Pitti Immagine’s annual perfume event in Florence is one of the key dates on the niche perfume calendar. What began as a trade show gathering of small independent perfume brands has turned into festival of scent that attracts media, buyers and enthusiasts from all over the world.
“Fragranze means novelty, internationality, scouting, selection and the highest quality of craftsmanship. These are the features of the Pitti Immagine fair-event dedicated to the world of artistic perfumery and olfactive culture, which with this year’s edition celebrates its 10th anniversary”
The annual event was held in Florence’s Stazione Leopolda across three days with one day being open to the public. Designer, Alessandro Moradei created the event’s layout that suggested a parallel between perfume and musical notes. September’s event hosted presentations from over 200 niche or artistic brands, predominantly perfumers with others coming from the world of beauty, make-up and small fashion accessories. This year’s guest speaker was author and curator, Chandler Burr who spoke about The Art of Jean-Claude Ellena.
With the help of International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) Chandler was also involved in the curation of a special installation entitled Every Bottle of Perfume Contains a World. The installation provided a floating table of natural essences where visitors could dip paper touchés into large glass jars to smell a range of plant extracts. Rich jasmine sambac and tuberose absolutes from India, gourmand tonka bean absolute from Brazil, powdery Orris absolute from Italy and vivid Ylang Ylang oil from Comorres, it was an olfactory feast that took its audience around the world. Above this floating island of scent was a map of the planet, with photos of growers, harvesters and local communities involved in the process of creating the raw materials on display. This served as a beautiful reminder of the hundreds of human hands that assist the perfumer’s hand in creating their vision. At IFF’s Fragranze booth the company had a box set of cards for visitors to take away entitled The Seven Laws of Nature: Defining Naturals. Each card advertised IFF’s brand values such as sustainability and social, environmental responsibility alongside quotes from IFF perfumers regarding perfumery’s most revered raw materials.
“Rose is a very multi-faceted flower, which allows for large creation scope, from the most transparent to the most sensual. It throws light on an accord. Metallic, velvety, crystalline, watery, aldehydic, spicy, delicate or strong… those are the many facets of Lady Rose”, Olivier Polge, Perfumer.
On the first day of Fragranze, IFF delivered a seminar on emerging trends titled Market X-Ray: capturing the perfume key market dynamics and trends. I couldn’t make it to Florence in time for this seminar but I found that having access to over 200 brands in one space was ample opportunity to see what was happening in the world of niche perfumery. You only had to smell your way around the room to see the emerging trends. Early in the day I spoke with perfumer Bertand Duchaufour who gave me his own insights into what makes a good niche perfume. Originality was of key importance to him and when you have over 200 hundred brands in one space, those brands that were innovative easily shone through.
The niche world has gotten over its fixation with oud just yet, although the more clever perfumers were still using it but it was blended with other woods and resins and the word oud did not appear in the perfume’s title. At its most cliche, it was the classic oud- rose-amber combination but I also found some great examples of oud ‘played down’. I spoke with Keiko Mecheri briefly about her newest line of Bespoke perfumes. Here you still find traces of oud, but the volume is tastefully lowered allowing other materials to shine. I have wanted to add one of her fragrances to my collection for some time and now I think I have found it in Cuir Fauve or Vetiver Velours. Her packaging design is always well done, but I particularly like the Bespoke design. The weight of the bottle, the colours and of course the perfumes themselves create an exceptional product.
Leather was still a key trend as was cistus and frankincense. I also noticed a number of perfumes overdosed with patchouli. Parfumerie Generale’s Intrigant Patchouli is one example with patchouli leaves flanked by the animalic growl of YSL’s Kouros. Oddly it begins to purr like a kitten as the honey notes kick in. I loved it enough to get a bottle the following week in Paris.
There was a sense of perfume science fiction with brands such as A Lab on Fire, Essentric Molecules and newcomers Nu_Be adding a modern twist to traditional perfumery. Within their approach you see a stripping away of all the pomp and ceremony that traditionally accompanies perfume. Gone is the idea of perfume being a frivolous luxury or one of life’s spoils. Ornate flacons are replaced with laboratory-like flasks and the fragrances themselves are made to be worn in everyday life instead of being reserved for special occasions. Even the perfume itself refers to everyday life; Geza Schoen created a scent for Wallpaper Magazine that smells simply of an open book and A Lab on Fire has created L’Anonyme, a scent so sheer, it could almost render its wearer anonymous.
Nu_Be was one of the most exciting newcomers to Pitti and I loved the recycled Styrofoam packaging that required the owner to break their bottle out of its casing in order to be used. Nu_Be’s story was about the elements that created the universe, the building blocks of all matter like a cosmic cloud. Nu_Be’s owners called upon the talent of perfumers such as Francoise Caron, Antoine Lie, Sylvie Fischer and Nicholas Bonneville to realize their vision. With perfumes such as Carbon, Helium, Nitrogen and Oxygen, the brand offers a unique sensory experience to its clientele.
As the niche market matures you can already see a separation and creation of smaller sub-genres. A niche perfume is no longer defined as only being niche. There are brands like Essentric Molecules or A Lab on Fire, which appeal to one type of niche client, then you have brands like By Kilian and Xerjoff who are reaching out to a different type of buyer.
This luxury section of the niche market is currently going through a bling fad, similar to that experienced by the fashion world last decade. Bejewelled flacons, shiny gold caps, numbered editions and expensive raw materials that push the average price through the roof are their current drawcards.
