Specialist scents, made by small artisanal producers, are beginning to make a big splash with retailers and consumers alike, as Monocle discovers on a visit to a Milan trade fair for the niche market.
This April, celebrated noses, buyers, and other luminaries of the specialist perfume industry gathered in Milan’s Palazza della Permanente for the third edition of Esxence, a unique trade fair that gives artisanal perfumiers a platform to let the world sniff their fragrant wares. Since its inception in 2009, attendance at the fair has doubled, with buyers flying in from as far afield as Asia and the US, and the organisers believe it is set to grow again next year.
The face of the fair is Celso Fadelli, a prominent champion of the niche perfume industry and CEO of Intertrade Europe, the global distribution company that has a plethora of artisanal perfumiers such as Nasomatto. “We are giving people an experience to buy beautiful perfumes that are created with high-quality raw materials and have great stories behind them. Demand for the small world of art perfumery is increasing. The niche perfume market turns over about €150m a year but is growing at a steady rate of about 10 per cent, year on year.” says Fadelli.
Although it’s small fry compared with the $18bn (€12.4bn) mass-market perfume industry, Fadelli says that for the new breed of independent perfumers profits come second to the purity of their product. The commitment to quality has struck a chord among many consumers and even some big retailers are catching on – department stores such as Liberty and Isetan are now devoting more and more shelf space to niche fragrances and some stores are eschewing mass-market brands altogether.
New markets have also started opening up – Asian countries such as Japan that previously didn’t wear perfume at all are now showing interest. Fadelli’s company has seen a 20 per cent increase in business in Japan and has also noted new demand from nearby South Korea. Thanks to Esxence, the noses behind the perfumes are also becoming less anonymous and are putting their personality into their perfumes. Fadelli says, “We are moving back to the time when people want to experience fragrances now rather than just buy a perfume.”
Atlelier Cologne’s line of Cologne Absolue has an emphasis on natural essential oils with a citrus slant. Scents such as Bois Blonds have top notes of Tunisian neroli and base notes of Haitian vetiver.
This Swedish brand’s perfumes include a woody rose and heady amber scent. Points for packaging effort – perfume is kept in glass flacons that are hand blown at Sweden’s oldest glassworks Kosta Boda and designed by glass artist Åsa Jungnelius.
P Frapin & Cie
The scents of this French brand are based on the production process of the Cognac made at the estate of the esteemed Frapin. The citrusy L’humaniste is one of its most popular scents.
Profumi del Forte
An Italian brand created by Enzo Torre as an ode to Tuscany. Packaged with glass from Siena and marble stoppers from Carrara.
Nez à Nez
Founded by Christa Patout and her husband Stéphane Humbert Lucas, a perfumer who has synaesthesia, a condition which causes him to associate colours with smells.
Japan-born, US-resident Keiko Mecheri and her French/Algerian husband worked as product and packaging designers before turning to fragrance. Their Camellia scent was launched at the fair.