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Launchpad: The Best in Niche Fragrance

The latest from Fueguia 1833, Ex Nihilo, Floraïku and Phuong Dang.

This handful of brands has managed to stand out in an increasingly crowded independent fragrance category vying for market share and a more educated than ever consumer. Shoppers are looking for something different — the antithesis of the blockbuster designer fragrance — and are willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a single bottle, especially when it’s formulated with rare accords and has very limited retail distribution. Below, the newest launches from four ranges that take it a step further, each incorporating a differentiated fragrance experience into their brand DNA that include a semi-bespoke option that allows for blending in-store with a proprietary technology, elaborate Japanese tea ceremonies and in some cases, batches so small that each bottle is numbered.

Fueguia 1833 Tonicos Botanics

Julian Bedel, who founded Fueguia 1833 in Buenos Aires eight years ago, is maniacal about exclusivity. His fragrances are sold only on the brand’s web site and its five freestanding boutiques in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Tokyo, Zurich, Buenos Aires and Milan. (The original door in Milan closed temporarily to move locations and is gearing up to reopen.) Bedel said there are plans to open an additional six throughout the year, including second doors in Tokyo and New York, where he is eyeing the Upper East Side.

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Beyond his direct-to-consumer business model, Bedel maintains exclusivity through the creation of limited batches of scents, where every bottle is numbered with the batch handwritten on the front, with no more than 400 bottles produced per batch. In the spring, a new range of perfumes, “Tonicos Botanics” will bow, which are formulated exclusively from plants grown at Fueguia 1833’s botany center in the town of Manantiales in Uruguay.

“I wanted to create a lighter way of using our perfumes, but I didn’t want to do a diluted version of our actual collection. I believe that the existing concentration of our perfumes are the right one to express the complex amount of ingredients, so the alternative was to imagine a new range with a different concept and formula that could be more transparent, lighter and wearable in a different way,” he said, noting that the collection of six scents, $120 each, is limited to 10 to 15 ingredients from medicinal plants.

Ex Nihilo

Benoît Verdier, one of three cofounders of Paris-based Ex Nihilo, emphasized the slow and measured approach the four-year-old brand has taken to its distribution strategy. An outlier in the niche space that opted to open a freestanding store upon its launch on Rue Saint-Honoré, the brand continues to source rare — read: expensive — ingredients in the creation of its fragrances, as well as offer the in-store creation of semi-bespoke scents via a proprietary technology and Osmologue machine.

Verdier revealed that this highly personalized experience will launch at Saks Fifth Avenue’ flagship store in April, one of only a handful of doors in the world to be outfitted with this machine, as well as an exclusive scent created specifically for the retailer. That same month will also see the global launch of two new scents: Viper Green, an eau de parfum inspired by “vegetal poison,” and Noctorama, which contains Film Noir references from the Eighties.

Floraïku in the Rain

Floraïku, brainchild of Memo Paris founders Clara and John Molloy, puts Japanese culture and haikus front and center (and printed on every bottle), inclusive of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony to get consumers acquainted with the brand. The line launched in Harrods last June with 11 fragrances, and is in the midst of rolling out internationally. John Molloy told WWD the brand will enter about 45 doors throughout the year, including the newly renovated beauty floor at Saks Fifth Avenue’ flagship door in April.

Next month, the duo will add a new scent to the range, In the Rain, which is housed in a forest green bottle and topped with Floraïku’s signature treated canvas caps emblazoned with artwork inspired by Japanese motifs that also happen to be printed on the same canvas as Louis Vuitton’s accessories and double as travel atomizers.

“Green water lily, in the rain, opens up to spring,” recited Clara Molloy, which is the haiku that appears on the bottle of Floraïku’s 12th scent.

Phuong Dang Artist

Phuong Dang, founder of her eponymous brand, has global expansion plans for Artist, her recently launched extrait de parfum, also a first-time collaboration between perfumers Mark Buxton and Bertrand Duchaufour. Dang said the collaborative scent, which retails from $350 to $500, will roll out later this year, first to Russia and then to Germany — both markets already sell the full range. Additionally, the past month saw the launch of the brand in the U.K. and Dubai at Harrods and Harvey Nichols, respectively.

“My perfume line is another form of my artwork, using perfume as a medium. I speak to everyone with our bottle; it’s genderless and doesn’t matter what your background is or where you come from — everyone relates,” Dang said. For her, there are four intentions when developing fragrance: to communicate new ideas; to create a sense of beauty; to explore the nature of perception, and to generate strong emotions.