Collage : See anyone you know? Find out for sure in the Caption at the end of the article where all the names are listed.
Earlier this autumn I had the pleasure of visiting Florence and Cannes at the time of two important niche fragrance trade-shows, Pitti Fragranze 2019, (September 13-15), and TFWA Cannes 2019, (September 30-October 4).
Traditionally Pitti Fragranze, and TFWA Cannes have little in common besides being trade-fairs. At Pitti, primarily Italian distributors present their artistic ‘niche’ fragrances to buyers primarily in the Italian market. At TFWA, huge, international distributors for multi-national luxury companies — spirits, watches, and cosmetics, present their brands to buyers from Duty Free shops around the world.
In 2018, while visiting Pitti Fragranze, I had picked up on growing concerns about a sizeable exodus of mature niche fragrance brands from Pitti to Cannes. I wrote about this in an article for CaFleurebon.com entitled, “A Certain Emptiness at Pitti Fragranze 2018: The Scent of Fear”.
Twelve months later, I was hearing via the grapevine, that this trend was creating a drastically different situation on the ground. I realized that if I really wanted to understand it, I needed to visit both shows.
For many years Pitti had been THE early autumn show for niche fragrances, and I had visited it every year since xxx. I had never visited Cannes at the time of TFWA though, so this was a first for me.
No complaints. Early autumn is one of the most pleasurable times of the year to visit both places !
Upon arriving in Florence and Statione Leopoldi the beautiful and historic venue for Pitti Fragranze, I noticed that there were even fewer stands and people than the year before. Throughout the day and at the opening night cocktail, this was a central subject of conversation among exhibitors and visitors alike.
Everybody, of course, acknowledged the fact that having TFWA two weeks after Pitti this year made things difficult for anyone wanting to be at both fairs. Pissara Umavijani, owner of Parfums Dusita who malgré tout, exhibited at Pitti and Cannes, spoke with the voice experience when she said, “Even though I live in Europe, the close timing of the two shows has made it personally challenging for me. It’s exhausting to go to two events in two weeks.”
Instead of blaming TFWA for ‘stealing’ from Pitti, as some had done in the past, most people agreed that the close proximity of the two shows had only accelerated a trend that had been going on for a number of years. The primary reasons for the exodus was that in the normal course of healthy development, certain brands had simply outgrown Pitti. After several years at Pitti, they were no longer young and experimental. They had their distributors, a comfortable number of retailers in Europe, and were looking for broader horizons. In what was at first a gradual progression, many continued to show at Pitti AND to show in Cannes, with its world as well. Year by year as the dates of TFWA inched closer to those of Pitti, many stopped showing at Pitti altogether.
Representative of this gradual shift from Pitti to Cannes, Ulrich Lang, owner of Ulrich Lang New York explained his situation to me in absentia. “I exhibited at the very first Pitti Fragranze, when it was inaugurated at the little Giardino Corsini in 2003, and continued to show there until 2017. Meanwhile, in 2010, I also began to show in Cannes.”
An important point to note about ‘Cannes’ is the fine but crucial distinction between where exactly these brands are actually showing. You have to listen closely to hear it. Those showing ‘at TFWA Cannes’ are officially enrolled at the TFWA show, held at the Palais des Festivals with its structure, events, and costs. The Majority, however, like Ulrich, show ‘in Cannes’ at the time of the TFWA trade fair, but not within the official structure. For these brands, the appeal of Cannes during TFWA is not the trade-fair, itself, but rather the convergence of the enormous number of international perfume and cosmetics players – buyers, distributors, agents, other brands, and the Press, all attracted by the official TFWA fair.
Because I only had two days to be in Cannes, I chose to focus on the majority, those brands operating ‘off-Campus’ from the TFWA structure. For the sake of simplicity sake in this article, I use the term ‘Cannes’ when referring to those exhibiting off-campus, and ‘TFWA Cannes’ for the others.
NOTE: For information about TFWA2019 itself, see my suggestions below for further reading.
