikova, and Enrico Pietra envision a new version of luxury fragrance, powered by the aforementioned technologies, with Aeir. All three founders certainly have a proven track record for future thinking. Caula worked in advanced color and material design at Tesla, was Director of Sustainability and Innovation at Yeezy, and co-founded a multidisciplinary design practice, Nuova, alongside Pietra. The two met at the Design for Luxury and Craftsmanship Masters course at the École Cantonale d'Art de Lausanne, with Pietro’s luxury design resume ranging from furniture to fashion for companies like Chopard and Retrosuperfuture. Bobosikova rounds out the powerhouse trio with a marketing and branding perspective, working as Senior Vice President for Vita Liberata’s US division, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for Marque of Brands, and CEO of Epic Operations / Future Labs—the helm which houses Aeir.

Together with financial backing from 8VC, Era, and Epic Brands, they launched the Aeir Frame Mini Fragrance Discovery Set this month, and the full-size Aeir Frame Fragrance System in October. Twenty-four months in development, Aeir’s Extrait Molecular de Parfum uses bioengineered synthetic materials and is housed in a refillable aluminum bottle (made in Italy). The bottle is made in a zero-waste production process using advanced coating technologies pioneered by NASA to maintain full recyclability properties. All refills can be fully disassembled. The company chose to use synthetics in order to reduce the product’s carbon footprint, alongside challenging the traditional notion of pricey raw materials equating to the ultimate luxury fragrance product—in line with the company’s motto, There's a Future Without Extraction. The debut collection features four scents: Virgin Olive, Grand Rose, Suede, and Wet Stone. Despite luxury being a part of the brand vision, the price for the collection is a reasonable $69.

The company is also initiating a custom-built, Web3-compatible, bi-monthly subscription platform for purchases called Aeir ID, which integrates Apple Wallet and Tap to Collect features that harness NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies. The platform holds not only exclusive product offers, but loyalty-based hero drops in the realms of fashion and wellness, alongside fragrance releases. Indeed, the Aeir team isn’t just thinking about a new approach to fragrance production, but fragrance consumption overall. For consumers still craving in-store retail, the brand has found an exclusive launch partner in Neiman Marcus. Instead of traditional fragrance campaigns, Aeir gave audiences a sneak peak of its perfumes with short films posted on social media that look more in line with the latest indie cinema releases than a product advertisement.

What can the fragrance industry at large and consumers take away from this new vision of luxury? BeautyMatter sat down with Caula to find out.

What birthed the concept for Aeir? 

Aeir started with the name and its meaning in Greek philosophy. We had the desire to create a new brand that could express our vision for sustainable luxury, material innovation, and our mutual passion for fragrance, which is the most emotive aspect of luxury. Previously working as luxury designers—we understood that we were participating in an industry heavily associated with opulence, using rare and scarce materials—fueled our desire to reduce our impact by committing to a mission of becoming the first carbon-negative luxury brand. Our approach to all materials making up Aeir builds on eliminating material extraction from Earth, with circularity and bioengineering.

What insights from working in sustainability and biomaterials strategy, as well as Web3, helped you in the creation of Aeir?

The intersection of all aspects, really. Enrico and I had always tapped into our academic approach of creation through the lens of research, luxury, and sustainability. Aeir encapsulates all of our principles of circularity with a philosophy of extraction-free material, formulation innovation, and reduction of carbon footprint by eliminating the unnecessary. Our packaging for instance removes the use of ink where possible, and reduces the amount of weight and material needed throughout all aspects of our product lineup. Having spent time at Tesla, and being next to SpaceX, also helped define our insights. Imagine painting a picture years beyond reality, one that could be spritzed in a room today.

Regarding Web3, we feel that NFT and blockchain in general are the perfect tools for enshrining the traditional codes of luxury. Our response is Web3 ready, built using Aeir Wallet on Aeir ID, which intersects the best of Web2 and Web3 experiences without the steep learning curve.

Which perfumer worked on these fragrances? Where are the raw materials sourced from? 

We will keep perfumer partnerships confidential at this time; however, we can share that Aeir was developed in collaboration with a biochemist who also formulates our scents. Enri and I developed the concepts and scent profiles, while our chemist translated the vision into our fragrances. We strongly believe that the next 100 years of perfumery won’t be defined by harvesting and extracting our most precious and scarce resources.

How does the Extrait Molecular de Parfum differ from a traditional extrait? 

Aeir’s Extrait Molecular de Parfums are fully molecular fragrance formulas that eliminate the botanical source of the natural scent origin. We’re bypassing the need for extraction through the utilization of innovative bioengineering. It’s like the Impossible Burger of fragrance. Aeir’s Extrait does not include any botanically derived extracted materials while maintaining absolute purity of ingredients and its accuracy of scent. We’ve even removed the "eau" in eau de parfum—through the development of waterless formulations that eliminate the need for distilled water, further reducing our energy footprint and commitment to a carbon-negative future.

