Hungry for Inspiration – Day 3 of Esxence 2019

By the time my third day in Milan came to be I grew a certain level of tiredness, so I decided that I don’t need to push myself anymore and just try to enjoy my final day at Esxence, whatever it might bring. As usual weekend was open to the public so you could expect a bigger crowd of people anyway, which quite successfully reduces one’s chances of being a productive explorer.

I started the day by attending a lecture by Michael Edwards titled “From niche to niche: the evolution of French perfumery” in which he talked about the greatest perfumers of different times, from Guy Robert to Dominique Ropion and Calice Becker and how niche were their ideas for the fragrances that were released in their respective times and how over the last century they’ve been using the ingredients nobody dared to use until they did. He also used this opportunity to share with the audience the news about 2 new books he’s been working on but I already knew about this.

Immediately after this lecture ended I was supposed to meet with Pissara Umavijani, creator & perfumer of Parfums Dusita but when I arrived at her stand she was missing. Just a moment earlier she started a livestream outside and continued as she came back. We started talking about the idea behind the name that I chose for her new fragrance (Reve d’Aurore, one of the winners in naming competition), in the context of Splendiris we also talked about working with iris and we had a deeper discussion about what it really takes to create a successful scent and how many people were involved. All this was recorded so it felt a bit as if Pissara was interviewing me, not vice versa.

On that day I ended up talking with a lot of people, mostly friends with whom I wanted to chat even if they were not showing any new releases at that particular time. So I talked with Olivier Durbano, with Celine Verleure, Nicolas Chabot, a bit more with Megan Paki & Jean Philippe Clermont.

There was also a moment when I could sit down together with Rania Jouaneh at a more quiet moment and talk about her newest creation + smell it of course. She decided to work on a musk. Even thought it’s a very popular note, with Musc Moschus she managed to create something between white musk and filthy musk. The scent is animalic but in an elegant way and with a lovely creaminess in the drydown. For unknown reasons I didn’t take a photo of the bottle…

Encouraged by Ana who tried the fragrance before I decided to stop at FO’AH stand. This new brand which launched in 2018 is owned by Emilie Dewell who wanted to combine her two worlds: French and Arabic into a perfume line. Emilie thought palm tree would be the perfect symbol so the bottle the brand uses resembles a palm tree trunk structure. In addition to that FO’AH teamed with Givaudan in creating a special and unique palm tree note incorporated into each of 5 scents the brand is offering. I enjoyed two of them, Memoires d’une Palmeraie 02 and 08.

In the afternoon I had a chance to meet with Neela Vermeire, a person who I believe needs no introduction to anyone who loves a niche perfume of top sort. We sat for about 30 minutes and talked about the show and what is generally happening in this segment of perfumery. Unfortunately Neela had to back out from exhibiting with NVC this year but she still came to Milan and did some meetings with business partners outside of Esxence. I hope it was a fruitful trip to her.

One of interesting new discoveries of Saturday was this brand named Essential Parfums. The concept is to use a simple bottle, an eco-friendly packaging made of couple layers of carton glued together and to feature at least one sustainable ingredient in each fragrance. They’re working with most renowned and recognized perfumers while the brand itself is super-affordable, charging 69 euro for a 100 ml bottle (or 18 euro for 10 ml travel spray). After smelling the entire range I was surprised in a very positive way and it’s a proof that niche can be great without costing a fortune.

My very last stop at Esxence was Uermi. The brand completely changed the look of the bottles to the round bottom ones from previously used rectangular shape. They also reworked a couple of fragrances to make them more polished. The brand new thing at the stand was NU Leather – a fragrance developed by Luca Maffei. It was a soft and embracing take on leather.