What I found in ‘Cannes’ was a loosely structured, though highly organized group of mature niche brands (see non-exhaustive list below), working independently or in small groups, with activities concentrated around a central hub, the Hotel Majestic , which happens to be located directly across the street from the Palais des Festivals. Here, new-comers and old-timers, operate out of less expensive (though still not cheap!) showrooms, apartments, or yachts up and down la croisette from the Majestic, where they conduct business and throw parties with buyers, partners, and journalists.
Johann VITREY founder CEO of SESAME Sarl one of the pioneers of this ‘TWFA off-campus’ venture helped explain the origins. “In 2010, I thought, ‘What better place for the brands I rep than Cannes at the time of TFWA, the one and only exhibition where all Middle-Eastern clients attend and look for “something new” ?!’ I presented a dozen niche brands in a villa in the suburb Mugins. What a challenge, but also what a success for us all !”
Others, following Johann’s lead or coming up with the same idea, did the same. For me, this meant that over the course of two busy days, I was able to have one-on-one conversations and conduct interviews at apartment-showrooms and yachts, while also fitting in a quick word with just about everybody else in the industry by simply strolling up and down la croissette, socializing at the ‘kick-off’ BW Confidential Magazine cocktail party, or circulating in the lobbies of the Majestic. Oh yes, and I can’t forget the importance of the beaches for seeing people – walking, having drinks in the bars, and most fun for me – swimming. Though some said the water was too cold, I wasn’t alone in thinking it was perfect!! Essentially, an entire cohort of current ‘mature niche’ perfume players was there, many of whom I had first met at Pitti years before.
And this brings us back to Florence and Pitti two weeks earlier, and the second subject on everyone’s lips, i.e., ‘What does this massive exodus to Cannes means for the future of Pitti and young new niche brands?
Herein lies an interesting story. At the core of the raging debate between those who believe that Pitti is doomed, and those who believe Pitti is reaching the pinnacle of its success, EVERYONE seems to LOVE Pitti, or at least certain aspects of it.
For those who believe Pitti is finished, the primary argument, often expressed with sadness or regret, is that without a certain volume of mature niche players and the international buyers they attract, the quantity and quality of new brands will eventually diminish to nothing.
A typical response came from Spyros Drosopoulos owner of Baruti Perfume “It’s a pity that Pitti doesn’t work anymore, at least not for international,” he said, “ Those buyers are no longer coming. They’re in Cannes, doing business in the lobby of the Majestic Hotel….”
On the other side of the argument, those who remain enchanted by Pitti, insist on its essential importance as the now clearly designated “Guardian of the temple” for raw creativity. A place where young, experimental brands can see the light of day, and hopefully blossom in a protective and nurturing environment.
Some even relish Pitti’s diminished size, arguing that a smaller, more focused Pitti encourages quality over quantity. Among these, perfume agent Jean Claude Magret of J.C.M Studio didn’t mince words. “I’m fed up with hearing that Pitti is over! Thank God Pitti has stayed faithful to the height of its ambitions, that of promoting the best of risk takers and dreamers, often brands you can’t find anywhere else. I say, the smaller and more confidential Pitti becomes, the better it will be!”
A more measured Olivier Durbano founder of Olivier Durbano put it this way, “There have definitely been fewer buyers at Pitti over the past several years, and unfortunately “less” makes people afraid. And yet we need to remind ourselves that risk taking is essential to creativity and niche. That’s what it’s all about. And sincerely, I believe that in Pitti’s case, ‘less is more’.”
Speaking from the perspective of a first-time Pitti exhibitor, Cinzia Caiazzo had this to say about her experience presenting her young and experimental brand, Aqua dos Açores , inspired by plants that thrive in the volcanic terroire of the Azore Islands. “Pitti 2019 was a very positive and successful experience for us. In two days we were able to have lots of visibility with press and buyers – both international and Italian, and to look around and see what other brands were doing.”
In conversations with other people, including buyers, exhibitors, perfumers, journalists, and visitors, I listened to people weighing the pros and cons of the same two themes – the disadvantages of a smaller show and fewer buyers, balanced by the concept of ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’.