Xerjoff, is an Italian house that describes itself as a “Journey to the most precious realm in the world of luxury perfumes.” And they are cutting bottles from single blocks of African quartz so you wouldn’t expect their opening statement to be anything less. At Pitti, the brand proudly displayed a prolific number of perfumes including two new ranges that were yet to be released. The first was a series of oud parfums. Names such as Java Blossom, Sukar Aswad and Warda al Oud link back to the line’s eastern inspirations. Another line the house will soon launch was called Join The Club. Here you get an exclusive membership card with your bottle of perfume that gets you into an online community of other club members. There are ten fragrances to choose from.
Another brand promoting rarity and exclusivity was Histoires de Parfums. With new editions that looked like nuggets of gold and platinum they have also coined a new concentration of parfum, namely absolu eau de parfum. The glossy metallic packaging for the Edition Rare collection centres on precious oud.
There was also a feeling of artisanal craftsmanship amongst many of those presenting at Pitti.
Olivier Durbano’s collection was inspired by his love of gemstones and experience as a jeweler. His latest offering was Parfum de Pierres Poemes, a perfume inspired by heliotrope, a precious stone of mystical stories from Babylon, Egypt and India. The stone is dark with flecks of red. Olivier said he wanted to focus on these red parts of the stone hence the rich red tone of the perfume juice.
Naomi Goodsir Parfums was a new discovery for me at Pitti. The Australian milliner now spends much of her time in France. The artist had added a line of perfume to her name that felt as rich and as textured as her work as a milliner.
I also had a chance to talk with Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes. One thing I enjoyed at Pitti was having the opportunity to be walked through a range of perfumes by the perfume’s creator. Niche perfumeries do their best to represent the brands they carry, but nothing compares to learning about a range first hand from the perfumer. Andy shared with me his story of Lonestar Memories, which is reminiscent of his time living in the United States. He also shared his story of creating Vetiver Dance, a perfume that brings together the rawness of vetiver with the softness of lily of the valley. The fragrance was born out of Andy’s desire to create something he could wear to the gym. After wearing the sample of Lonestar Memories Andy gave me at Pitti, I purchased a bottle from Jovoy in Paris the following week. Although it naturally feels like a wintery campfire scent, I can see myself getting a lot of wear from it over the coming summer months in Sydney.
YS Uzac was another pleasant discovery. The Swiss brand is currently a collection of four fragrances. In contrast to the oud powerhouses overtaking the airspace at Pitti, YS Uzac was a line of subtle, very wearable perfumes. It is easy to be boring when it comes to creating sheer, transparent perfumes but YS Uzac avoided all the pitfalls and clichés with this delicate line of eaux de parfum.
Robert Piguet Parfums had much to talk about at Pitti with the recent extension of the brand’s classic collection. Perfumer for the house, Aurelien Guichard was first called to Piguet to assist the reorchestration of Baghari, a perfume from the 1950s that had disappeared when Piguet retired. Guichard, the son of legendary perfumer Jean Guichard is charged with the role of creating modern perfumes that still reflect the tradition associated with a name like Robert Piguet. At Pitti, the house was presenting its Pacific Collection. It was a light and airy trio called Blossom, Chai and Jeunesse. The Nouvelle Collection featured some unisex offerings male readers may find interesting. Having just visited Morocco, Robert Piguet’s Casbah was my favourite. Aldehydes and angelica root were a unique pairing with smoky woods and leaves. The overall effect reminded me of the smell of the many tapis stores that line Marrakech’s medina streets. The breezy scent of Notes and the warmer Bois Noir were also standouts. The big news at Pitti for Piguet was the launch of Petit Fracas, a new perfume the brand has added to its Classic Collection. As the name suggests, this is a new interpretation of Fracas, created by Germaine Cellier in 1947. Petit Fracas feels light and fresh in comparison to Cellier’s Fracas. Youthful, flirtatious and baring the cult name of Fracas, the new Petit Fracas will surely be set for big things.
My other new discoveries included Urlich Lang New York and Neela Vermeire Creations. Ulrich Lang’s line of perfumes blends the world of perfumery with artistic photography. His latest was a new fragrance called Lightscape and I also found his patchouli driven Nightscape very attractive. All four of his fragrances are calibrated to the male nose and they are impeccably constructed with no gimmicks or unnecessary fluff. Consider me a fan!
Neela Vermeire didn’t need to spray one of her perfumes before she had me drawn to her. Her energy alone was enough to power the marketing of her fragrances at Pitti. With warmth and sincerity she took me through the range she designed with perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour. For many years I have had a fascination with India and its culture. Mohur was my favourite, with an extravagant 11% of rose on a precious wood base. Rose lovers should have no issues enjoying Neela’s Mohur.
The other rose I had the pleasure of sampling was Mona di Orio’s posthumous Rose Etoile d’Hollande. The artist sadly passed away last year and this was one of the last projects she had been working on before here untimely passing. As a student of Edmond Roudnitska, the rose was one of the assignments her teacher had set her as a source of inspiration. For this rose Mona d’Orio was studying a climbing rose from Cabris, a small village near Grasse that is home to so many legendary perfumers. Although it demonstrated a fruity softness, it also had a dry spicy edge making it a rose perfume I myself would confidently wear. For men inclined to shy away from flowers, Mona d’Orio’s Oud is sublime. Every time I tell myself “no more oud”, I find something like this that negates any feeling of being exhausted by this exotic wood.
…and although I may not have been exhausted by oud, a full day at Pitti was enough to deserve a good nights rest. If you have the opportunity to visit a Pitti event, I highly recommend you do. Looking through the day’s notes, there is still more I could write but I decided to focus on writing about the people and perfumes that made biggest impression on me. The best way to take in the full experience Pitti offers is by making the trip to Florence. I hope to see you there next year!