Shahzad Haider, chairman of the Fragrance Foundation Arabia, aims to inject a note of perfume artistry and exclusivity into arguably the richest market in the world with a three-day exhibition, called The Scent.
The event will be held from January 23 to 25 in Jumeirah Emirates Towers in the center of Dubai.
Haider expects to draw more than 5,000 visitors over the three days, consisting mostly of traders, distributors , retailers and marketers, largely from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iran, Turkey and Russia. Attendance is by invitation only and there’s no charge, Haider said.
The exhibition will consist of stands manned by fragrance brands and there currently are 70 brands involved. But the list is still being finalized, said Haider, who declined to give names. The head of the advisory board is Chantal Roos, cofounder of Roos & Roos.
Haider described the brands as “very private, very niche, very artistic.”
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He estimated that the exhibitors will originate mostly from Europe, the U.S. and Russia, with the smallest number coming from the Middle East.
The region historically has been one of the biggest consumers of fragrance. The show’s brochure states that for every 100 milliliters of fragrance sprayed in the rest of the world, three liters is consumed in the area. In addition, the annual per capita spending is $385 in the Middle East, compared with $85 in the U.S. and $78 in Europe., according to the brochure.
When asked about the disparity, Haider said there is a difference between consumption and creation. “There’s no niche and no art happening over there,” he said of Middle Eastern product. “It’s just expensive and gaudy and flashy. No content.”
The show will also feature some displays and installations, such as a virtual reality gallery, where people can see, smell and hear fragrance in an imaginary rain forest., complete with the sounds and smell. There also will be a pictorial display of the history of ingredients used in niche fragrances, Haider said. “I’m bringing a lot of artists over there,” he said. There also will be an area where the public will be able to buy fragrances.
One of the high points being planned is a dinner on the rooftop. The tables will be arranged in concentric rings, with guests smelling different components of a scent created by Symrise. The inner circle of tables will represent base notes of the formula. The second ring will represent the fragrance’s heart and the outer ring will be the top notes. Different ingredients, such as coffee, will be integrated into the meal. The scent journey will be accompanied by a pianist.
Haider said exhibitor fees, along with a few select sponsors, will support the show, but he claims his primary goal is not profit. “If I do break even, I would be a very happy guy,” he said. “The point here is that the art and the nicheness of the fragrances is at the forefront of this business. The commercial aspect is a byproduct of this activity, not the forefront. It is not a commercial activity at all,” he said, adding, “Commercial should not drive it. The driver should be artistry.”
Haider said his guest list might include some Middle Eastern royalty, plus experts and olfactive artists —“people who are passionate about fragrances.” These are individuals “who can create something new and — also the most important part — understand and realize the real meaning of what niche is.”
“We need to educate consumers as well as brands; what is artistic perfumery and what is the olfactive niches? It’s been misused and it’s been overrated. They think that anything that is expensive is niche,” Haider asserted.
He added, “The entire world right now is shifting towards more niche and luxury fragrance in the last four or five years.”
Haider said he would like to encourage young people to enter the field. In the next year or two, he imagines “young men or young women coming up with their own brand,” he said, adding, “coming up with their own multiretail store, or coming up with their own distribution network for this sector.”