The overall atmosphere — from layout to the roster of brands on display — at the fifth Elements Showcase reflected the event’s evolution, according to its founders, Frederick Bouchardy, Ulrich Lang and Jeffrey Lawson.
This story first appeared in the February 8, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
With more emphasis on fine art, natural materials and globalization, the event, which was held Jan. 28 and 29 at Skylight West in Manhattan, drew 3,000 attendees and 120 niche beauty exhibitors from as far as Australia. “We’ve done this for two years now and we’ve hit our stride,” said Bouchardy, creator of indie fragrance brand Joya Studio, who added that Elements would, in the spring, travel to Dubai, its first international locale. “Dubai is an ideal market for us, as consumers there are taken by exclusive product.” Tokyo is planned for 2014; London will most likely follow.
The two-story space featured only quince blossoms and bamboo to divide brands, encouraging discovery and conversation. Art on display included mixed-media sculptures, digital prints and a unique tablecloth installation by Monika Bravo that explored local ingredients and their connection to human perception. “The pieces in here — just like our show — are heavily vetted and about quality and the experience,” said Lawson, owner of Jeff Lawson Associates Inc. “It’s in line with what we’ve set out to do since the beginning.”
Added Ulrich Lang, owner of Ulrich Lang Fragrances: “Art loves fashion and art loves fragrance.”
This year’s showcase also included more internationally diverse brands and for the first time, hair-care brands were shown. In attendance were Berlin-based celebrity hairstylist Shan Rahimkhan, seeking distribution for his namesake product line, as well as hair accessories brand Moliabal Milano from Italy.
“I think for any international brand, getting a foothold in the U.S. and specifically New York is a measure of international success,” said Lang. “We make it easy for them to connect with key buyers and provide a turn-key setup for far-away exhibitors.” Other global brands seeking U.S. distribution included April Aromatics from Germany, Majda Bekkali from France, Canadian brand Dossage fragrances, Tiziana Terenzi from Italy, Sepai skin care from Spain and Tommi Sooni fragrance from Australia. “We’ve come to [Elements to] thank those who have been so good to us and to meet them and to expand the brand,” said Steven Broadhurst, founder of Tommi Sooni, who showed off a new scent, Passerelle, made completely of native Australian ingredients like green boronia buds and mimosa, also known as Australian silver wattle.
Another international brand at Elements was British Illuminum fragrances, whose White Gardenia Petals Vaporizer Perfume was Kate Middleton’s wedding scent. The company’s in-house nose, Bart Pawlak, was on hand to take visitors through each fragrance, much like he does at Illuminum’s lounge in Mayfair, London. “The lounge is [designed for] people to come in and experience the fragrance. It’s relaxed and if you don’t buy you don’t buy,” said Keith Hamilton, managing director, who added that he was seeking specialized distribution in the U.S. “We don’t want everybody to have it. We’re quite protective with it.”
Also showing were cult favorite brands like Humiecki & Graef, Maria Candida Gentile, Nasomatto, Olfactive Studio, Providence Perfume Co., Purusa Naturals, Sarah Horowitz Parfums, Thirdman, and Undergreen. “What we did was in addition to growing the offerings, we sourced incredibly hard to find cult-favorite niche scents because most are not available at all in the states or just in one place,” said Bouchardy, who added that “natural and organic brands” were also a focus this year.
Among the natural brands in attendance were “edible” skin care brand Dr. Alkaitis Holistic Skin Food, Kaia Naturals and Pure Natural Diva, set to debut an organic fine fragrance collection in April. “I’d been blending my own fragrance oils when I became aware of what was in them,” said Tania Reuben, who grew up living in a teepee on an Indian reservation and created the eco-savvy blog also named Pure Natural Diva. “I know that women who are passionate about healthy living want the [premium shopping] experience. They don’t want to feel like they’re relegated to the aisle of a natural food store.”
Among the color cosmetics — a growing category at Elements — were luxe nail brand TenoverTen, botanical lip brand Ilia Beauty, and refillable organic makeup brand Kjaer Weis.
“The idea is that we position this always as a design fair and we focus first on the fragrance,” said Bouchardy. “We have expanded to include other elements of the apothecary lifestyle. We are just doing it carefully. As long as [exhibitors] are complementary and fit into the world we are creating, there’s nothing off-limits.”
Buyers in attendance — who hailed from large department stores like Harrods, Barneys New York and Takashimaya as well as niche independent boutiques like C.O. Bigelow and New London Pharmacy — came both to seek new brands and to touch base with existing partners.
“Eighty percent of our apothecary vendors are here, so its nice to come somewhere we can do reorders and then walk a few feet and find something new,” said Jim Wetzel, co-owner of Chicago-based concept store Space519. “[Elements is] such a civilized oasis,” said Lance Lawson, Wetzel’s business partner, who plans to add Ulrich Lang New York, Juniper Ridge and Kjaer Weis to Space519’s inventory. “It’s inspiring and helps us figure out a way to better display product in our store.”
Hiroko Sakurai, fashion art director for Japanese retailer Tomorrowland, has come to every Elements show scouting “sophisticated, special” brands. “We are not looking for only new products, we are looking for something that fits our philosophy,” said Sakurai, who discovered Absolution skin care, RGB nail care and John F. Kennedy-inspired fragrance brand Eight & Bob at the Showcase. “My job is to find creative [brands] that have a story.”