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Pitti Fragranze Weighs in on the State of Artisanal Fragrances Business

Italian demand of European indie brands has increased 20 percent in the last four years, boosted by the diversity of concepts offered by emerging labels.

FLORENCE – Don’t call it niche.

The world of artisanal perfumery can’t be defined as niche anymore, at least according to industry executives gathered at the 16th edition of the three-day Pitti Fragranze trade show here.

The increasing attention to the category both from consumers and big beauty players — which over the past few years have acquired artistic fragrance houses to enhance their competitiveness — was one of the key elements show organizer Pitti Immagine focused on in hosting a series of talks and workshops during the event, which ended Sept. 16.

In particular, for the first time, organizers appointed the consultancy and financial analysis company HermesLab and Milan’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore’s fashion research institute Centro ModaCult to assemble a study providing figures on the state of the European artistic fragrances business.

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Interviewing a sample of 220 European brands, the study highlighted a division between independent labels and established fragrance houses acquired by big beauty players.

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Data showed that in 2017, sales of the two categories combined spanned from 580 million euros to 650 million euros at wholesale prices, or 1.1 billion euros to 1.3 billion euros in retail prices. Incidentally, indie brands represented 47 percent of that, accounting for 280 million euros to 320 million euros at wholesale prices, or 550 million euros to 650 million euros at retail.

According to the study, over 60 percent of the combined turnover was concentrated and attributed to just 5 percent of the 220 interviewed labels. Of that 220, 70 percent posted less than 1 million euros in sales.

In the specific case of the Italian market, sales of artisanal fragrances both from indie brands and established houses under big companies’ umbrella spanned from 130 million euros to 150 million euros at wholesale prices, or 200 million euros to 250 million euros at retail prices.

In particular, the local demand for European indie brands has increased 20 percent in the last four years, at a compound average growth rate of 6 percent. For the current year, 81 percent of these operators forecast a further increase, with 43 percent of interviewees believing  growth will be over 5 percent. Projections for established fragrance houses showed sales accelerating 20 percent to 30 percent also in 2018.

Pitti Fragranze.
Pitti Fragranze. Courtesy Photo

Held in Florence’s Stazione Leopolda, an old railway station turned into an exhibition space, this edition of Pitti Fragranze displayed the olfactory creations of 190 brands, 70 percent of which were from overseas. Labels offered a diversity of storytelling and concepts, basing their creations on evoking contemporary experiences rather than nostalgic memories.

“The goal is to create fragrances that not necessarily remind you of something… but help create future memories,” said Romy Kowalewski, founder of the label 27 87 Perfumes. Born in Germany but based in Barcelona — where the scents are crafted — Kowalewski established the brand in 2016, naming it after her day and year of birth. “As a young person, I love to wear different perfumes but I couldn’t identify myself with the last 2,000 years and all the nostalgic stuff. I wanted to go a little bit further and capture [aspects my generation] can identify with,” she said.

For this reason, she developed different collections whose names reflect the goal to communicate with Millennials in their own language: the “Next Generation,” “Diversity,” “Globetrotting” and “Chill & Cozy” lines all “talk to today’s lifestyle,” she said. The names of the single scents, all in different languages, also reference the international attitude of younger generations.

Examples include “#Hashtag,” a blend of incense, cedarwood, iris, violet leaves and musk resulting in a metallic essence aimed to “accompany Millennials through their daily journey of capturing, posting and living.” The “Diversity” range features “Elixir de Bombe,” which mixes tangerine, red pepper and ginger with rose, raspberry, caramel, leather and amber; the “Wandervogel” scent leverages Moroccan mint, exotic Shiso leaves and marine notes to inspire the globetrotting attitude of younger generations, while “Hamaca” blends sandalwood, coconut, tonka bean and vanilla to deliver a relaxing effect.

27 87 Perfumes #Hashtag.
27 87 Perfumes #Hashtag. Courtesy Photo

Each scent comes in an opaque white bottle, conceived as a “blank canvas that you can fill with your own experiences,” and customized packaging, ranging from mirrored-like boxes for the “#Hashtag” scent to glossy red fire ones for the “Elixir de Bombe.” All scents retail at 145 euros for a single, 87-ml. format.

