MILAN — Welcome to Porta Nuova, the new niche fragrance neighborhood.
From March 31 1 to April 3, the trendy new district turned into the focal point for artistic perfumery here, when industry professionals and the public gathered for the 8th edition of the Esxence trade show and 6th edition of the ultraniche event Unscent, which is organized by Intertrade Group.
Esxence returned for the second time to the 64,580-square-foot space, whereas Unscent made its debut in the area at a 5,381-square-foot location, just a three-minute walk from its new neighbor.
Celso Fadelli, chief executive officer of Intertrade Group, said many attendees reduced their stays in Milan to cut down costs and couldn’t visit the event’s previous edition in 2015 in the city center at the Avery Perfume Gallery. He noted that this factored into the decision to hold the 2016 edition in proximity to Esxence, because “it’s easier for clients to come.”
Nearly 7,100 people visited Esxence this year, of which 75 percent were retailers and distributors and 77 percent were from outside Italy. Of the 206 exhibiting brands, up 25 percent over 2014, 30 percent were Italian; 84 were considered as main brands; 102 as “spotlight” and 20 were part of the second edition of the niche skin-care area Esxkin.
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Maurizio Cavezzali, ceo of Equipe International, which organizes Esxence, noted that the fair was becoming more attractive for the city itself with accompanying events, as well as for International visitors and companies.
“Some brands, which are well-established in their international distribution, don’t feel the need to exhibit, but decided to organize meetings and interviews in Milan,” said Silvio Levi, Esxence’s cofounder and chairman of the technical committee.
He added this gives the show the opportunity to give more space to new emerging and creative brands, a trend he also wants to continue for the next edition in 2017.
Barcelona-based brand 2787, named after founder Romy Kowalewsky’s birthday, was among the newcomers and presented its fragrances elixir de bombe, wanderlust and hashtag for the first time, bottled in a white minimalistic flacon that recalls the shape of an iPhone.
“We wanted to keep the packaging very simple so that the consumer can concentrate on the fragrance and is not distracted by some gold decorations,” said Kowalewski, adding that she was looking for a selective distribution in Europe, Russia and Dubai for the scents, which will launch this month and retail for 145 euros, or $165 at current exchange.
Also new in the mix was three-year-old Italian label I Profumi del Marmo, which is based with its production in Carrara, Italy, and translates the characteristics of marble from the Apuan Alps into scents. “We are still a very young brand and currently present in Italy and the U.K.,” said manager assistant Letizia Teglia, citing the Middle East, Russia and the U.S. as areas of interest.
I Profumi del Marmo showcased four fragrances from its ongoing line and the limited-edition woody-oriental scent Portoro, bottled in a black marble flacon with a 24-karat gold seal, which sells for 380 euros, or $432.
Among the Italian exhibitors was also Gabriella Chieffo, who was back at the show with her namesake label for the second time to present her new scent Maisìa, a tribute to women that devote their lives to gaining knowledge. The 100-ml. eau de parfum is capped with stones from the Lecce region, where the brand is based and retails for 116 euros, or $132.
Chieffo, a former environmental engineer, noted that the label is distributed throughout Europe in artistic perfumeries, but is looking for new contacts in China, the Middle East and India at the show.
“The niche market will definitely grow even more within the next years,” said Bart Pawlok, national sales and brand development manager of London-based firm Illuminum that was back for the sixth time and presented a new packaging and four fragrances.
“Our job is to educate the consumers and now the education of the past is becoming fruitful in a growing clientele,” he noted, adding that Illuminum since last year has been present in Barneys New York locations across the U.S. and it will launch in Selfridges in London in May.
Madalina Stoïca-Blanchard, one half of the creative duo behind Jul et Mad noted that the French brand was not showing new scents this year to not get caught up in the “race of novelties” and because of the success of its Les White collection. “It was a fantastic year, and we are still feeling the good side effects of this launch,” she said.
Jul et Mad entered Iran in 2015 with its classic collection, which now is the number-one market, followed by Russia, where the brand registered a slowdown in sellout, but an increase of the value per transaction. Currently, the duo wants to slow down expansion to build up the brand’s value and image in Europe, but is considering the Middle East as next market.
