Argentine-born Mario Lombardo moved to Germany when he was five years old — but it was the evocative smells of his homeland that inspired his Berlin vocation. Now, the former graphic designer crafts high-end perfumes and scented candles with his partner Vanessa Obrecht at their chic Mitte boutique.
“I see myself as a translator,” says Mario Lombardo. At his shop, Atelier Oblique in Mitte, scented candles are exhibited under glass bells. As you lift each glass, the heady aromas stream out. One candle has a fragrance reminiscent of curd soap, while the next evokes a classic rose scent. Another smells of strawberry punch and lip gloss: the theme is ‘the first kiss.’ Each one is lovingly handcrafted.
The native Argentinian has created 27 scented candles together with his partner, Vanessa Obrecht, and one of the world’s most influential fragrance manufacturers, Robertet, located in the French city of Grasse. Mario Lombardo links his candles with particular associations and assigns each one a letter of the alphabet — though one is simply labelled ‘&’. He designed the font himself.
The shop offers perfumes now, too. All products can be purchased both online or in the shop at Berlin’s Scheunenviertel. The store is adorned with copper and marble and a white floor that references both the luxury of the 1950s and the architect Mies van der Rohe, who enjoyed immense popularity in both Germany and Argentina.
Mario Lombardo was five years old when he was forced to leave his home in Argentina. The military junta had taken control of the country. His father, who taught urban planning at a university, was barred from working — and at the same time, he was offered a grant in Germany. So the family relocated to Aachen. Mario Lombardo was twenty before he would see his homeland again. When he talks about the experience, he still seems surprised: “I was socialised in Germany, but Argentina felt like home. It was the most poignant experience I had ever had.”
Back in Aachen he studied graphic design and quickly rose to prominence in the international design community. But he was never able to let go of the question of why he had felt so at home in a country of which he had almost no memory. He scoured old photographs, but that didn’t help. Finally he found the answer — it was the smells. “Encountering a fragrance is like communing with a ghost in the room.” That’s where he got the idea for Atelier Oblique.
All photos by Lena Ganssmann
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