Angela Ciampagna: Her roots and beyond

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Perfumes that portray the passion of an olfactory experimenter, conserved in valuable vials. Like Angela Ciampagna’s creation, who in 2015 founded her own line of fragrances based on consolidated experience with Label – Laboratorio Artigianale di Profumeria. A “workshop”, as she loves to call it, where with Enrico Maraffino, she is involved in the entire production process, from concept to bottling. Angela Ciampagna will present her creations of Friday, May 26, at the Perfume Showcase at Smell Festival. Anticipating this event, she told us about the inspiration the binds her perfumes to her area of origin, Abruzzo. She also describes her interest for everything in life that leads us outside our habitual routes, in a weaving of roots and liberty. She spoke about the recent earthquakes that hit the Abruzzo region hard and how the “imperfections” in life can be transformed into extraordinary opportunities for growth and unification. Like in a fragrance, where contrasting elements exist together, where they harmonize thanks to the knowing balance of the ingredients, the care given, and to time: a true luxury in High Perfumery.

The topic of roots is a plus that we find in the olfactory pyramid of your fragrances. Could you describe the common thread that units your feelings for your land with your olfactory creations?

Many believe that it is the bond with my lands that stimulates by creations, but that is not the case. It is not so much the bond with my land as the bond with the earth, with life, with not feeling limits, and the desire to overcome any preconception. The work of creating perfumes is above all a thing of humility and a sense of measure. The elegance of perfumery is this: knowing how to go beyond, without losing sight of the roots. These roots are the background, the study, your personal history, your philosophical credo, your personal style, your love and your hate, and it all needs to be there, balanced carefully and with respect for the various aromatic fractions. And like in life, it is not difficult to mess up. There are many, many different roots, and each one has its own tone and its own evolution. It is not enough to know how it evolves on its own. For example, the licorice root, it is also important to evaluate what will happen when you compare it with other “roots” and therefore it is a continuous job of evaluating motion and encounters. It really is a parallel with what we do in our everyday lives, exposing ourselves, blending with others, getting “dirty” from other “roots” which enrich us. That makes our personal licorice more fragrant and pungent, thanks to the encounters with the roots of chrysopogon zizanioides (vetiver), or, when needed, more powdery, penetrating and nostalgic, thanks to the encounter with the iris rhizome.

You two collections, Hatria and, especially, Cineres are inspired by concepts that are apparently contrasting: sacred and profane, tradition and modernity. How did you combine these opposites?

Our brand is inspired by the places where the perfumes are made, in particular the village of Atri that, like many small towns in Central Italy, incorporates all possible contradictions. But not only, almost always these contradictions blend together immiscibly. Take, for example, the Cineres collection, which is inspired by Notte dei Faugni, a multi-millennial celebration for the city of Atri, which dates back to before Christianity. Today, this pagan celebration of torches carried through the streets of the city is balanced, in the opposite direction, by a Christian procession (at 5 am on the 8th of December each year). But what remains truly “sacred” is the respect for the pagan tradition and the Christian religion had to “choose” the pagan rite as a time of aggregation for the city. This is only one example of how the boundaries between the contrasts in the peninsula of Italy are evanescent. The raw materials of perfume allow us to create this effect in an extremely natural manner, if the objective is to create truly artistic, innovative perfumes. Often the natural raw materials already contain contradictions, while synthetic raw materials can recall a variety of suggestions. This gives Fauni its floral aura and atmosphere, with a resiny perfume. While Ignes immediately apparently suggest fire, but you soon realize that it is a gentile file that enwraps to give a sensation of sacred immortality.

Your perfume workshop is a small environment, tightly bound to craftsmanship and constant search for quality inside and outside the vial the embraces each perfume. Would you tell us about the production process that allows you to attain the excellence of your fragrances?

Label Laboratorio Artigianale di Profumeria is our workshop. It is here that everything starts, and it is here that we work together, Enrico Maraffino, the workshop’s Technical and Production Manager, and I. We are a pair in work, but we have also been a pair since our time at University in Bologna. In our workshop, each individual procedure stems from research. Research is followed by a mantra for all our staff, «Do it well, better than yesterday». When we work, we forget about everything else. We have fun, we follow the rhythm. We must be excited; otherwise the result is not the same. In our crafts shop, each phase of production is, and will continue to be, the result of the mixture of skills. Many of the procedures we have pilfered from the food aroma production market, such as bag filtration, which provides a shiny effect, but better preserves the individual raw materials, which are not stressed and undergo no quantitative or qualitative losses due to the high pressure of pumped filtration which we did years ago. And even before filtration, we take great care in identifying the raw materials and their maceration: In this phase there is no hurrying. Just time, time, time, and slow mixing. The techniques recovered from old Italian workshops, from the beginning of the last century, but also the new techniques result in top-quality products. At the foundation of it all, is the desire to always, and only, do our best. Craft production does not mean large volumes, rather it means doing well and rare ingredients: the freedom to go beyond the demands of marketing, fashion and numbers. The craftsman has one single, absolute honor to cultivate: Perfection.

Is there an Angela Ciampagna chord? An olfactive signature, a colored shade, a b-side that we can find in all your creations?

Certainly, this sign is imperfection, which to me means “follow your own unique, free style”. Imperfection is the place of the spirit, a state that can be obtained if you have the courage to break out, to be yourself. I always search for the imperfect sign because a flower cannot be too full of itself because and a composition of greens is never too simple. Real life is never perfect and surprises us, always and regardless. So I prefer to see, feel, touch, eat, and deal with those who are not opposed to imperfection. Marvelous opportunities are born from imperfection.

Your beautiful region was recently disfigured by devastating earthquakes, and your work was compromised by this disastrous event. What does the desire and strength to restart, regardless of it all, mean to you?

It has been a very complicated period for us. Both emotionally and operationally, with a serious, complex shutdown of the factory to manage. We have to review everything, to reinvest from the beginning again. We reposition our company. Today we are still walking a fine line. Ours is a family business and so you can imagine how this event effected on the family peacefulness, but we will all come out stronger. This “practice” will be good for us. Never give up: We immediately got back on our feet, without own two legs and our own strength. We picked up the pieces and searched for “glue” and new “pots”. We have spent sleepless nights. Under these circumstances we cannot expect that someone else does what we need to do. We started again with what we had. Now we have a new workshop, almost fully operative. We have also opened our doors to a new resource who is charge of the candle making, a young man who, like us, had to pick-up the pieces, moving here from Guinea. These extreme situations are what give body to spirits. I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the companies in the areas hit by the earthquakes in Central Italy strength and courage, And to thank all those who have supported us during this period. The customers that Label manufactures for, who waited, giving us time to restart, and especially a group of aficionados at Alta Profumeria Artigianale, who have lent us economic support, which has been very important to us. Thank you, my friends. You see? In the end the “imperfections” in life create wonderful things.