Tag Archives: Michael Edwards

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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Hungry for Inspiration – Day 2 of Esxence 2019

After a whirlwind of meeting new people and smelling newly launched fragrances during the 1st day of Esxence my mind was still relatively open to more stimuli. A dinner I had with a bunch of great people on the first evening was fantastic and after having a good night sleep the next day of Esxence has arrived. It has arrived a bit too soon in my case because I had to wake up at 7 AM on Friday. All because I was invited for a breakfast by the team of Fragrances of the World.

Despite early hour (the breakfast was starting at 8, Esxence opens as 10) for me this was the perfect opportunity to meet the one and only Michael Edwards again and to listen to his passionate words about perfume. It was also the occasion to finally meet Clayton from What Men Should Smell Like face to face as he recently joined Michael’s team. We almost met in Florence two years ago but it didn’t happen in the end, therefore I was happy we can finally say hi and shake hands.

The breakfast gathered around 20 people, writers, bloggers and youtubers. During this event Michael announced that he’ll be releasing 2 books this year. First one will be “Perfume Legends II” an update to the first book that was issued in 1996. Second project which will debut around Fall will be a new edition of “Fragrances of the World” – both book announcements made us very excited. While treating outselves to tea, coffee and croissants, together with other writers we started discussing more technical, regulatory aspects of perfumery, IFRA etc. Clearly these were not of interest to so called “influencers” as they all left – while we continued for another 40 minutes.

After this enjoyable breakfast with Michael Edwards we headed for Esxence as a group – together with Dana, Michelyn, Ermano. My plan for the first discovery of the day was to visit a stand of Masque Milano. Alessandro Brun, who is one of the founders invited me to sit down. Firstly we smelled a couple of raw materials featured in their new fragrance. So there was a magnolia absolute, raspberry leaf, patchouli essence. Secondly the time came to smell Kintsugi. I very much liked this modern attitude towards chypre and the perfume was blooming on my skin in a very refined way. The brand also reintroduced 100 ml size in a new and exclusive bottle based on a 35 ml one.

When I stopped at Puredistance stand to say hi to the team (as I know them for couple of years now) I was surprised to meet Mary there as well. She left the brand a while ago but decided to come and support her fragrance family one more time. Of course Aenotus was in the center of attention as the newest fragrance. It was one of the very few releases that I already had a chance to smell and write about. I was happy to talk to Mary and watch people smell and compliment Aenotus.

At noon I attended a presentation titled “AI & Future of Fragrance” in which Olivia Jezler shared with the audience a bunch of interesting fragrance projects and installations which for example involved having a virtual stroll in the mountains while special fragrance generating device would reproduce the smell of the mountain air and enhance this VR experience with scent stimulation. It was very interesting and luckily there was nothing said that in 10 years artificial intelligence will be able to compose successful fragrances from scratch. I’m sure perfumers will be still needed for many years.

After this presentation I was stopping by a stand of Mendittorosa, where Stefania Squeglia was showing two new creations. Dana happened to be there at the same time so I joined and we smelled both fragrances together. Because Stefania was barefoot during the entire show and because of her clothes many people compared her to fragrance elf which I think is a lovely description. Ithaka joins Odori d’Anima line and it was a warm blend of sensual spices, benzoin, something boozy and cosy. Talento joins Talismans collection and this perfume was a smart and elegant fragrance bringing to mind crispy aldehydes, powdery notes. It was evoking a man wearing freshly ironed shirt and a tie.

Next I directed my footsteps towards Hiram Green stand as there was one VIP that I really had to meet during Esxence. On a 2nd day of Esxence I was overjoyed to meet Val, the one and only Cookie Queen. I haven’t seen her for two years so it was thrilling to meet again. She brough her daughter with her and they were helping Hiram. Val also hosted a special event in memory of Vero Kern at a Campomarzio store in Milan. I got a couple of outstanding cookies which were life-saving at that point of the day. I hope she was happy to see me as well, although I’m not as much a VIP.

Later during the day I met with Gabriella Chieffo who was also introducing a new fragrance. Composed with a significant amount of sea salt and ginger entwined with white flowers, ylang, amber and woody touches the result was a rather intriguing musky-floral concoction. She titled her new creation 1,2,3, Stella! after a children game. Gabriella always comes up with an extravagant idea to decorate her stand. This year she used metal net to create three feminine silhouettes in long dresses. It was a clever idea and it surely took some skill to make them. Final result was impressive.

Perris Monte Carlo was getting a lot of buzz among people at Esxence. First of all they introduced a 4th chapter to their Italian Collection of iconic citrus notes that launched last year. Arancia di Sicilia is dedicated to Sicilian blood orange. The perfume was very bright and juicy but it wasn’t a plain hesperide as there was also almond and cinnamon in this blend. They also introduced a new White Collection (or Collection de Grasse) with Rose de Mai and Jasmin au Pays. These two soliflore compositions were signed by Jean-Claude Ellena, his name worked like a magnet at the show.

2018 was a year of neroli for Patricia de Nicolai. Closer to the end she released Neroli Intense which I didn’t have a chance to smell last year. But don’t be fooled, this is not a richer version of Eau de Neroli. Neroli Intense is different, utilizing orange blossom in more indolic, white floral way and blending it with petitgrain and beeswax among some other notes. It’s more sharp and punchy.

We all know that Pierre Guillaume is a prolific perfumer who is juggling between several separate lines he owns. Spotlight at Esxence was however directed on his main line (former Parfumerie Generale) and a trio of white bottles forming a new White Collection. Swim/SX, Helioflora and Sunsuality are all lighter, more summery and easy to wear. Apart from that I also smelled Sorong, his latest rework fragrance. I was also given a preview sniff of two new Phaedon compositions which will launch later this year in the visually updated packaging. You can tell he’s been a busy bee.

Among my new discoveries in Milan was this brand named L’Adone. Its origins are in Switzerland but fragrances they offer are made in Grasse. Apparently this brand is around since 2016 but I haven’t seen it earlier. 4 fragrances share Elenya as part of their name, then you have Gold, White, Black and Azur. To be honest I don’t remember what they smelled like but I do have samples so I will have a chance to develop own opinion on them at the comfort of my home.

During the day I spent a short moment with a friend and perfumer Stephanie Bakouche. We talked and we smelled together a couple of her newly developed fragrances for Chabaud. It’s always nice to connect after not seeing each other for 6 months and to smell the results of someone’s work.

My final meeting on Friday was with Marina Sersale of Eau d’Italie and Altaia. With Eau d’Italie they celebrate 15 years of existence. Their 15th fragrance (meaning they were doing 1 each year) is named Easy to Love. It’s a light fig scent brightened with peony and honey. Last release from Altaia was Purple Land (2018) and it was an interesting perfume. Slightly tropical, with guava, papaya but also green because of muguet and it had musky-ambery drydown.

And so the clock reached 6 PM meaning that Friday at Esxence was about to end. But it wasn’t the end of the day in general for many of us. In the evening, together with Elena we attended a Masque Milano Party at 10 Corso Como (this party is a staple for couple of years now), arriving fashionably late because I had to grab a piece of pizza at Eataly as a substitute of a dinner which I didn’t have on that night. Well… if it wasn’t enough you should know that after a couple of cocktails and snacks there we hopped on a metro to crash another party, this time by Nishane. We also met with Ana plus her sis and with Dana. We didn’t party that long because we had to come back before midnight – otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to use metro anymore to go back. But in the end we were all happy that we made it to both parties. That Friday was a really good day if you ask me.

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