Nathalie Paillarse is the Founder and Creative Director of the brand Ex Voto Paris. A highly intelligent and successful entrepreneur who is also impossibly chic, the quintessential Parisienne. In 2013 she received the Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite, Knight of the National Order of Merit presented by the French Minister of Foreign Trade. The Ex Voto Bath, Fragrance and Accessories line are all luxurious, minimalistic and elegant in design and with the use of organic ingredients and are paraben free. Here is an interview with the creative force behind this brand, a woman who has started, driven and brought this company to the success it is today.
With Masters degrees in both Economics and Politics, and an MBA from the HEC Business School, what led you to work in an advertising agency?
Indeed I was happy to complete my Masters in Economics and Politics by a more entrepreneurial vision with the MBA at HEC Business School. A very interesting experience. Actually my first intention was to work in Finance as a trader and finally, just before the end of the MBA, I switched to the advertising industry, probably unconsciously guided by an artistic side which was maybe ready to blossom! I enjoyed the creative process, the photo shoots, the beautiful campaigns with top photographers, the attention to details and of course all the strategic decisions for each brand and client. A chance and a pleasure to be involved both in the creative and management fields. In any case, I firmly believe that everything you learn somewhere – even in different areas, even without a direct bond with what you are dreaming of – always teaches you things that you will finally use one day in a different way. But at this time, I didn’t know that one day I will create my own company and that I will merge an artistic side with a marketing field, revealing an entrepreneurial passion. And I hadn’t known either that I would create fragrances and perfumes!
How was Ex Voto born?
Ex Voto is a personal adventure, an authentic journey. Born without any market studies, despite my MBA background! Born from a passion for design, beauty and style. It was more about instincts and feelings than market reviews. My first products were decorative frames that were instantly successful, a chance, and I just launched the company on this basis. Then I learned every single day. How to make ideas come true, how to manage, how to produce, how to sell, among many other things. A non-stop process and a magical path, always full of good surprises and incredible opportunities happening suddenly and making this entrepreneurial experience more enjoyable and truly magical. No market reviews could have planned all what I have lived and still live with Ex Voto.
How did you choose the name Ex Voto?
I love Latin names which sounds a little abstract nowadays, but conveys both an aesthetic sense in reference to the ancient Roman beauty and is also intriguing today. Ex Voto is a beautiful name to me since it is infused by the beauty of miracles. It is magical and graceful. And a great chance that the pronounciation in all the countries is the same (we export 95% of our products), and it is easy to remember. It also conveys, perhaps unconsciously, a sense of spiritual purity. and in any case, it is rare, uncommon, and it intrigues. I like that.
Has it been a tough road in building up your business in the highly competitive Bath and Fragrance industry?
Ex Voto is magic, so I would say all the things almost happened naturally. I first developed decorative objects such as trays, frames, candleholders. Then I added scented candles and home fragrances. Following my instincts and wishes always, nothing else. And fortunately, my retailers and customers were sharing my taste and liked my products. So I continued this way. Just doing what I wanted to do. I also created bath and body care lines, my clients liked them a lot, both for the design and the scents, and then luxury hotels which were carrying Bulgari or Hermes brands contacted me to create hotel bath amenities for the hotel bathrooms. Each collection, each process, was leading to another field, really amazing! So it is a continual process of creation and development, sometimes planned, sometimes happening with the opportunities you meet by chance, or serependity – and work too of course. It was not easy, a daily battle, but with time, I realize it was – and still is – a process under permanent construction, which makes the work really interesting. You learn every single day but also you do what you love and what you feel. That is a great pleasure. My favourite motto is a quote from Jimmy Hendrix “All I’m gonna do is just go on and do what I feel”, I love it and truly what has always guided my work at Ex Voto. And a chance that my customers share my taste. So basically of course the compeition is extremely high in the beauty and fragrance industry, but such a pleasure to see that just with your feelings and creative difference, you can enter it and compete with the most prestigious brands. I am one of the last independent perfume houses and I am really happy to see that magic!
How involved are you in the process to create the fragrances?
