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Fueguia 1833 Expands in Middle East, Gears Up for Paris Opening

After the investment received by Ilwaddi WLL, the brand has started its expansion in the region with a corner at Dubai Mall and is gearing up to open a location in Paris, among others.

MILAN — Julian Bedel, founder of Argentinian niche fragrance house Fueguia 1833, likes to move to the beat of his own drum.

When competitors were consolidating European markets, he set foot in and then strengthened his brand’s presence in Japan. Now that they are all looking to Asia, he is moving to the Middle East.

Following the equity investment received from Middle Eastern investor Ilwaddi WLL earlier this year, the brand has started its expansion in the region by unveiling its first corner at Dubai Mall.

Defined by wood elements, the 215-square-foot space replicates the design concept of all the brand’s stores. In sync with the Fueguia 1833 tradition, a long table displays fragrances positioned on walnut wood cubes and topped by glass vials, enabling customers to experience the scents. The location also features the brand’s distinctive “ingredients bar” that lines up the natural essences used to realize the fragrances.

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The project is the result of the partnership with luxury retailers’ operator Al Tayer Group, which Bedel praised for being “extremely knowledgeable of the market.”

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The beauty brand already boasts a strong awareness with local customers, who are frequent shoppers at the Fueguia 1833 flagships in New York and Milan.

“But now it makes sense to be there,” said Bedel ahead the official launch at Dubai Mall. “We started the business first in Argentina and then expanded in Japan, both tricky markets where we already dealt with hard challenges. It’s not that it’s easy now, but Middle Easterners really do love fragrance, so we have an advantage.”

The new Fueguia 1833 corner at Dubai Mall.
The new Fueguia 1833 corner at Dubai Mall. Courtesy of Fueguia 1833

The corner will display 84 perfumes out of the approximately 110 perfumes in the brand’s assortment. Bedel didn’t focus the offer on specific olfactory families, such as oud-based scents, as he underscored that local customers “have a different approach from us.”

“They’re explorers, extremely demanding and know all about quality. They understand more than other consumers because fragrance is in their culture and tradition.…We can’t go there with a simplified approach, otherwise we wouldn’t be relevant for them,” noted Bedel. He additionally pointed to how the city is populated by customers of different nationalities and has a high concentration of tourists, which is even more relevant at the moment given the Expo.

Bedel underscored the similarities between the expert Middle Eastern shoppers and the sophisticated Japanese consumers, who still account for a big part of the company’s sales.

To this end, in March Fueguia 1833 opened a new outpost at the Ginza Six luxury shopping complex, doubling its presence in Tokyo and boosting the brand’s growth even during the pandemic. Next year, the label will unveil another unit in Osaka, which has been picked as an alternative to Kyoto, where Bedel previously secured a location before COVID-19 forced him to forgo the project.

The Fueguia 1833 location at Ginza Six in Tokyo.
The Fueguia 1833 location at Ginza Six in Tokyo. Courtesy of Fueguia 1833

As part of its retail expansion, the brand will also open a store at The Peninsula luxury hotel in Paris in February 2022. “It’s another operation that makes sense, especially as hotels are increasingly thinking how to be relevant after the pandemic, implementing new experiences to offer,” said Bedel, who is also eyeing plans to develop a scent strategy and products in partnership with the hospitality destination.

The Parisian outpost is set to replicate a strategy that Fueguia 1833 has already successfully tested in Roppongi, where the unit is housed at the Grand Hyatt hotel, and in Milan, where the brand’s store is nestled next to the Park Hyatt hotel, standing a few steps away from the city’s iconic shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

To strengthen the brand’s presence in the Italian market, Bedel is additionally considering an itinerant format, as talks are in progress to install pop-ups at key locations in luxury summer and winter destinations, such as in Sardinia, for instance.

On a global scale, the founder revealed he’s looking for properties also in London and in Miami, which he considers strategic to intercept customers from Brazil, Mexico and Colombia who are already familiar with the brand.

The Fueguia 1833 flagship store in Milan.
The Fueguia 1833 flagship in Milan. Courtesy of Fueguia 1833

In addition to Milan and Tokyo, Fueguia 1833 has stores in London; Buenos Aires José Ignacio in Uruguay, and on Madison Avenue and Crosby Street in New York.