Our scents are also a very contemporary take on olfaction: Wet Stone, a mineral-inspired scent that transports you to Carrara, Italy; Virgin Olive, an earthy scent with sweet notes of cannabis; Grand Rose, an interpretation of a new rose scent that moves away from your typical heavy florals; and Suede, our natural scent that takes inspiration from leather and warm woodsy notes.

"We imagine a future where the values of luxury are translated into a circular ecosystem—from brand experience and high-quality products, to the approach to service, minimal aesthetics, and its community."
By Rodrigo Caula, Co-Founder, Aeir

Is the formula a combination of synthetics and natural? 

Short answer: yes. Coming as an outsider in the beauty space, we were surprised to learn about the connotation of “synthetic” in the industry—synthesis is in everything around us. Sugar molecules turned into a vanilla scent results both in natural and synthetic material. With Aeir, we are focused on material efficacy, safety, purity, and carbon footprint / environmental impact. We’ve positioned ourselves as leaders in the space to try to introduce a new category of bioengineered ingredients that use biomimicry and nature as a guideline for creation. Imagine having to cut down a 90-year-old palo santo tree for its oils—it’s not sustainable. We should be working to protect nature, not extract from it.

What were the biggest challenges of the development process? 

The process was quite multifaceted—from building a brand to launching product—all aspects were complex. As our brand ethos stands behind a zero-waste and extraction-free philosophy, there were also many supplier challenges we had to overcome. Everything was developed in Italy, where we were able to introduce new technologies and processes into the luxury space with master craftsmen.

For the engineering of the parts themselves, we redesigned the pump engine to be fully disassemblable for ease of recyclability, for instance, and created photo vapor deposition coatings, as they create zero waste in the process. Our approach to the scent engineering was the same—why use pure floral extracts when we can make it in a lab? We believe our approach is the path that more customers and vendors will choose over time, and we can be a force for a “first principles” approach to creating sustainable luxury products.

What made you go for a subscription platform with NFC technology over a traditional DTC or retail model?

We are excited to already have global retail partners lined up in addition to Aeir’s direct-to-consumer membership model. As designers, we’ve recognized the importance of the need for digital and physical, as proof in our concept for LVMH Group's first NFT with Rimowa. Our approach to integrating NFC technology supports the unique architecture of our e-commerce platform, while giving our members and partners a completely new way to experience luxury through Aeir ID on aeir.com.  We think combining physical experience with customizable concierge like DTC experience is critical for any luxury brand—our DTC model was inspired by our experiences in IRL luxury retail shopping—which is translated into the quality and fidelity of the packaging, and even how they receive it via our Concierge service. Aeir ID and Aeir Wallet will give benefits to its members and our retail partners.

What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the campaign you launched on social media?

It was important for us to establish our voice in an overcrowded and oversaturated market. We decided that the campaigns should be shot as short films, each with its own chapter, revealing different angles of the brand with each new narrative. Some of our inspiration came from directors such as Wes Anderson and his films, as his style is simultaneously idiosyncratic and relentlessly detailed. We wanted Aeir campaigns to feel experiential, sprinkled with Easter eggs and teasers toward upcoming releases. Everything from the uniforms to the sets were curated down to the final stitch. We hope to create a strong community with our content, and elicit a strong desire for more.

We launched our first series of campaigns in Venice, California, as three-part acts. It was important to capture the emotion of a new luxury brand without a 150+ year history as we build our regional heritage a block from the beach.

The first, Sunset Sequence, was a billboard installation in Venice that would reflect the color of the sky on reflective lettering during a specific time of day where, during the sunset, the letters would fade away as it matched the colors of the gradient backdrop. The second, The Act of Gifting, created a narrative around our Concierge service, giving Aeir a voice through our approach to luxury gifting as a delivery service. The third, Buenos Aires, is a series of short films that captured our memories associated with two of our first scents, Virgin Olive and Grand Rose.

In your opinion, what defines the future of luxury? 

We imagine a future where the values of luxury are translated into a circular ecosystem—from brand experience and high-quality products, to the approach to service, minimal aesthetics, and its community. At Aeir we’re building a culture that brings together these values of sustainable manufacturing with artisanal craftsmanship using space-grade parts and materials that can be either fully disassembled, recycled, or home composted.

What are your projections for market opportunity?

Luxury fragrance is a steadily growing $37 billion industry that hasn’t been disrupted in over 150 years; we are building Aeir to be a competitor within the category. We think that the principles of traditional luxury with sustainability innovation and its approach makes Aeir special as it captures the voice of a new generation.

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