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Exploring Opportunities for Italian Artistic Perfumery Brands

"Insights Into Artistic Perfumery" was a digital event hosted by Beauty Inc.

Changes in consumer preferences due to a global pandemic have put a spotlight on consumer wellness and redefining the luxury experience. Consumers are also seeking out new experiences and trying new brands while demanding more sustainable products.

It was within this context that WWD and Beauty Inc teamed up with the ITA and Esxence, the Art Perfumery Event, to present “Insights Into Artistic Perfumery,” a digital session showcasing the Italian fragrance market and its unique offerings.

Allison Collins, senior editor of beauty at WWD and Beauty Inc, hosted the webinar, which featured Marisa Auciello, senior vice president of sales at Europerfumes and Commodity Fragrances, Silvio Levi, cofounder of Esxence and founder and director of Essencional, Emmanuel Saujet, cofounder of ICP, and Linda Song, senior perfumer at Givaudan.

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The goal of the session was to discuss opportunities for Italian perfumery brands to further expand into the U.S. and North America. And while it was noted that Amazon and its influence on consumer expectations (quick deliveries and low prices) is a challenge, Italian fragrances have an opportunity to penetrate the North American market — as long as brands key into several consumer trends while leveraging existing attributes of being Made in Italy.

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Auciello said when consumers in the U.S. think of the words Made in Italy, “I think people are really thinking of quality and craftsmanship as well as design and color,” she said. “It’s such a happy and vibrant culture and brands work very hard to put that into their products, which makes our job really fun.”

Auciello acknowledged there are challenges in the market for prestige fragrances but said “we try to just get the juice into the hands of the consumer. Once they’ve smelled the juice and they’ve fallen in love with it, it’s almost as if the beautiful packaging and storyline is the icing on the cake.”

She also explained that the company’s business is built upon smaller, independent retailers. “And they do a great job and educating and getting the word out there for us — especially with this new wave of communicating, which is heavy on social media and TikTok. We’ve had products go viral and sell out nationwide as a result. So, there is no rhyme or reason these days as to what’s resonating, but sharing the quality of the Italian brands is what’s been fun for us.”

Song noted that there have been significant shifts in consumer behavior over the past two years. “Today, it’s more about how fragrances make consumers feel,” she said. “It’s much more personal and, for that reason, people are looking for fragrances that fit their mood.”

Song said consumers ponder their mood for the morning, or evening and what fragrances to match it. “They seek out [fragrances] that is going to make me feel energized one day but then the next day they want something that makes me feel more relaxed. Which is great because we need a variety and clearly we need to hit all of the traditional olfactive families.”

At the same time, Song said the lines are “becoming more blurred so we don’t just have fruity florals or ambry florals with fruits. We also need floral musk with woods. The market is becoming more about the feeling or the message of fragrance houses for the wearer. People want to just enjoy what they wear. As much as I love to talk about the details of fragrance and what goes into it, these days it’s about nuanced facets and balance.”

For retailers, Song said consumers are more discerning and “really savvy. They’re more curious and experiential, which ties into the need for authenticity, particularly in the U.S. right now.” She also noted the importance of offering sustainable products and packaging and being transparent in regard to ingredients and sourcing.

Regarding launching a brand in the U.S., Saujet said “from an Italian perspective, I would say that starting a business today it’s very expensive, but the prize to enter the North American market is high but will take a lot of money.”

“I do believe Italian products are so charismatic and they are artisanal,” he said. “The Italian market is beautiful.” Saujet said brands entering the U.S. have to face Amazon and consumer expectations for same-day or next-day delivery. “Everything in the U.S. is about fast, fast, fast,” he said, adding that brands must be more strategic in order to grow their business.

Levi said Italian artistic perfumery brands have a competitive edge in that they offer several different points of differentiation. He said Italian brands are steeped in cultural attributes such as Italian art and music. The Italian market also has a rich heritage that goes back for three or four generations. They are legacy brands, which can be leveraged in the U.S.

Levi and the panelists also noted the emergence of wellness in the category during the pandemic period. Shoppers are focused on physical and mental health and are craving the narratives behind the brands they buy. And for Italian prestige fragrances, there’s certainly a story to tell.