By  on October 16, 2006

FLORENCE — Niche fragrance fair Fragranze wooed the public for the first time at its fourth edition last month, while the selective fragrance industry in Italy continues to enjoy slow and steady growth.

Fragranze, held in the lemon grove of a villa here, was open to the public on the last two days of its run. Fragranze's exhibitors and organizer Pitti Immagine decided to open the doors of the fair to the public as a chance to communicate information about the industry.

"There were cynics who weren't happy with that decision, but I remain enthusiastic about it — it's an optimum way of educating future customers about our industry and its products," said Celso Fadelli, president of Herbarium, which represents brands including Bond No. 9, Clive Christian, Carthusia and Miller Harris.

The three-day, mid-September fair, which exhibited 102 brands, attracted 2,000 visitors, half of which were members of the public.

Executives at Fragranze said the niche perfume industry was growing steadily in Italy, and sales this year are expected to total 50 million euros, or $62.5 million at current exchange, a 12 percent increase from last year.

"The niche fragrance market has had double-digit growth annually in Italy, but it has only developed 30 percent of its potential here," said Silvio Levi, director of Milan distribution firm Calé. Levi noted the Netherlands and Germany also were performing well in niche fragrance sales, but said he wasn't happy with progress overseas.

"The U.S. market hasn't fully committed itself to niche fragrances yet — there aren't enough dedicated stores," said Levi.

Levi's distribution company will launch Maestrale by Profumi di Pantelleria this month in Europe. Maestrale is a woody men's fragrance inspired by a walk on the beach in winter.

Also at the fair were French perfumers Patrick Bertaux and François Miller behind the two-year-old Miller et Bertaux fragrance line. The two, who design a women's clothing line for their boutique in Paris, were at Fragranze to promote their new fragrance, Bois de Gaïc et Poire, a 50-ml. eau de parfum priced at 79 euros, or $98.8 million. The fragrance has notes the pair discovered on their travels — including a wood from a South American tree and antique roses from Turkey. "We were obsessed with the smell of the wood — especially after locals told us they thought the tree was holy," said Bertaux. Bois de Gaïc et Poire's flacon mimics a Mexican retablo, a wooden box used to store objects important to its owner.

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