When Two Sisters Shoot for the Stars

2023 . 12 . 05 | written by Editorial Board

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Meet Sofia and Fabiola Bardelli, two sisters who literally have stars in their eyes. How can that be, you ask? Well, from childhood the sisters became fascinated by the night sky, and they learned about the constellations when their father took them into the garden at night to gaze up at the heavens.

“Are the stars out tonight? I can’t tell if it’s cloudy or bright….”*

Growing up on Lago Maggiore in Italy at the foot of the Alps, they enjoyed crisp mountain air, verdant landscapes and very dark evenings where the stars sparkled like diamonds in the sky. Young Sofia dreamed about travelling to the Moon, or even to Mars, if only to see the Earth from another perspective.

Sofia and Fabiola Bardelli, Founders In Astra

But her curiosity didn’t stop there. She was determined to become a perfumer after seeing a documentary about Grasse. “It became my goal but it’s not common in Italy. When I was at university I decided to attend a perfumery school after graduation to pursue my goal. I moved to Grasse and started the training there.”

Meanwhile, sister Fabiola was fascinated by times past. “When I was little, my dream job was to become an archaeologist, as my favourite subject at school was history. I loved the idea of unearthing artefacts that would help us understand and discover ancient cultures.

Sofia Bardelli
Fabiola Bardelli

How then to bring these passions – perfume, the past and the stars - together?

“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight”**

In 2020 the pair launched their fragrance brand, In Astra. Even if the stars were not aligned for most of the world – as this was the time of the pandemic - the sisters persevered. After all, the brightest stars in the heavens were their guiding forces, encouraging them to follow their dream. Shall we meet their inspirations?

In Astra Collection

Antares: The brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, its distinctive red glow has earned it the nickname, the Scorpion’s Heart. And despite shining so brightly, this massive star is said to be in the last stages of its life. Astronomers predict a supernova explosion when the star dies, which could be tomorrow or in many years, but fear not: it’s too far away to endanger the Earth! The fragrance that bears its name is every bit as attention-getting and fiery as the star. A big white floral at once sweet and spicy, this tenacious scent will ensure all eyes are on you. Fabiola sees this fragrance as the definition of opulence. “The overdose of tuberose and frangipani accentuates the warm creaminess of sandalwood. The perfume truly portrays the strong personality of the supergiant star.”

In Astra Antares

Betelgeuse: This Arabic word, interpreted as the “shoulder of the giant”, describes the star that is found in the constellation Orion. Here is another red giant superstar which is expected to explode into a supernova, but no one can be certain when it will happen. A few years ago the star unexpectedly dimmed, only to bounce back to its former radiant self, exuding a delicate orangey-red hue. Likewise, the fragrance has notes that burst forth then recede in an unpredictable dance of green and powdery accords. For the person who likes a bit of mystery, to keep others guessing, this scent will tantalize and tease.

In Astra Betelgeuse

Tistar: A Zoroastrian reference to Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky which is found in the Canis Major, or Greater Dog constellation. According to legend, stars were said to be the source of water linking them to rainfall and the flow of water. This star was celebrated in festivals where people playfully splashed water on each other. They also wore a multi-colored bracelet which recalls the rainbow hues that radiate from this star, especially when it’s low in the winter sky. The fragrance is a sparkling aldehydic floral with musky accords, a perfect scent for celebrating happy times.

In Astra Tistar

Mismar: This Arabic word for “nail” refers to Polaris, the North Star. The star seems to remain still while the rest of the sky moves around it, hence the reason why it is the star that guided travellers and explores since ancient times. It is found in the constellation Ursa Minor, otherwise known as the Little Dipper. Polaris is a multiple star, appearing to be one star, but it’s actually surrounded by two others. Crisp and invigorating, the scent opens with gin-like notes then slowly warms up in an ambery, woody accord, evoking a moonlit walk in the woods on a chilly winter night, with Mismar to guide you. The fragrance perfectly complements a grounded individual who’s stability warms hearts and provides comfort and reassurance to others.