Priced at 185 euros for the same size, “Genetic Bliss” is the brand’s latest addition, launched at Pitti Fragranze. Belonging to the “Next Generation” line but coming in a black bottle, the scent features woody notes and five exclusive captives whose molecular structure adapts to the skin and boosts the personal body odor. Worn alone or in combination with the label’s other fragrances, the scent offers a bespoke experience in line with Millennials’ quest for uniqueness.

27 87 Perfumes Genetic Bliss.
27 87 Perfumes Genetic Bliss. Courtesy Photo

In between heritage and modernity, there was debutante label Extrait D’Atelier. Founded three years ago by Chiara Ronzani — who counts 20 years of experience in fashion — the brand aims to “bring the client to discover the ateliers of artistic crafts” through olfactory experiences.

“Our philosophy is not to have a nostalgic approach but a modern vision, projected in the future,” said Ronzani, adding that the goal is to “encapsulate the know-how“ of artisans. The first three fragrances developed — “Maître Couturier,” “Maître Chasseur” and “Maître Joaillier” — re-created the signature scents and atmosphere of a tailor, shoemaker and goldsmith’s ateliers, respectively. The latest scent, named “Maître Céramiste,” takes customers into the atelier of a ceramist through a rich blend of Shiso, pink pepper, smoked incense, iris, vetiver, patchouli and amber.

Extrait D'Atelier Maître Couturier.
Extrait D’Atelier Maître Couturier. Romin Favre

Meanwhile, the Verdúu label taps and creates artisanal fragrances for international emerging designers. “We want to create a network because there are so many talented fashion designers out there and we want to open the doors,” said founder Alexander Botov, who heads the company along with perfumer Mark Buxton, who has created scents for labels such as Comme des Garçons, Burberry and Cartier, among others. He said storytelling was key, underscoring the focus of Verdúu on the strong characters and concepts behind the fragrances.

“What we do is to draw a perfume portrait of each designer. We lock him in a room with Mark [Buxton] who has to know every single thing about the designer — his inspirations, mood, what he likes, his whole life, before putting them all together and drawing a perfume portrait,” explained Botov. The founder also said that this personal approach is one reason the company produces just one fragrance per talent, along with the will “to present every year a new, different designer.”

After creating scents for emerging talents Michael Sontag, Sissi Goetze, Hien Le and Christopher Shannon since its foundation in 2015, Verdúu recently released its fifth fragrance developed for Matthew Miller, men’s wear winner of the 2018 International Woolmark Prize. The scent was launched during London Fashion Week in June with an event at the city’s Beast store.

Verdúu fragrances.
Verdúu fragrances. Courtesy Photo

Distributed in Italy, Germany, the U.K. and Russia, the company’s scents used to be available solely in the single 15-ml. format priced at 45 euros, before Botov unveiled 50-ml. and 100-ml. sizes — retailing at 100 euros and 150 euros, respectively — at Pitti Fragranze. “Retailers spend a lot of time to explain to the customers the concept and if they have the opportunity to sell something at 100 euros instead of 45 euros, they would take it,” said Botov, explaining that the move intends to meet both retailers’ and customers’ demands, especially Middle Eastern ones.

Also linked to the world of fashion, the Bohoboco Perfume label made its international debut at the trade show. This is the fragrance line of the namesake Polish fashion brand, founded by designers Michael Gilbert Lach and Kamil Owczarek. The offering counts eight scents — each retailing at 125 euros for the single 50-ml. format — often inspired by the culinary arts with a mix of contrasting elements. Examples include the first-launched scent “Vanilla Black Pepper,” in addition to the “Sea Salt Caramel” and “Red Wine Brown Sugar” fragrances.

Bohoboco Perfume.
Bohoboco Perfume. Courtesy Photo

This edition of Pitti Fragranze attracted 2,150 buyers bowing from 50 countries. Increases came from Germany (up 15 percent) and Spain (up 12 percent), as well as Middle Eastern and Asian buyers. France and the U.S. saw relatively flat attendance while visitors from the U.K and Russia slightly decreased this season.

Conversely from the past, the exhibition was accessible only to the industry professionals. To involve a wider audience and promote the olfactory culture, organizers and brands launched the “La Città delle Fragranze” initiative — or The City of Fragrances, in English — staging 48 events, lectures and in-store activities outside the Stazione Leopolda venue during the three-day trade show.