Brand owner Mohamed Rabatchi owner of Maison Rabatchi showing at Pitti for the second year in a row was representative of this group when he said “There were definitely fewer buyers this year, and on top of that our stand was a little on the edge of the show. In spite of this, we had lots of visits, all of high quality, and still had time to enjoy seeing other interesting brands and people because of the stress-free atmosphere…all in the beautiful city of Florence.”
Ah yes, and then of course, there’s Florence! Although I joked about this in my September 27 Instagram video post , I was serious. The jury might be out as to the importance of size, but PLACE matters terribly, and the allure of Florence, plays a crucial role in the enduring appeal of Pitti Fragranze. Indeed, everyone I spoke with agreed that as a living work of art, the city of Florence is the perfect small and exquisite setting for an artistic fragrance show. For brands whose artistry, heart, and dreams might be bigger than their pocketbooks, a sufficient number of reasonably priced hotels in a walk-able city center is an additional plus.
And Cannes? The epitome of luxury and glamour. This azure strip of high-end real estate, indelibly associated in our consciousness with wealth, celebrities, and stars offers a platform as big as the world, where mature and aspiring niche players can spring to new horizons. For those who want even more, and can anti-up, there’s always the option of the TFWA ‘high-diving board’. Not Cheap by any measure. Bring your banker!
Two worlds, two cities. Both passionately niche. Both bearers of a common distinguishing character trait — a high degree of self-awareness coupled with a buoyant ‘think-out-of-the-box’ mentality.
As of this writing, the 2020 dates for Pitti Fragranze and TFWA Cannes have not yet been established, as far as I know. Whatever the dates, unless of course the two shows should take place at the same time – Never! Never!, my feeling after visiting both shows is one of optimism about the future of Pitti AND Cannes.
If, in addition, you factor in the existence of Esxence, the Scent of Excellence, the picture is complete. A truly international trade-fair exclusively dedicated to the best of niche fragrances and cosmetics at all stages of development, Esxence takes place each spring (April 16-19, 2020) and is located in Milan, renowned hub for both arts and business.
When seen together, I find it truly amazing that a small corner of Europe offers such a fabulous and complementary array of niche fragrance trade-shows.
In addition to satisfying business and social needs over the period of three-to-four-days, each show offers something different and essential to nourish a diverse and evolving niche fragrance community. Not limited to a ‘one size fits all’ model, brands, perfumers, distributors, and buyers can ‘mix and match’ their participation in the various shows according to their needs year to year and season to season, through all stage of their development.
DON’T GET TOO COMFORTABLE THOUGH. THIS WILL SURELY CONTINUE TO CHANGE !
When I asked people at Pitti and Cannes how they saw the future, I heard amazing ideas for how the shows could and should change – some simple, practical, and immediate, others brilliant and visionary.
We are clearly in the midst of major shifts in the niche fragrance community, in which the different elements continue to define themselves and find their respective places.
Extraordinary times call for exceptional people, brands, fragrances — and shows. I’m betting that the various elements of the niche fragrance community will adapt and figure it out. After all, isn’t that what niche people are all about?
Special thanks to all the following people who helped me write this article. Please let me know if there are errors in your titles, etc. and I will correct them! 😉
Cinzia Caiazzo owner of Aqua dos Açores
Christiiane Behmann founder of http://duftarchiv.de/
Dominique Brunel co-founder of NEZ La Revue
Fadi Al Haddad owner of L’Arc Parfums
François Hénin, owner Jovoy Parfums Rares
Gabriel Chami owner of Scent Story
Ina Dimsky-Legart owner of Legart GmbH
Jean Claude Magret of J.C.M Studio
Johann Vitrey founder CEO of SESAME Sarl
Miguel Matos journalist and independent perfumer of Miguel Matos Perfumes
Mohamed Rabatchi owner of Maison Rabatchi
Nicolas Cloutier CEO of NOSE Paris,
Olivier Durbano founder of Olivier Durbano
Pissara Umavijani ower of Parfums Dusita
Sarah Baker owner of Sarah Baker Perfumes
Sultan Pasha owner of Sultan Pasha Attars
Tamas Tagscherer owner of Mésonsol
Ulrich Lang owner of Ulrich Lang New York
Spyros Drosopoulos owner of Baruti Perfumes
NOTES: For further reading about news and brands at Pitti Fragranze and TFWA 2019 please find the following. And feel free to add more!
