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Brioni Ventures Into Fragrance

The company worked closely with perfumer Raymond Matts.

MILAN — Having tested the waters five years ago with a limited-edition scent, Brioni is rolling the dice with an unconventional strategy in launching  a fragrance it hopes will have staying power. The Italian luxury label, founded in Rome in 1945 and part of Kering since 2011, is best known for its custom men’s suits, sported at one time by the likes of Cary Grant and more recently by Daniel Craig as James Bond.

The decision for Brioni to take on fragrance has been carefully considered, said chief executive officer Francesco Pesci, who was quick to acknowledge that the $280 eau de toilette will be limited in its distribution. It also will lack an advertising campaign in a highly competitive, media-driven market. As a result, its revenues will be limited, too.

“We don’t have a commercial goal in the strictest sense,” said Pesci, declining to discuss specific sales figures. “The fragrance should be a strong physical representation of the brand,” emphasizing craftsmanship and quality materials.

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Industry sources suggested the Brioni edt could generate around 5.5 million euros, or about $7 million at current exchange, in retail sales in its first year on the shelf — tiny when compared with fragrances from other brands in the Kering portfolio that also emphasize craftsmanship.

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“People told me at least 15 times that it would be better to work with a licensing partner, but I resisted,” said Pesci, noting that Brioni’s eyewear line is also an in-house project. “We needed to put our consumer at the center, and our consumer is not influenced by passing trends. He’s more interested in product integrity.”

Brioni worked closely with fragrance designer Raymond Matts to develop the fragrance. Top notes include cold-pressed Sicilian lemon, while the heart contains magnolia, iris and violet, and the drydown is a woody accord with saffron, cistus leaves, oud and black licorice.

Brioni creative director Brendan Mullane noted that, during one of many internal brainstorming sessions, “we got [the nose] to smell the clothes and the fabrics we use, to visit our ateliers.”

“This was my first experience [creating fragrance] from A to Z. It was kind of baptism by fire,” Mullane said, adding, “It’s not a mass-market scent….It’s for someone who appreciates the true luxury elements and an artistic design object. I associate it with growing up as a child, [when] my mother used to have all the iconic fragrance bottles, some with frosted glass. That kind of reference is timeless, in a sense….It’s about density and how it lingers — does [the perfume] make somebody’s head turn after three hours?

“The one thing we were so insistent on was [that] we didn’t want it to smell like a bestseller or something else [already on the market],” Mullane said, a somewhat surprising statement for a commercial entity.

The 2.5 fl. oz., low, lozenge-shaped glass bottle, designed by Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard — who already crafted a line of Brioni cuff links, tie clips and collar pins — is intentionally suggestive of “how fabric moves,” Mullane noted.

Rollout will take place primarily in Brioni stores — 44 directly operated units and 51 franchises — and begin later this month in the EU, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S., where Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman will have a six-month exclusive, Pesci said. In 2016, the fragrance will reach China and South America.

“The U.S. is a fundamentally important market, both for the fragrance and for general brand awareness. It’s Brioni’s number-one market,” Pesci said, noting that the country accounts for 30 percent of the brand’s sales.