A cross-country journey to discover fragrances. Founder and olfactory Director, Veronica Peña realized how selected perfumes around the world have ingredients native to Mexico
Xinú is a Mexican perfume label founded by husband-and-wife duo, Veronica Peña and Ignacio Cadena, and Héctor Esrawe. Xinú, a word that means ‘nose’ in Otomi, a tonal language used in parts of the country. The house creates fragrances based on plant life found in Mexico and the Americas, ‘aromatic botany’ as the brand describes it. Launched five years ago in November of 2016, the brand’s inception dates back to Peña’s childhood. She spent her youth with her grandmother who taught her what she now knows about plants and flowers. Peña recalls how her grandmother would take her to the garden and teach her the names of the flowers, recognizing them by their fragrance. This left an impact on her and it is how she developed her nose. Veronica met her husband and co-founder, Ignacio Cadena and with a mutual adherence for botany and scents, they embarked on a cross-country journey to discover fragrances. It is during this time that she realized how selected perfumes around the world have ingredients native to Mexico, but her country has no legacy of luxury-perfumes that celebrate this abundance of ingredients derived from nature. It is with this desire to discover, document and celebrate Mexico’s botanical bounty that Xinú was born. «Plants do not recognize borders. They are created by human beings which is why it is of importance to celebrate the plants and flowers across the Americas and create an olfactory catalogue that pays homage to the botanical heritage of the region», says Peña.
The label conveys its passion for America’s diversity of vegetation through its five scents – Aguamadera, Copāla, Ummo, OroNardo and Monstera. Each of the fragrances are genderless and have been developed in collaboration with Mexico’s revered nose and perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux. A master of citrus and florals, Flores-Roux is acknowledged for his multi-dimensional creations for Thom Browne and John Varatos but extolled for the creation of cult favored Clinique Happy. Each perfume has hand-picked ingredients that are set apart from one another. Aguamadera is a citrus combination of agave cedarwood and Mexican green lime. Copāla is a wood laden scent that has a base of pink pepper, copal resin and Mexican vanilla beans. Ummo is a blend of tobacco, tonic bean and juniper, while OroNardo is a composite of Mexican orange blossom, marigold and tuberose. The house’s scent, Monstera is akin to travelling through a rainforest with its blend of the fruits and leaves of the Monstera plant. It is the first time the Monstera plant has been used in perfumery. Peña works with the perfume house to create each fragrance. «Fragrances need to connect with the soul. At Xinú, we nurture your senses. Each time I choose an ingredient to work with, I realize the connection it has with my past or present. Ingredients tell stories. A fragrance needs to elevate the elements to their potential to enhance its beauty and become a perfume», she says. The label has an offering of scented-candles, home aromas, and a line of soaps and moisturizers. Following in the brand’s made-from-nature legacy, these additions to the collection explore the narrative of the aromas of the continent featuring ingredients such as moss, Cabreuva oil, Mexican tuberose and Tonka beans extract. Xinúaspires to do what the French have done for Lavender or India for Jasmine and Marigold, explains the label’s manager Rocio Astudillo, who has worked with the brand since its launch. «Mexico has over eight-thousand plants and flowers. When we are creating a scent, we highlight native plants in each perfume. What we want is to create pride amongst our people and internationally in terms of botany».
Astudillo is no stranger to luxury-perfumery, having worked in the business for years. Joining the team at Xinú has been a journey of explorations. «Working here, I observe nature – the light, the shapes, the colors. Every time I travel, I look at the trees and flowers beholding their belonging to that place». The kinship with the world of nature and sense of discovery that Astudillo describes is echoed in the experience of the label’s three boutiques. The brand’s flagship is located in Mexico city’s Polanco neighborhood. Of the two boutiques, one is in the city of Merida in Yucatán and the other in San Miguel de Allende in the central highlands of Guanajuato. While each store visit varies, the essence stays true to the label’s roots. Inside the ateliers, visitors are met with tables that display the fragrances. Inspired by a naturalist work station, the table displays include a variety of ephemera – plant life, sketches, raw materials, olfactive devices, elements of nature and curiosities that are indicative of the universe of each perfume. «The table signifies that of someone who is a naturalist – an individual passionate about nature and goes around the continent raising stones, seeds, and puts it on the table and observes and studies them. It is an interactive experience», says Astudillo. The atelier in Polanco houses a garden that showcases the plants and flowers used in the perfumes. People convene to consume a glass of Mezcal and interact with the ingredients in the perfumes fist-hand. «It is like a lesson on botany». Xinú is not a story of Mexico’s botanical bounty, but a story of its traditions, design and creative community. This story is reflected in the brand’s collaborations. Working with design talents on the conception and construction of the perfume bottles. The bottles are developed by Mexico City-based designers and co-founders, Héctor Esrawe (Esrawe Studio) and Ignacio Cadena (Cadena & Asociados). Taking from the shapes found in nature and the sculptures of Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși, the bottles feature two half wood and glass domes balanced atop of each other. The blown-glass dome was developed in collaboration with Nouvel Studio, a pioneer in the design and production of blown-glass for over twenty-five years in Mexico. The containers for the candles ‘fire containers’ as the brand calls them, are handmade at the Guadalajara-based Cerámica Suro. This family-owned ceramic studio is over seventy years old and produces dinnerware for the country’s top restaurants. The brand comes together with Mexican artists to create displays for the shop fronts, a recent collaboration being with artist Marco Rountree. «Xinú is a phenomenon. The brand speaks of what is happening in Mexico. There is emerging talent and creativity. This project shows foreigners and Mexican people a part of Mexico that they have not seen before. We intend not to affect the environment with our perfumes», says Astudillo.
«We connect with brands and collaborators that share the values and vision as us to ensure that practices are maintained in our creation process». The label has made it a point to keep the packaging free of plastic and use wax paper or biodegradable paper to wrap and package the perfumes. The bottles are made in batches and the boxes for each are handmade by women in collaboration with an organization in El-Salvador that supports women who come from challenging backgrounds. The process of sourcing the ingredients for the perfumes lies with the perfume house. The brand ensures that the house works with communities that fall within a radius. «We do not have plantations. We work with companies that we know to be responsible in terms of ethics. We are interested in the ways in which they give back to the communities from where our ingredients are sourced». The perfume bottles are made with the awareness of recycling and longevity in mind – designed as a non-disposable object, the bottles are made to be repurposed after use, each half of the containers can hold plant stems or incense sticks in their narrow openings. The wooden hemispheres are made with certified walnut. For every tree used, twelve are planted. «Xinú will continue to document through its perfumes the beauty of nature».IMAGE GALLERY
Alejandro Dumas, 161
Polanco, Mexico City