Please feel free to add more!
Collage Caption: Pitti Fragranze: Row 1. (Top) L to R 1. Sarah Baker and Pissara Umavijani; 2. Ashod Simonian and Josh Meyer of ImaginaryAuthors, Andreas Wilhelm of BOGUE, Sarah Baker; 3. Spyros Drosopoulos; 4. Sarah Baker. Row 2 Lto R 1. Janne of Visiteur , 2. Marco Ricchetti of Hermes Lab, 3. Amal Al Habsi of Bubbles, 4. Pitti Fragranze at Statione Leopoldi. Row 3 Lto R 1. Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World 2. Sultan Pasha, 3. Sarah Colton, 4. Olivier Durbano. Row 4 Lto R 1. Pissara Umavijani, 2. Church of Santa Maria Novella , 3. Pitti Fragranze at Statione Leopoldi, 4. Josh Meyer of Imaginary Authors. Row 5 Lto R 1. Dominique Brunel, 2. François Hénin, 3. Olivier Durbano, 4. Imaginary Authors. Row 6 Lto R 1. Marco Ricchetti and Bodo kubartz of Passion-and-Consulting , 2. Nicolas Cloutier and others at Pitti Fragranze program, 3. Miguel Matos and Sarah Baker. Cannes: Row 1 (Top) Lto R 1. Jean Philippe Clement, owner of Atelier des Ors Atelier des Ors and Sarah Colton, 2. Dimitri Weber owner of Goldfield and Banks Australia and Pissara Umavijani, 3. Maurizio de Marchi owner of Mariella Martinato and Sarah Colton. Row 2 Lto R 1. Cécile Zarokian of Cécile Zarokia Perfume , Sarah Colton, Murat Katran owner of Nishane , and Aivaras Stanevicius of Crime Passionel parfumerie Copenhagen. 2. Silvio Levi co-founder Esxence and Owner of Calé Fragranze d’Autore , Nicolas Grob Publisher and Oonagh Philipps Editor in chief BW Confidential , 3. Manon Carrère Ma Note de Coeur and Martine Micallef Owner of M.Micallef. Row 3 Lto R 1. Ulrich Lang and Maurizio de Marchi, 2. Sarah Colton, 3. Sebastian Jara of Smelling Great Fragrance Reviews and Pissara Umavijani. Row 4 Lto R 1. Manon Carrère and Megan Patti of Megan in Sainte Maxime.com , 2. Sarah Colton with M. Micallef’s Desir Toxic perfume. Row 5 Lto R 1. Jose Penalba of Amerikas.com François Hénin and Clément Haumaître of Jovoy, 2. Mert Güzel Nishane owner Nishane, Pauline Zimer, Cecile Zarokian, and Murat Katran Nishane owner Nishane, 3. Cecile Zarokian, Pauline Zimer, Manon Carrère, Alexandre Helwani ownerThe Perfume Chromicles . Row 6 Lto R 1. Alexandre Helwani, 2. Tamas TAGSCHERER, 3. Manon Carrère, Maria Chetskaya of Baruti Perfumes, Sarah Colton, 4. Cristiano Canali @cristianocanali and Allessandro Brun owner of Masque Milano , 5. Manon Carrère and Dominique Brunel. Row 7 Lto R 1. François Hénin, Sarah Colton, Claude Marchal of Parfums MDCI , Kim of INDULT Paris http://www.indult.fr/ and Gilles Thévenin of Lubin, 2. Tamas Tagscherer and Sarah Colton, 3. Matt Moore of EastWest Bottlers.com and Sarah Colton.
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Personally, i feel there’s way too many brands and as harsh as it sounds i would like to return to less brands with more quality and originality. Its exhausting and I’m sure many people are burnt out by the non stop releases. I’m hoping COVID would make people more critical of their purchases and priorities.