MILAN — Luxury fragrance house Amouage opened its first flagship here Thursday. Located in the central Brera district — one of the city’s main hubs for niche fragrances — the 355-square-foot store is the second Italian door of the brand’s, following a unit in Rome. The Milanese boutique showcases the label’s complete range of products, including bath and body categories, home fragrances and travel and leather goods collections, in addition to limited-edition projects.
Founded in 1982 by Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud al bu Said, a member of the Omani royal family, Amouage revamped its heritage and found international recognition also thanks to the appointment of David Crickmore as chief executive officer and Christopher Chong as creative director in 2007.
The former contributed to the expansion of the label, including an aggressive retail strategy, while the latter created sophisticated artistic scents that combine Middle Eastern tradition with Western elements.
“We couldn’t wait any longer,” said Crickmore regarding the brand’s latest opening. “Milan was waiting for Amouage and Amouage needed Milan’s internationality and authority,” he added, underscoring how such a move “confirms that nowadays luxury is more and more an experience rather than an accessory.”
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“We did not just come to Milan without any experience, as we’ve been selling really well in the retail sector here for some time already,” said Chong, who also oversaw the store’s interior concept, combining warm-toned Corian furniture with mirrored and golden elements.
“We did notice that Italy, especially Milan, understands artistry and craftsmanship,” continued Chong, stressing the local clientele’s curiosity about the products. “They engage in dialog and learn more about the creative process, which is great for us because our perfume is not so easily understandable just by smelling, [but has] many layers of meaning,” he added. Chong also defined the market key for its retail strategy as “most countries are all about department stores [while] Italy is very different, it fits in our style of small artistic shops.”
According to Chong, an opening in Florence might be up next on Amouage’s expansion agenda, along with Paris and Berlin.
Amouage currently counts 19 flagships worldwide — all launched during the past eight years — including the U.K., Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Malaysia, along with Italy. In addition, the brand is distributed in 66 doors, including department stores such as Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges in London; KadeWe in Berlin; Gum and Tsum in Moscow; Bergdorf Goodman in New York, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, among others.
The Milanese store opening was also the occasion to launch in Italy Amouage’s newest fragrance, named Blossom Love. Retailing exclusively at the brand’s local flagships, the floral scent is part of The Secret Garden Collection, which already includes the Lilac Love perfume, debuted last year on International Women’s day.
“The whole idea of the Secret Garden collection is that it’s only for women,” said Chong. “It’s my way of paying homage and respect to modern womanhood.” Blossom Love’s juice focuses on cherry blossoms, mixed with rose liquor and vanilla notes to deliver a “gentle, feminine” yet “empowering” scent. Coming in a totally pink bottle with silver cap and logo, the 100-ml. format retails at 320 euros, or $344 at current exchange.
In general, Chong’s approach to his work is strictly related to his personal passions. The creative director takes inspiration from “fragments of my encounters and experiences of life” to create new products, which he defines as “chapters of a book.” With a strong dedication for Opera music, that led him to be a baritone for 10 years, Chong has been inspired by music during his creative process, as his second perfume Lyric, referencing renowned Opera singer Maria Callas, proves.
Recently, he added cooking to the list of favorite diversions. “The approach is very similar to perfume [creation,]” he said, stressing the amount of focus and improvisation in common. “In cooking you may have not all the ingredients available in the kitchen […] so you need to improvise, and that’s what perfume is all about,” he said, referencing an occasional shortage of raw ingredients in perfumery due to weather conditions.
In general, Chong identified a significant change in the niche industry compared to his beginnings. “At the moment we are facing a niche crisis,” he said, “there are too many brands and everyone thinks they can do it.” In particular, he highlighted how the modern definition of niche shifted from indicating artistry and a sophisticated creative process to the volume of a business. “Nowadays niche means the size of your company, not what you put into the juice, and that’s the crisis.”
In the midst of such change, Chong finds in the Millennials a source of hope, for their different approach to products. “Millennials are embracing niche and uniqueness, as they don’t want a product that a brand tells them to buy but to find [something different,]” he noticed. “We were different, we were followers, we saw an advertising and we got obsessed with the image and buy the products,” he concluded, stating how younger generations are “much more insightful.”