And so Saturday at Esxence came to an end and it was time for me to say goodbye to everyone and to say goodbye to the exhibition for another year (hopefully). In the evening there was a “Gala Party” organized by Esxence founders but since it was a themed party (dresscode: formal attire) & I got my invitation just before Easter when I was already packed I decided that I’m not going. Luckily I wasn’t alone as Elena was in a similar situation. As a party replacement we decided to meet in front of the Duomo and have a nice dinner together. We went to La Rinascente, made a tour around a ground floor dedicated to fragrance – mostly exclusive designer lines (as if we didn’t have enough perfume during last 3 days). We got a table at Obika at the rooftop of La Rinascente, at the patio outside, so we enjoyed our pizza, pasta and drinks as we were looking at the top of Duomo by our side. I bet it was much better than the party. That was the end of my little adventure. We both took different metro to go back to our places, I had to pack to be ready to leave at 6 AM on Sunday.

A couple of final thoughts. I didn’t count but there must have been a lot of new fragrances that were launched at Esxence and I only managed to try a part of them but I must tell you that the air around The Mall smelled of stagnation. There were a lot of nice scents but “nice” is a clue word here. They were “nice” – nothing more than that. Lots and lots of repetitiveness, a lack of originality and no new ideas. There were a lot of fresh creations, quite many inspired by seaside or Mediterranean cost. Green florals and soliflores were also quite common. It starts to become more obvious that niche is becoming more commercial and mainstreamed, fragrances are much more safe and appealing to a greater audience. Even brands that we know they took some risks in the past and prevailed are not as open to experimentation anymore. Each year I came to Esxence there was at least one fragrance that would mesmerize me, that would make me go wow! and fall in love with it immediately. This year I didn’t experience that feeling & because of that I feel kind of disappointed.

Another phenomenon that has shaken the ground of Esxence was that 2019, like no other year before, saw a huge number of vloggers, Youtubers and so-called influencers coming to the show. Every now and then you’d see one of them filming another video or an interview with a brand. They were all over the place and you could easily recognize them as they were walking down the aisles with handfuls of bags with full bottles. I’m not here to judge anyone because I don’t know these vlogging people. If brands want to be promoted via Youtube or Instagram it’s their choice but I have a feeling that this is not the rightest way and that to some extend it can even tarnish their good reputation and luxurious character in the eyes of the other people. But when you hear loud voices of these people trying to convince the brand to give them something of big value as a present or some waiting until Sunday to score a free tester bottle from the stand… this just leaves me speechless and thinking that they don’t come to Esxence to meet people, to connect and exchange opinions but rather to get a big “haul” as they say, to brag about how much they got and how much it’s worth.

And with this non-optimistic accent I’d like to end this 3-part series of my Esxence 2019 report. It was a great experience to meet with friends and with new people. But to discover new & exciting perfume – not so much this time… May these last lines be your food for thought. Niche, where are you going?

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10 thoughts on “Hungry for Inspiration – Day 3 of Esxence 2019

  1. Jillie says:

    Hmmmmmm. The perfume world is so very different now to what it was when I first caught the bug. The little girl that was me would have been amazed and bewildered at the sea of fragrances and the tsunami that threatens to drown us all. In order to float above this ocean of clones a perfume has to be quite special and it would seem that there aren’t very many innovative, successful scents that can achieve this. Perhaps creative packaging and bottles help some to stand out from the crowd briefly, along with weird promotional hyperbole, but it’s the juice that’s important, and if that doesn’t capture hearts the product soon fails, then disappears. I would be interested to know just how long new fragrances are kept in production – not very, I would guess. However, the consumer will have made a purchase and then move on to the next one, so I suppose that keeps the industry going.

    There’s obviously big money to be made in this industry, so the tide isn’t going to turn any time soon. It’s such a shame, though, that niche is now not really niche. And that mass-produced perfumes of not particularly good quality cash in literally on niche pricing and cost a fortune – but people spend the money, so that’s not putting them off.

    You know my opinion of vloggers!

    I am sorry that this time wasn’t as exciting for you as it has been in the past. At least you got to meet with many perfumistas, talk with creators and enjoy good food and good company.

