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Having left his native Argentina as a child, Mario Lombardo recognized the fragrances of the past when he returned years later. Today, he sells exclusive scented candles and perfumes in Atelier Oblique in Berlin-Mitte.
"I see myself as a translator," says Mario Lombardo. At his shop, Atelier Oblique in Berlin Mitte, scented candles are exhibited under glass bells. As you lift each glass, the intense 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 labeled '&'. 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.
The feel of home
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 socialized 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.
Author: Stefanie Dörrie