Boc’caro LAB: Master of storytelling scents
Have you ever imagined how your personality or a certain building would smell like? If not, it means that you have never come across Boc’caro LAB and its frontman – visionary Marius Stanevicius, who altered a one-dimensional understanding of a scented candle as an interior accent into something more than just a nice touch to your home. He is an architect of scents in the most unexpected ways and a creator who finds the real beauty embedded in difference.
by MONIKA SMILGYTE
photographer DARIUS MARKUNAS
Creation of candles seems like either a need for exploring the most versatile experiences or, conversely, as a choice of a person who knows very well what he wants in his life –which of them would you represent? How did you find out that this is your real thing?
Boc'caro appeared 6 years ago as a footwear brand because at that time (and still now) shoemaking was my greatest passion I devoted my life to. The activity, in general, was successful, but it remained mainly as the local fashion brand. We had to confine ourselves to the Lithuanian market because at that time the social media was not so mainstream and powerful, as well as we were less experienced in cooperating with foreign boutiques… In the long run, I had fewer opportunities to actually create but simply used to fill out customers’ orders. I even started making flower patterned women's shoes decorated with butterflies that were neither my kind of style nor the way of doing things at all. I always wanted to be a creator, not a tailor, so I started looking for a way out.
My activity had continuously been related to fashion and I had been working with fashion magazines for quite a long time. Thus, people around me expected that I would finally decide to dedicate myself to publishing. But I wanted something closer to my real self and I wanted to create something where I could put all the accumulated experience and cultural potential into a new expression. Usually, such expressions are expected to be realised, for example, through the line of new clothes, but I wanted to give up on predictability, to abandon the definition of fashion. For my own luck, it happened so that I got to meet the right people at the right time and the idea came to the fore that fashion or architectural elements can be expressed through the smell.
Your first and yet the biggest project is PORT/FOLIO – what is it about?
The whole idea of creating non-standard scents was a huge challenge. For example, what should be the smell of fashion? For many, it would be something sweet, fake and rather synthetic, so I had to look for something unpredictable and non-banal. I chose the PORT/FOLIO theme, which was supposed to become not only a presentation of Boc‘caro LAB itself but also a reflection of my own portfolio as a creator, which consisted of relations with cultural or simply very extraordinary personalities.
The collection consists of 4 people: a model and an actress because they are central figures drawing the attention, the photographer because he is the one who documents everything, and the graphic designer because with his help all of this is being presented in the press or in the social media. This resulted in 4 different personalities, 4 different characters and 4 different types that work differently, but jointly at the same time combining all their work into one project.
What dictates the aroma: the artist chooses the scent or is it your own interpretation as you see him or her?
Every smell is a purified process of searching. At first, I meet individuals, for example, with model Agne Konciute we talked for a long time with a cup of coffee about what she had experienced, what feelings she felt while working (first time) in New York. I also took into account the creativity and portfolio of her and, on the basis of that impression and information, I discussed with the perfumer who later presented his interpretations of every character. Then we met again with the individuals, picked and placed, which scents were the most suitable, and which we had to give up on, maybe adding something until the final/desired result was reached.
A distinctive feature – each of your characters are delivered with 2 different scents. What‘s the idea behind it?
Simple and banal scents like citrus, vanilla or lavender are much like fast-paced fashion, so I wanted something quite the opposite. That‘s why my scents may not even be understood, but this is my ambition, it has a more conceptual idea of telling the story through the smell of senses.
Everything is understood through contrasts, so each person has 2 fragrances. Based on the symbolic meaning, every candle is also made with 2 and not 1 knot – everything is made to reflect the duality between the nature of personality itself and its daily job-related activities which often depends on the client orders received.
For example, the passion of the photographer Audrius Solominas is to capture the sea and the mountains, but his everyday orders are also inseparable from portraits and reportage shootings. One day he is capturing nature while being on holiday, and the next day he returns to Lithuania and has to complete a major commercial order for a mass publishing. Therefore, one of his scents is called ARCH/IVE, which is dominated by the wet wood aroma of the agarwood, which also indicates man‘s relationship with the nature that he likes to photograph. And his other scent is called ISO/1600 – a very technical name that describes shooting opportunities without any flash and extra light, in addition to referring to the current world where everyone is crazy about their selfies and collection of likes. This scent is very light and bright in the analogy, thus contrasting with the first one.
And what, for example, is the duality of the fashion model personality? One scent reveals her PORT/RAIT, which is born during that intimate moment of commonality with the photographer when they remain in front of the camera lens alone and she has to get naked by all means. And the opposite scent is CITY MONO/LOGUES, which tells the other side of the story about thousands of kilometers that she has to overcome while traveling from Vilnius airport to the New York City Metro, where many different cultures and millions of fragrances merge: here you can reach the Central Park, where you get a refreshing wind gust between concrete buildings and all that city chaos until you finally find yourself in a photo session on the site where a lot of people are coming from different places and devoting all their strength, even though the photo session is only a couple of days long and it will sink in the depths of the Internet soon after.