    • lucasai says:

      It definitely has changed a lot, especially during last 2 years when Youtube became more popular I would say. Back in the day you were not able to use it to earn money, now it’s possible.
      It’s true that packaging and bottles are becoming more and more fancy (especially for Arabic-oriented brands) but there’s still quite some care being poured into the juice itself. It’s just brands start to focus on making more profil, appealing to bigger audience therefore they have to offer safer, more lovable options.

  2. Lynn W says:

    Thank you so much for your report Lucas. I have really enjoyed it. It is very interesting. Perhaps it is not as fragrance focused as previous years, for reasons that you explain, but you tell us a great deal about current trends, market and climate. I didn’t manage to go this year unfortunately but I was there the last two years. Next year hopefully, or perhaps Pitti in September. Best wishes.

  3. MMKinPA says:

    Great report. I would have loved the opportunity to spend time with people like Pissara and Neela – even though I wouldn’t have anything to say, I would love to hear them talk about perfume and being an entrepreneur. I don’t have the opportunity to sample a lot – no local places – but what I have managed to obtain through swaps, samples with orders etc has not really “wowed” me. The prices are just so stratospheric as well – I’m just a preschool music teacher with a kid who will be going to university in a few years so I’m not the market for $200+ bottles. The influx of “influencers” is disappointing as well. IMO traditional bloggers were always happy to review based on a sample, but IG and YT are visual mediums so most of them want full bottles to show off – samples don’t photograph well so they don’t get the “likes”. When I’m seriously contemplating a purchase with my limited dollars, I still only look to written reviews (with disclosure!). Over time I have learned who my “scent twins” are and those are the people I trust to help me decide what to sample- since I’m usually buying those samples!

    • lucasai says:

      Thank you. There’s a lot of wonderful people who are happy to share their experience or to talk very openly and with lots of honesty about this industry. It’s beautiful from the outside but on the inside it’s not so pretty anymore once you learn some things.
      It is true that the perfume is becoming more and more expensive, be it dictated by rising prices of raw materials or just the selling margin goes up.

      Yes it’s true, in the videos or on IG photos they want to show a full sized bottle not just a mere sample which is not luxurious at all.

  4. rickyrebarco says:

    Your thoughts about Exscence are exactly on point from everything I have read about the new perfume offerings this year. As you say I thought the new scents described sounded nice or pretty, I liked the bottles and the names, like the Plumage line, but nothing struck me as ‘wow’ or completely new.
    I think the niche market is becoming so crowded the brands are concentrating more on superficial things like bottles and boxes than what is inside.
    It’s all good, though, since I don’t need any more perfumes now anyway. Thanks again for sharing your adventures and thoughts with us. I look forward to your comments on the exhibitions each year.

    • lucasai says:

      Helllo! Where else did you read opinions of this kind? Just curious.
      Finally oud has moved to the background – it’s still there but not in the central place anymore. That said there was a lot of nice and pretty stuff to smell but not very memorable to be honest.
      Oversaturation of the market is being talked about since 2017. People are runnning out of interesting ideas.

  5. Undina says:

    I think we, perfume enthusiasts and bloggers, have contributed to the state of niche perfumery, not significantly but still: we write and talk about new perfumes more often than about something released 2-3 years ago – of course brands try to run to get something new-ish and talk-worthy.
    I don’t watch YouTube, so I don’t know any vloggers but I suspect that among those there are different people – same as there were in “good ol’ days” of blogging: we all heard stories of demanding FBs from brands – either for personal use or for “giveaways.”
    But until there are still people who love perfumes for perfumes and enjoy talking to (or reading 🙂 ) others with similar interests, I plan to stick around. How about you?

    • lucasai says:

      I like to think that I contributed to a one small drop in this big pond. We surely focus more on new fragrances than on older ones, not even mentioning vintage stuff.
      I don’t watch Youtube either as I always preferred a written word. No matter if it’s blog or a youtube channel there are always people who are more commited to doing good job and there are people who are more about collaborations, giveaways and free stuff they get.

      I’m like you – as long as there’s passion I’ll try to be around.

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