“It’s not just a matter of opening stores, but to understand how to keep your existing ones relevant,” said Bedel, mentioning that the Madison Avenue unit was “relaunched” after changes in terms of design and team. The location will increasingly host events — starting with an exhibit of paintings by Bedel’s brother Nicolas — and educational initiatives, such as workshops on botanical research. To this end, the company continues to develop its “Fueguia Society” fidelity program, which helps register feedback from customers and profile their interests, in order to fine-tune in-store activities that could best resonate with them.

“We’re not in a hurry of expanding: every opening still has to be meaningful. So we’re looking at growing organically with a sustainable demand. Also because right now the biggest problem is the scarcity of our products: There’s a lot of competition between our own stores,” said Bedel, underscoring that “opening a store is easy, but maintaining the product flow is another thing.”

Even the brand’s e-commerce platform, usually dedicated to second-time purchases, has been used more and more by customers to preorder fragrances.

The brand’s scents are released in limited-edition batches since they are manufactured in accordance with the availability of the natural ingredients. This aspect is marked with the year of production and a serial number reported on the signature geometric glass bottle and handmade cases made of wood recovered from fallen or burnt trees. Prices for Fueguia 1833 fragrances range from 225 euros to 679 euros for the 100-ml. format or between 113 euros and 340 euros for the 30-ml. travel size.

The Paisaje fragrance by Fueguia 1833.
The Paisaje fragrance by Fueguia 1833. Courtesy of Fueguia 1833

Founded in 2010 in Buenos Aires, the company is vertically integrated and responsible for the whole manufacturing process. An Argentinian-born botanist himself, Bedel is directly involved in each step of realizing the fragrances, from the botanical research and the creation and formulation of the scents to the design of the final packaging.

Throughout the past year, the company used the financial injection received by Ilwaddi WLL to further invest in its manufacturing capabilities and consolidate this independent approach.

“Also the incentives promoted by the Italian government to support R&D in the country made us spend money more easily,” said Bedel, revealing that high-tech machinery for distillation have been added for a total investment of three million euros.

To house this equipment, the company flanked its laboratory in Milan with a 12,917-square-foot factory just outside the city. At the same time, it expanded its staff to bring new tech skills in-house.

“Having our own manufacturing gives us flexibility. Since, for instance, we manage the extraction, we don’t depend on those who do for all the other brands,” said Bedel while addressing the scarcity of raw materials and consequent skyrocketing prices.

“And I think that this whole situation stimulates creativity, if you have the knowledge of how to treat and combine ingredients yourself,” he continued. Working with small batches enables Bedel to often renew the formula of the scents, constantly improving their performance. Yet the founder said the company has not increased prices like many of its competitors but enhanced “the quality, instead.”

Julian Bedel, founder of Fueguia 1833.
Julian Bedel, founder of Fueguia 1833. Courtesy of Fueguia 1833

At the moment, 16 new perfumes are ready to be released, including seven scents offering new, more exotic takes on oud.

While fragrance will remain at the core of the business, Bedel has been experimenting with new categories for a while. “Home is slowly growing and makes more and more sense to have it into our assortment,” he said, revealing that candles will be released next month and that he’s working on diffusers for large spaces to add to the existing ones for domestic use.

Last year, as COVID-19 started to spread in Italy, the brand was a pioneer in releasing a full biocide cosmetics range, including scents with sanitizing properties that evolved in a line of fragrances for textiles. While beauty ranges keep drawing Bedel’s attention, the company for the moment develops projects on a small scale, such as amenities for hotels, which the firm is “using as a testing ground for our cosmetic research.”

Yet the founder lamented a lack of transparency and “extreme secrecy” in the cosmetics industry, an aspect he is committed to confront not just with his business but promoting educational workshops for “entrepreneurs, university students and young people who have a lot of ideas but don’t know where to start to approach this industry.”

“That’s also why most of them outsource stuff when they launch a business on their own, but our idea is to help people unlock a lot of these aspects by sharing our knowledge,” concluded Bedel.