THE IN-TRAY

Meet Tomi Ahmed and Leo Gibbon, the creative duo behind Iiuvo

IIUVO: FROM THE LATIN IUVŌ, MEANING TO AID, ASSIST, TO GRATIFY, TO PLEASE AND DELIGHT.

You’ve seen the name—and debated the pronunciation (“ee-uvo”), indulged in their candles—and almost definitely heard whispers about their Bullshit candle. So, who exactly, is IIUVO?

Like something out of a movie, this story starts a ‘meet-cute’. Acquaintances Tomi Ahmed and Leo Gibbon bumped into each other at London’s Dover Street Market, where Ahmed was shopping for a candle to give to a girl he’d been seeing and had an argument with. Gibbon eyed Ahmed’s choice and pointed him in another direction (“Byredo Vanquish”, for the record). So successful was Gibbon’s advice that Ahmed was prompted to call him to ask how he knew so much about candles, fragrance and, one can only imagine, relationship repair: “my mum’s a florist,” Gibbon answered. Satisfied, Ahmed suggested, “we should hang out”. And so IIUVO was born…

With experience in fashion (Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market), Ahmed is strong-willed and self-assured, and keeps the business marching forward; evolving the brand ID and ideology, refining the IIUVO aesthetic. Gibbon is his enigmatic counterpoint. Thoughtful and measured, his background is in music (his work with his producing partners is sampled on Drake’s More Life album). As Ahmed puts it: “Leo is the magician, the alchemist”—responsible for distilling their references and inspirations into sophisticated accords. If IIUVO were a piece of music, Ahmed would be the beat and Gibbon, the melody.

Ahead of the launch of their first unisex fragrances—Gilot, Soigne (Ahmed’s signature) and Fonteyn (“I live in it,” says Gibbon)—TMM caught up with the duo to talk scents—and sensibilities.

TMM: You’ve come from fashion and music, what drew you to scents and fragrances?

LG: “Scent for me is powerful; way deeper than any other emotion, than any other sense. You can’t lie about scents—it’s written all over your face within two seconds of smelling it. A scent can resonate with someone for a reason only they know. I love watching people react to it…getting transformed into that memory or whatever it is.”

TMM: The Emmie candle is named after Leo’s grandmother, how important are female role models in your life and work?

TA: “I think the thing is that it’s always been women that have kind of influenced decisions in our lives—whether it’s my mother, my partner’s or just women that we interact with.”

LG: “I agree. We’re both fortunate to come from backgrounds where we are lucky to have really strong, dominant women in our lives. From Tomi’s mum to my mum, my nan, Emmie. [Ex-girlfriend] Georgia, for example, she’s a lovely girl, she really directed me along in terms of a fashion sense, you know, more than just my mum’s olfactory, floristry background. I take inspiration from those people who have shaped me as the man I am today.”

TMM: In a social-media age, where ‘perfection’ is everything, how hard is it to maintain your own identity and personality?

TA: “The biggest question I have in my life is ‘what is the truth’? We live in a world whereby a lot of marketing is put into what we consume, and we [try] to go with the antithesis of that and just present a body of work. Our collaboration with Stefan [Brüggemann] kind of evoked more than just a scent.”

TMM: So how did the Bullshit candle come to be?

TA: “Stefan is an amazing artist. He is a good friend of mine, and I introduced him and Leo because I thought like their minds would work well together. He just proposed: ‘we should do a collaboration, we should definitely do something’. It took a little bit of convincing but he broke it down. As an artist, what he does well is he challenges the notion of things.”

LG: “When you hear someone say ‘bullshit’, you kind of have to create a scent that defies that. It was a little bit difficult. Stefan is very extravagant…he’s like, ‘come on, Leo, it’s got to be opulent, it’s got to smell like old money, good women,’ all this stuff. He’s funny, he’s so funny. It had to be sexy, it had to be provocative, it had to make you feel good inside.”



TMM: How did you begin the process for creating the new unisex scents?

LG: “We found our inspiration and references in things that are very personal to us, and on a 360° level: from how the perfume is presented, the feel of the bottle, the scent, etc., every part of the process is thought out. Soigné all started when Tomi came to me with this word, and it’s like, let’s work around this word and see what it means and what it means to us. From that we created a story, created some sort of emotion behind it. Gilot started from a picture of Pablo Picasso and his muse at the time (Françoise Gilot), and then Fonteyn came f rom a clip of a ballet dancer [Margot Fonteyn, performing in Frederick Ashton’s Nocturne].

We don’t have anyone in particular in mind when creating fragrances. Our inspiration is our inspiration. How people interpret it, that’s the beauty of it.”

Words by Helene Pappas
October 2017

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