This is what I try to show, that sometimes by buying fashion products or looking at a photo shoot, we do not understand how much of the context is actually hidden at the backstage. And the same fashion model is a young girl from a small city who finds herself in a huge megapolis where chaos lives – I tried to imagine all this experience through scents. So, it tells a story of the beautiful woman who finds herself in a dirty world – one scent is dominated by animalistic tones, such as the specific smell of a cat that is emitted during mating, while saffron, which is pure and feminine, is supposed to oppose to it.
In what ways are you trying to discover and understand that duality and define the contrast? Does it take a lot of time?
The hardest part is to find that contrast and to abandon casual template solutions because there are so many fragrances and elements. If we talk about France, it would probably be the first thought of lavender, if we enter the bakery it smells with baked goods, and the museum – with paint and fresh putty. I wanted to discover the opposite, which requires turning your thinking upside down so that you can create a surprise and play around with contrasts.
The idea itself requires a lot of strength, reliance and time, but some scents are discovered faster, others slower. Later process is followed with technical things, for example, when the candle is lit, other tones can be revealed, so even the details, like in what material bowl the wax is poured, are very important. For example, Studio Sanguinico's one-odour vessel is metallic, another copper that changes the final result. So, most of the time is taken away due to the searches and attempts to finalize the idea.
Right now Vilnius city has a new cultural trend – MO museum that everyone is talking about. And as we know, you are a very delicate part of it, too. Please, tell us about your latest project – How does the modern art museum smell like?
I visited the new MO Museum when the excursions there had started to be organized. I was particularly inspired by the architecture and shapes of the building, which, like an alien ship, landed in the middle of the city. And while some people think that the museum's building looks like an inlay that was shoved between the beautiful red roofs of Vilnius Old Town, it looks very inspirational to me. There is a garden with a variety of plants, beautiful sculptures made of rusty reinforced concrete standing right next to the dynamic of white and completely clean, without regular corners and shapes building. During the excursion I heard that MO Museum will have a store where you will be able to find specially created works by artists, I came up the idea to create a candle for them.
Although from the very beginning I did not know how it would smell, I definitely wanted to make for the museum something unique and unpredictable as its building itself. After some meetings and discussions, I finally got the smell that I called "blooming wild rose in the yard of concrete and metal factory." Here is the scent of a wild rose, which tells about the nearby garden, saffron, geranium, varnish accords and oud that are as gentle as the touch of art and connecting it with contrasting metal chords. When burning, it reminds you of the smell of nature and concrete.
In fact, first I was convinced that the smell should be associated with oil paints, but they often smell unpleasant for many. By the way, would not that be what most people would expect? I have no doubt wondering why the candle does not smell of paint, wood frames or paper and ink. However, modern art is not usually being understood as simply as, for example, the still-life painting. It is often shocking and misunderstood, causing debate, so the smell should have been such - I wanted to embody the interruption of metal constructions in the Old Town of Vilnius.
It’s not the first time, that the object of your creation is not only people's portrayed scents but also various places. What is your story with Studio Sanguinico? How this solution was born?
I was very inspired by Studio Sanguinico creation of ImperfettoLAB furniture and how they changed their own attitude towards the concept of an interior. Myself, I wanted to overcome the personal challenge of embodying the scent of an interior studio: we usually imagine such a place by smelling wood, maybe finding some metal chords and, if we talk about fabrics like velour, we associate it with the scents of flowers and roses. But Studio Sanguinico is different, they develop a rather eclectic style, where the materials are completely unpredictable – where the furniture looks like a burnt tree, in fact, it is the fibreglass. That is why my purpose was to avoid predictable solutions and to access all of it from a different angle.
So, together with the studio, we started talking about interior and exterior, what kind of smell could it be? They communicated that the exterior is a big part of the city, and meanwhile, the furniture in the interior is not just a piece of furniture, which performs only its primary function, but it is an inevitable object of aesthetics and visibility, which is equally found in the art museum.
I was mostly inspired by urban spaces, especially urban gardens, which do not replace the living spaces but only give them another aesthetic value. That's why when I was creating a smell and if I had to choose a tree, I searched for an alternative one. For instance, I was targeting Brazilian Tolu tree (Tolu balsam).
As the creator you try to do what for many people would seem quite impossible – you embody people and architecture into a scent of a candle, and meanwhile, what would be the dual scent of your portrait?
Once I was a little crazy about perfumes, but among my choices, you would never find lavender, strawberry or synthetic odours. I would select metal, recently burnt light bulb and fused rubber tones, to which the aroma of oriental flowers would connect. I really like animalistic scents like civet or musk. I am also very curious about how to extract the smell of cement or building construction materials and to look for the aroma of unconventional odour compounds like flowers and blemishes or burning bonfire. Of course, for many such scents are usually unpleasant, not perfume-like, but I could accept it as a compliment because I have never tried to adapt with my scents. Especially, all the collaborations that I have implemented so far are also unconventional and conceptual.