Words by Ainslie Walker
Agence de Parfums, T2M, Mecca Cosmetica and Peony Melbourne are the main companies bringing niche perfume brands into Australia, but where and how do they find them?
The key international buying and discovery events in niche fragrance are held annually in Italy, with Pitti Fragrance in September, in Florence and Esxence in April, in Milan. For me, this is like perfumery heaven opening up its new treasures and I value every moment I spend at these shows. Here’s what I found in Milan.
Esxence 2019 saw more than 300 brands, creatively exhibiting their collections and latest novelties. Much innovation went into multisensory displays presenting fragrances via poetry, music, art, photography, sculpture, illustration, science/chemistry, unique ways of demonstrating scent, eyecatching bottles and packaging designs and perfumers and brand founders onsite to talk about their creations and processes.
Along with exhibitors and buyers there was a sea of international bloggers, vloggers, instagram-ers, influencers and journalists all wanting to be the first to sing the praises of the latest in niche perfumery.
Pick of the Esxence
Some were new brands. My pick: Maison Rebatchi just six months old, some were reinvigorated brands like Jacques Fath with its recreation of histroic Le Iris de Fath – now one of the most expensive fragrances on the market. The show also included some of the first brands in niche. Some were made purely of molecules eg. Æther and some purely naturals, Hirum Green.
Proudly on exhibit were Australian brands Map of the Heart, Forte and Manlé and Goldfield and Banks. In addition there was quite a crew of fragrance folk from Australia and NZ in Milan, with Jill Timms from Peony Melbourne and Francis Hooper from World Brand NZ on a buying trip, Michael Edwards and the Fragrances of the World team evaluating and meeting with brands and of course myself having a sniff about!
These exhibitions are like the ‘Met Ball’ for perfumery, where many perfumers are free to make what they like with no restrictions, including price of materials. Creativity is at its highest and it’s where up-and-coming perfumers can shine or be plucked for big projects with multinational corporations. Trends are created while the big brands watch on, taking notes.
Trends this year included a noticeable increase in the use of Master Perfumers, who of recent years only created for major designer brands such as Domonique Ropion and Jean Claude Ellena ex-Hermes. Mint and Iris top the list as the popular notes in many collections. A rise in natural perfumery with Netherlands perfumer Hirum Green winning the Art and Olfaction Award with its Hyde perfume. Niche fashion designers are expanding into niche perfumery; best examples include Naomi Goodsir, MarcAntoine Barrois and Verdûu – a collection created by perfumer Mark Buxton with each of the five fragrance collaborations with up and coming fashion designers.
Feature image courtesy of Esxence