Actually I am involved from A to Z in all of Ex Voto creations. From design to fragrance and name of the collections, all is made by me and with pleasure always. Sometimes I think of a name first, or of the design and colours, and then I create the fragrance to match the concept. Sometimes I just think that I would love a woody or a fresh or a masculine scent, and work on different notes to create the final scent, after various steps and tests. All made with rare essences from Grasse, the world’s fragrance capital, and all my products are made in France too. One of my best sellers is the Black Amber fragrance, a sensual, sophisticated scent which has became the Ex Voto signature fragrance. Addictive! You have no idea of how many clients litterally “track” this fragrance after they discover it in New York, Milan or Saint-Barth ! Such a pleasure to see my clients happy with my fragrances, there is truly an attachment, a reminiscence of memories with scents. It is all about personal stories for many of them and for me too. Fragrances are a projection of pleasure and design a perception of aesthetic values. Beauty infused with Design: this is what I want to convey.
Do you design the collection or do you have a team of designers?
All by myself. Design is a passion. from the shapes to shades of colours or typography, I love everything. And my design is inextricably linked to the fragrance itself, to capture the story and feeling I want to convey. A fragrance is not only a scent, but an experience. Luxury must be felt, attention to details too. My design is very sober, minimalist yet sensuous, pure yet sophisticated. And our scents are exclusive and coveted by our customers who say there is in total a one-of-a- kind feeling with Ex Voto products. Once you try a product, you never stop! There is also a lot of work on the products. For instance, Ex Voto candles are presented in a specific square shape of glass vessels, specially tinted and silk-screen printed, with coordinated printed presentation boxes. A complex process for each product but that makes our difference.
Is there a personal favourite among your products?
I love them all ! One of my favourite scents is the Ginger Lotus, radiating a very fresh, clean accord. I love also the Velvety Neroli, very soft and smooth yet powerful. And Black Amber has indeed a powerful sense of attraction. All my scents are always a subtle combination of various notes, that you cannot identify, hence it is a special perception and feeling for each. The Black Amber massage and body oil is a wonderful product too, the room spray as well. I have also a home collection with plexiglass trays and tissue boxes that I love: very sharp and clean. Very Ex Voto.
How often do you introduce new products to the line?
It depends. I used to launch new collections, and not just one product but entire ranges, every six months, which was a lot. I tend to restrain myself and complete the current lines. But lots of new projects and products are blossoming all the time.
What are the essentials for you in your home, the things you can’t live without?
My bath time! Relaxing and a true ritual, a warm bath with Ex Voto products and music playing. On another note, I would say paintings, pieces of art, books and more generally a minimalist space. Beautiful things, large proportions, bold paintings. Less is more has become over used as a term but truly, relaxation for me is eliminating all superflous details to keep the essential and having the purest interior possible. Purity is fundamental to me. It is beauty, extreme beauty. Endless quest on minimalism. And finding balance. Balance between work and life, time for soulful things, art galleries …
What are your five favourite places in Paris?
1. Restaurant: Hotel Costes always, for lunch or dinner
2. Art Gallery: Thaddaeus Ropac. Emmanuel Perrotin too. And Frank Elbaz. And many others, too numerous to list!
3. Museum: Palais de Tokyo. Beautiful art installations and a fantastic bookshop. I like the Musee du Jeu de Paume too. And the new Fondation Louis Vuitton by Frank Gehry, amazing space and exhibitions.
4. Fashion store: Saint Laurent Paris, the flagship store Avenue Montaigne is pure architectural beauty.
5. Place: Jardins du Palais Royal. Paris has amazing beauty and history. I love the classic architecture, the Haussmanian facades, the stone, the Louvre Museum, etc, beauty is everywhere in Paris.
What are the future plans for Ex Voto?
No plans is a plan! Since everything happens naturally and in a beautiful way, I wish to preserve this! I like the fact that life can be full of surprises, this is Ex Voto too – my personal adventure. I have plans too but too early to share them. On a short term note, a contract for the worldwide distribution of Ex Voto with my new hotel line, that will be launched in October … perfumed with Amber of course and with a bespoke bottle with very pure design.