Esxence is a perfume show extraordinaire in Milan that showcases established and new niche / luxury (or whatever you’d like to call this sector) fragrance houses and their collections over four days. Let’s look at the statistics so you can appreciate the scale of the show.
- There were 206 brands (+25% on 2015)
- Brands originated from 17 countries (Italy, France, UK, Spain, Germany, USA, United Arabian Emirates, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Norway, Morocco, Denmark, Ireland, Turkey and Qatar)
- 70% of brands were from outside of Italy, and of these 60% were from France
- Over 7, 083 attended the show, including operators and visitors, from all five continents (Figures from Esxence)
Right now that the stats are out of the way, let’s get on with it. I arrived in the afternoon on the first day and only had two nights in Milan up my sleeve, so was under pressure (only exerted by myself), to make things snappy. This is more difficult than you may think. With an increasing number of perfumes entering the market, it is becoming difficult to find that next exceptional brand. Even if the story or concept is interesting, one sniff of the perfumes may unfortunately reveal a me too blend with little to differentiate themselves. Many of the brands on show are way too bling for my tastes so if you like lots of ornate gold bottles and prefer this over the juice, or western ouds aimed at the Middle Eastern market well I’m not going to write about them, sorry.
What I did notice though is that perfume houses that I’m drawn to, are creating great fragrances, their bar is set high and the challenge is on to keep delivering great work and they are succeeding in this mission. This demonstrated to me that it really takes time to build a perfume house, and it’s very rare to have instant success. With less time at the show than last year, I didn’t really do enough sniffing but did have many fruitful conversations with fabulous perfume people and really enjoyed my time in Milan. So let’s take a look …
So first stop – Neela Vermeire Creations. This is a perfume house built with love that fuses Indian inspiration with a French aesthetic that is a perfume lovers dream. Neela is always gracious under pressure and it was a pleasure to see her again. I respect her dedication to excellence and the integrity of her brand. It is one of my favourites. Well no new perfumes from her after the gorgeous Pichola (that made my list of the Top 15 perfumes for 2015) but quite frankly you’ll be pleased to hear that she has a new offer that you will love. It’s called Take Two and features 2 x 15ml perfumes in gorgeous packaging. There are three versions at this stage – Bombay Bling (my personal favourite), Ashoka and Pichola. The same fragrance is in each box, this isn’t a mix and match scenario. Each bottle is packaged individually and retails for 112 Euro and this is music to my ears. If the retail price of the bottles is too scary for you, consider splitting or use one of the flacons and gift the other. Perfect.
Virginie Roux from Au Pays de la Fleurs d’Oranger has two new perfumes – Liberté Bohème (a lively green floral) and Poudre de Liberté (a woody floral mélange) in the Collection Capsule. Of the two I was more drawn to Liberté Bohème. It’s light and airy with a touch of whimsy. However if you haven’t tried this range yet, I’d advise starting with Collection les Inédites, as there are a few gems in there especially Lavande Ombrée, my favourite in the collection. Neroli Oud and Eau de Madeleine are also wonderful and well worth sampling.
Arte Profumi from Rome have a new range with four new perfumes. It was a pleasure to meet with Michele and Monica Ianonne as they revealed the new Artissima collection : Artissima : Carpe Diem : Giallo Riviera : and Racconti Di Viaggio. This range retails at a lower price point to their regular collection and has a lighter touch.
(Gabriella Chieffo wall sculpture, Arte Profumi, Tanja Boching and Gabriella Chieffo)
A brand that seeks to walk the perfume as art line is Gabriella Chieffo. Gabriella is an engineer turned perfume creative and brand owner, and always has a great display on show and as usual didn’t disappoint. A woman’s form leaving the shadows was highlighted on the wall, illustrating her new perfume Maisia.
“She is a woman full of life and love, of Light and Shadows, a self made woman, capable to compensate for the weakness of men, capable to win even when she surrenders, because her values survive to her. … Maisia is an ancient formula used to avoid the ill, is the scream that the crowd shouts against this innocent woman who gave her heart just to one man, the same man who watches her die.” (Gabriella Chieffo)
The story is perhaps a little over the top, however I do like the continuing focus on women from Chieffo even if this is a more extreme story than usual. Maisia by perfumer Luca Maffei is actually rather gentle with a citrus top and lashings of fig. It’s a nice follow up to Acquasala, however if I was forced to choose between the two, I’d opt for Maffei’s Acquasala. It’s an innovative fragrance, really pushing the aquatic theme into a new space.
I then discovered April Aromatics (thanks to Chemist In The Bottle) and met Tanja Boching. She lives in Germany yet still yearns for New York and makes beautiful 100% natural perfumes. Calling All Angels is a gorgeous smoky incense with a hefty dose of amber. Purple Reign, a violet creation is her latest release but not new for Esxence. Her perfumes come in a 30ml size and I was really drawn to them, and I’ll just add that Tanja exudes calm in a room of frenetic energy. I’m looking forward to getting to know her scents a lot better.
Next up was Celine Verleure’s Olfactive Studio, a brand that is inspired by photographs. Still Life In Rio, her latest release has a stunning photo for inspiration and I told Celine I think of her perfume house as a Smart Brand. The concept is easy to explain. It has a hook and the perfumes smell good, which is no mean feat from what I can make out sniffing my way around Esxence. The perfume was a divine tropical cocktail that quite frankly I wanted to drink right there and then. Not the perfume form of course but it was great. My favourite in the line is still Ombre Indigo, which she informed me has a trademark issue with a perfume called Ombre Bleue so is not available for sale in France. Her innovative wasabi green Panorama has also been nominated for an Art & Olfaction award this year.
A brand I wrote about after last year’s Esxence is Une Nuit A Bali, a new house from Paris inspired by Bali. This year a more unusual perfume is added to their collection called Murmure des Dieux, a feminine floral with a prominent rice note, that really promotes the Asian theme of the line. It jumped out at me as smelling rather different with its rice, star anise and frangipani.
New Haute Parfumerie brand Dusita was an interesting mix of Asian and Parisian elegance. In Siamese, “‘Dusita’ is a paradise of pure delight and contentment. A heavenly realm of inner happiness.” The founder of the house is Ploi Umavijani who now lives in Paris and collaborated with a fragrance laboratory in Grasse to make her creations. There are three Extrait de Parfums (yes this is definitely the way many houses are going these days) : Issara, Melodie de L’Amour and Oudh Infini. Of the three I was most drawn to Mélodie De L’Amour – a gutsy white floral with honey as a strong counterpoint. Issara has a really unusual opening of what I’m calling skanky green pine.
Next visit was to Anaïs Biguine‘s stand. She now has three ranges at her fingertips that are sold in forty countries. In her portfolio are the original Jardins D’Ecrivains collection, Les Cocottes and now Gri Gri featuring three new perfumes. These are an interesting mix with eye catching art work. All perfumes are inspired by tattoos and are marketed towards men : Moko Maori : Tara Mantra : Ukiyo-E. I was keen to smell the Moko Maori perfume as I’m from New Zealand and am also Maori. In actual fact I enjoyed the Ukiyo-E more. It’s a lighter green tea and cherry blossom styled fragrance, which to be honest is not usually the sort of thing I go for but I found it quite enjoyable.
Well that was a round up of my first half day at Esxence. Hope you enjoyed travelling through the fair. There’s plenty more to come. And of course I must say a big shout out to Lucas from Chemist In The Bottle who I visited many of these stands with.
Notes : All images Megan In Sainte Maxime