At Esxkin, Insìum, an Italian, vegan and cruelty free skin-care label, was showcasing its antiage line of serums and creams that contain the marine ingredient Neuroguard and a biomimetic peptide to prevent aging. Owner Francesca di Lenardo said that the brand launched in March in Italy’s key retail points, such as Milan’s premier perfumery chain Mazzolari, and was also looking to roll out in the U.K.
Dutch makeup artist Ellis Faas’ namesake line of all-liquid products, which launched in 2011, was for the first time at the show, while looking for Italian distributors. Account manager Angelique Kuijpers noted that the brand, which currently is in 25 countries, is targeting niche boutiques with high-end products. “There is a lot of interest for the brand here at the fair, especially from the Middle East and Italy,” she said.
A new and fresh face was skin-care brand Purophi, which just launched in September and was presenting its natural, vegan line of serums and elixirs that use 46 active ingredients.
About 1,000 visitors, a mix of buyers and press, attended the sixth edition of Unscent, which showcased its 22 fragrance, skin-care and makeup brands in the new location, which featured a greenhouse with fake flowers, combined with the smell of the fragrances, a wink to the show’s concept that was inspired by the district.
“Porta Nuova is an area that is completely [unnatural in its design] fake, so we created this kind of contrast between real and fake,” Fadelli noted, adding that for him the show was “the most consistent and mature edition” so far. The bigger location was well received by the exhibiting brands including Blood Concept, Santa Eulalia and SoOud and visitors also could catch some of the perfume creators.
“I think it’s a really beautiful space to showcase what we are doing,” said Danielle Ryan, founder of lifestyle brand Roads, which showed its latest Africa-themed fragrance and candle line that debuted in October.
She added that the particular theme was very well received in the U.S. and also noticed a shift in people’s understanding of scents. “They are looking for something more unique that doesn’t smell like what everyone else has, so they are moving away from the mass market.”
Christine and Niclas Lydeen, ceo and creative director of Swedish brand Agonist presented a capsule collection of candles and fragrances with Swedish fashion label Hope, which due to its success in the Scandinavian market is now also rolled out internationally. “They have some values that we really share and we thought it would be interesting to create an invisible addition to the style, look and character of the brand,” Niclas Lydeen explained.
He said the collaboration was also an educational challenge for the brand, due to the lack of interest of Scandinavian customers in fragrances. “They haven’t really thought about scents, so it’s interesting to teach them a bit,” he noted, adding that brand has also noticed a growing following in the U.S., which reflected also during the fair. “We had great interest from the U.S., they are really longing for an Agonist candle.”
The brand also debuted its 13th scent Floralust, the first floral in the collection, which will hit shelves in May and retail for 125 euros, or $142 at current exchange rate.
Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah was also on hand with his brand TFK, which stands for The Fragrance Kitchen and just opened a new store in Beverly Hills in Neiman Marcus, accompanied by the scent Palm Fiction, which sold out in two weeks. “We do this with every single location we go to, offering an exclusive fragrance for that specific location that is not sold anywhere else,” Al-Sabah said, adding that Bergdorf Goodman in New York would follow this month.
The brand is heavily expanding and just opened Casablanca and Rabat with the Avery Perfume Gallery, as well as Abu Dabhi but is also poised to open stores in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Russia in the next two months.
“We are still working on Spain and Germany and we have no presence in Asia, but we are working now on putting something together with Hong Kong with Lane Crawford, but it’s taking some time” he said. “Their relationship with fragrances is not as strong as ours in the Middle East or in Europe.”
TFK has also been busy experimenting for the past year with Turin-based chocolatiers Guido Gabino to develop scents into flavors. “We have taken the four best-selling fragrances and converted them into chocolates shaped as blotters,” Al-Sabah explained. “This is going to be the new direction and the diversification of the brand is going ahead with flavors.”
Available from fall, the box with four chocolates will retail for 70 euros, or about $80, but Al-Sabah already has his eyes on the next projects, including chocolate blotters with a spray function and edible fragrances that can be used on the body and food. “I think this really gives us an edge.”