“You must be my lucky star ‘Cause you make the darkness seem so far And when I’m lost You’ll be my guide I just turn around And you’re by my side…”***
In Astra Mismar

How to tell stories that are written in the stars – through scent?

The stars have amazing stories to tell, which In Astra seeks to do in an olfactory way. Fabiola shared details on the concept behind Tistar. “The fragrance is a tribute to the star’s brightness and its multi-faceted hues. We wanted to ‘capture’ its blue-tinged light which exudes into the winter sky.” The fresh citrus accord with hints of aldehydes and eucalyptus are the olfactory notes that depict the kaleidoscopic strobe light effect of this star.

Sofia talked to me about the creative process in linking scent with the stars to reinforce the story. “I always begin with a main raw material that I find more connected to the story of the star and then the accords come together. For example, Betelgeuse is a supergiant star that is coming to an end in a sort of way. I decided to make the fragrance around a disappearing iris, a rather powdery iris that is a little bit dark because when there is an end there is always a darkness.”

Sofia Bardelli
Orion, Canis and Sirius
The Night Sky with Ursa Minor

She continued, “Our brand is unique because we are a 100% creation from scratch, made in Italy. There is a real storytelling behind every scent, we study the name, the story, the shape, the color – we try to link all of these elements to what you smell.

In fact, there is a very clear parallel between the stars and fragrance: Stars are ever evolving, gradually changing, almost imperceptibly. Fragrance unfolds over time, revealing top, middle and base notes like an ethereal, invisible cloak. Stars are mythical, mystical and esoteric, while fragrance may have a mysterious, elusive side. Science reveals the stars through astronomy, as science lifts the veil on fragrance to ensure transparent communication.

And speaking of communication, what can the stars tell us? What can we learn from them?

Fabiola believes it is multi-dimensional. “I believe that we can learn a lot from the stars on many levels, both scientific and philosophical. Stars can teach us resilience, for any difficulty one may encounter can be overcome: stars have to be in equilibrium in spite of two contrasting forces that challenge their balance, thus constantly undermining their own existence.

Sofia concurs. “Well, stars change, they are constantly perturbed by internal and external factors. It’s a kind of analogy to our life as a human being. We have to keep on shining!

“You’re a Shining Star, No Matter Who You Are….”****
Sofia at work copyright Artribune

We could say that the stars have guided the Bardellis as they faced challenges in bringing their brand to market. An obvious obstacle, was of course the pandemic which coincided with the time of the launch. But there are others that Sofia mentioned. “Being a young female entrepreneur in Italy is a challenge in and of itself. It’s sad to say, but there are many stereotypes to overcome when you are a young female professional. I think the world is changing, and, soon we will manage to overcome gender bias in the workplace .” From a professional point of view, what Sofia and Fabiola have achieved to date speaks louder than any stereotype: realizing their dream and telling the story of the stars through the In Astra fragrances.

Nevertheless, this duo is proof positive that you can make your dreams come true when you have hope and faith, and you believe in yourself. May they inspire you to wish upon a star, follow your heart and never give up. Per aspera ad astra.

“When you wish upon a star Your dreams come true”*****
“And then we emerged to see the stars again.” The Divine Comedy, Inferno, Dante Alighieri

A big thank you to Wayne McGraw of the Garden Astronomer who tirelessly answered many questions about the stars.


The Garden Astronomer – Observations Under Suburban Skies

Sirius, the Orion belt and the Avestan Tri-star, Tištar | Authentic Gatha Zoroastrianism

Authentic Gatha Zoroastrianism (rssing.com)

Massive ruby red Antares is the Scorpion’s Heart (earthsky.org)

Star Light, Star Bright - Wikipedia

EarthSky | Will Betelgeuse explode in ‘tens of years’?

*Excerpt from “I Only have Eyes for You”, composer Harry warren, lyrics Al Dubin

**Late 19th century English nursery rhyme

***Excerpt from “Lucky Star” composed by Madonna

**** Excerpt from “Shining Star”, composed by Maurice White, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey

*****Excerpt from “When You Wish Upon a Star” composed by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington