The Ponte Vecchio men's scent by Nobile 1942.

A culture of niche perfumery is proliferating worldwide, industry executives contended during Fragranza, the niche fragrance and cosmetics fair that took place here last month.

FLORENCE — A culture of niche perfumery is proliferating worldwide, industry executives contended during Fragranza, the niche fragrance and cosmetics fair that took place here last month.

Interest from new exhibitors and visitors grew at the third edition of Fragranza, an event held by Pitti Imagine in the lemon-grove gardens of Palazzo Corsini. The exhibitor base increased 28.4 percent to 113 exhibitors compared with 2004, while, like last year, 1,000 visitors attended.

Already identified as one of Italy’s only growing sectors in an otherwise flat beauty market, the niche sector, most executives agreed, is still enjoying good, steady sales.

“Niche is starting to form a stronger identity,” said Celso Fedelli, president of Herbarium, a leading Italian niche brand and an international distributor expected to reach 10 million euros, or $12 million at current exchange, in revenues, on growth of 15 percent by yearend.

Fedelli claimed that the introduction of a new hall dedicated to niche fragrances and cosmetics, called Masterpieces, which was opened at last April’s Cosmoprof show in Bologna, has enhanced awareness of niche fragrances.

“Masterpieces was a success and, alongside Fragranza, shows this market is fundamentally consolidated in Italy,” said Silvio Levi, president of Calé, which is projected to achieve sales of 6 million euros, or $7.2 million, a 15 percent increase, by yearend.

Levi said be believes it is time for the industry to start exporting its product. “We Italians are sensitive to niche, we appreciate it,” he said. “So now it’s time for us to export it.” Levi has set his sights on entering North America, Spain and Germany with niche Italian perfume brands Acqua di Biella and Profumo di Pantelleria by the end of next year.

Others cautioned that commercial Italian perfumeries find it too easy to jump on the niche wagon. “There is a lot of confusion on the Italian market right now and perhaps some perfumeries believe diversifying into niche could save them from being sucked up by the bigger chains,” said Andrea Catalani, vice president of Finmark, a distributor. “But it’s a culture — you have to support niche products in a totally different way than commercial ones.”

This story first appeared in the October 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

First-time attendees at the fair included Genova-based Nobile 1942, a new distribution and production company that began as a family-owned perfumery chain and manufacturer in Naples. Founder Massimo Nobile said his experience working for commercial brands in the traditional perfumery sector helped him shape his vision for his company.

“I chose to create a company that specializes in the niche sector because it’s a road in fragrance and cosmetics that’s alive, where there is still passion in the business and people are stimulated by it,” said Nobile.

Nobile 1942 christened its first fragrance, Ponte Vecchio, at Fragranza. The men’s fragrance, which is named after the famous bridge lined with jewelry stores in Florence, features notes of bergamot, incense and patchouli and will be sold in two sizes: 100 ml. for 80 euros, or $96.10, and 50 ml. for 47 euros, or $56.50. The eau de cologne will be distributed in 60 niche specialty perfumeries in Italy and will be launched in other key markets including the U.S. at Barneys New York, Henri Bendel, Aedes de Venustas and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, as well as at points of sale in Germany, Spain and England.

Also present at Fragranza was interior designer and perfumer Clive Christian. Christian was on hand to launch a limited edition of his cornerstone women’s fragrance, called No. 1. The No. 1 Artwork Edition features a label with an original drawing by Clive Christian. Only 1,000 of the individually numbered 50-ml. flacons will be sold worldwide starting in November, with a price tag of 550 euros, or $661.

Distributed in Italy by Herbarium, Fedelli said Italy — where Clive Christian can be found in 37 doors nationwide — is one of the brand’s most successful markets. Herbarium recently acquired distribution rights for Clive Christian in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where Fedelli expects to open 35 doors by year-end 2006.

Carthusia, a niche fragrance brand hailing from the chic Italian island of Capri that Herbarium distributes, launched a new home fragrance line at Fragranza including four candles and matching ambient sprays.

Fragranza was a launchpad for VIA.gg.IO, a new 16-item luxury travel line of skin and body care products also distributed by Herbarium. Founder and creative director Silvia Galvina said she was inspired to create the line after logging thousands of air miles at her branding consultant job. VIA.gg.IO includes dry oil body spray and vitamin C concentrated emulsion caplets for the face.

She hopes to launch the line, formulated in Japan and the U.S., in five-star hotels, boutiques and private jets.

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