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With a focus on the experiential, the latest Elements Showcase — the fourth since the concept’s inception 19 months ago — drew nearly 3,000 visitors to a show featuring 115 exhibitors. The two-day event at Skylight West in Manhattan felt more like an art fair than a trade show, and that was just the point.
“This is not a regular trade show,” said Frederick Bouchardy, one of Elements’ founders and creator of indie fragrance brand Joya Studio. “The wild card when we first started this is we didn’t know how [the brands] would get along. It turns out we created an actual living community. People look forward to coming back, reconnecting with their peers.”
The event is meant to highlight design-oriented beauty brands in an open atmosphere, to encourage conversation and discovery.
“There’s no pipe and drape,” said Bouchardy. “There’s nothing separating the brands, which might be surprising because often these brands are considered to be very competitive. The idea is that this is meant to be an open forum.”
As compared to past shows, the event held on Tuesday and Wednesday was the most popular to date — for both guests and exhibitors.
“We’ve seen explosive growth from about 40 brands exhibiting in the first show [in January 2011],” said Bouchardy. “Because it’s a design showcase focused on the entire apothecary world we are examining fine fragrance, skin care, home fragrance, men’s grooming. This year we introduced color cosmetics.”
Exhibitors ranged from established brands like Apothia Los Angeles, Bond No. 9 and Memoire Liquide to new ones like Blind Barber, I Coloniali and Lily Bermuda, which was introduced to the U.S. market at the event.
For retailers, there was plenty of innovation to choose from.
“I definitely am looking for unique [products], something with no distribution or very little distribution,” said Bettina O’Neill, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics at Barneys New York, who was on the hunt for “unusual fragrances,” innovative bath and body and men’s products. “This is the place to go because you go to the bigger trade shows and it’s too much. They really edited the selection and they really picked out the best of the best. I was able to find about four brands that were interesting.”
For the Elements team — made up of founders Bouchardy; Jeffrey Lawson, owner of Jeff Lawson Associates Inc., and Ulrich Lang, owner of Ulrich Lang Fragrances — offering new or emerging brands is always a plus.
“We like to launch brands here,” said Bouchardy. “But at the same time we like to show the heritage brands to show the inspiration and the evolution and put those next to each other.”
The event also featured workshops like an interactive educational session by Robertet entitled “160 Years of Roses” and a showcase forum with Perfumer & Flavorist Magazine, which explored how perfumery ingredients are evolving in niche scent formulations. Other features included an on-site manicurist from TenOverTen, a cupcake and scent pairing by Alice & Peter and a periodic table-inspired interactive fragrance bar from Takasago, which, according to Bouchardy, may be translated into a retail offering for the upcoming 2013 Showcase.
The space, which this year was reimagined by Brooklyn artists Sarah Cihat and Michael Miller, was meant to emphasize the visitor experience with a “nature-inspired aesthetic.”
“With Elements we always focus on a component of art installation within design and beauty,” said Lawson. “The concept is to create a user experience that is totally unique. You come into the space, it’s completely designed. You don’t feel like you are coming to a trade show. You are coming to an event, very much geared to the user. We wanted to keep the space open and welcoming.”
As far as trends go, the event’s cofounders found some common threads among this year’s exhibitors.
“I think that one of the trends that you see here is that the classics are back in a big way; classics that have been forgotten for a few years,” said Lang, who named Jean Patou and Agent Provocateur as examples. “These were the original visionaries.”
Another emerging trend involved the actual materials used to create beauty products.
“I think some of the innovation is the attention to rare and local materials and responsible sourcing,” said Bouchardy, who named Lisa Carrier Designs, which utilized a 400-year-old incense for its candle collection, and Juniper Ridge, a brand focused on wild crafting and foraging in the Pacific Northwest, as examples.
“It’s very simple,” said Juniper Ridge’s creative projects coordinator, Obi Kaufmann. “We’re a California company and we go from San Diego to Seattle looking for native western plants and tree trimmings in order to make a relentlessly natural fragrance. We manufacture our own essential oils from these native plants. We’re backpackers first and we backed into fragrance. [We ask], ‘How do we transport people to these places that we love?’ We do that through scent.”
Bouchardy added that another of the show’s themes involved scent-based storytelling.
“[It’s about] the complete story behind the fragrance,” said Bouchardy, who named fragrance company Eight & Bob — which showcased a scent created for John F. Kennedy — as one that stood out. “People are approaching it by creating an entire story line around it as if it were a novel, or a piece of history or a living creation. It’s a journey into the past.”
For Lang, this year also provided “a new playfulness in fragrance,” with brands like Smell Bent, Fornasetti, Alice & Peter and Niho Kozuru, which displayed sculptural candles made out of beeswax. “I think that artistry in fragrance is huge right now.”
For Vicken Arslanian, owner of EuroPerfumes, who was introducing new scents: Mad Madame from Romano Ricci, So Nude by Costume National and Montale’s Dark Purple and Eud Purple Rose, sharing the meaning behind his brands is paramount.
“We limit the distribution so we can have the chance to explain the concept behind [the product] for the consumer. Each one of these has a story,” said Arslanian.“ [We want the] consumer to have a connection to it.”
Apothia founder Ron Robinson — who was showing off his new transportive hand and body lotion — echoed a similar sentiment.
“It’s not just what’s in it, it’s how you are going to feel,” he said.
About the overall Showcase, Robinson said, “This is the first time we’ve ever been to a trade show in the 10 years I’ve built Apothia. I didn’t want to go to a trade show that was overexposing me. [Elements] just had the right feeling.”
New and Noteworthy at Elements
• Histoires de Parfums introduced a collection of accessibly priced, cupcake-inspired perfumes called Alice & Peter.
• Anthony Logistics launched Grandma Stelle’s nostalgic personal care.
• Beauty Enterprise showcased new scents from Stella Cadente.
• Bond No. 9 introduced Manhattan and New York Musk fragrances.
• Cire Trudon launched limited-edition candles in colored glassware.
• Joya launched Ames Soeurs (Scent of Soulmates) perfume oil and limited-edition solid perfume.
• Lift Lab unveiled new packaging for its advanced skin care.
• Perfume Holding Corp.launched the I Coloniali bath and body collection.
• Ulrich Lang New York introduced Lightscape Eau de Toilette.
• Yuthica launched a new home fragrance collection.