March 27, 2013
Now that I’m back from Milan and the Fifth Edition of Esxence I have a chance to have some perspective on the weekend. One thing that really stood out was how much Esxence has grown since I attended two years ago. Throughout the three days I was in attendance it felt like the center of the universe of niche perfumery was in La Pemanente on Via Filippo Turatti. I spent a lot of time talking to some of the best perfumers and creative directors in the business and listening to what they had to say. It is this mixture of the artistic side, the business side, and the consumers that really make Esxence unique as no matter which group you fall into you have the opportunity to learn and talk with the other two groups.
Keiko Mecheri and Me
The workshop on niche retail strategy is a good example of this kind of overlap as the panel was made up of luminaries in retail like Francois Henin of Jovoy, Roja Dove of his eponymous Haute Parfumerie, and Nicolas Cloutier of Nose. Sarah Colton of The Perfume Magazine and Beauty Fashion moderated the discussion as she deftly sought out opinions from the standing room only audience to stimulate a wide-ranging discussion. A couple of the more salient points made was that all the members of the panel train their staff to understand the basis of fragrance before they differentiate by brand. Also the staff is encouraged to create a long-term customer over an immediate sale. The most interesting discussion revolved around the idea of what it takes to make it on the shelf of the panelists’ stores. They mentioned the plethora of too many fragrances from people who do not really understand that there is more to calling oneself a perfumer than being able to mix essential oils and aromachemicals into something pleasant. Two hours seemed to fly by and it felt like the discussion could have continued for much longer but then we would have missed much of the fabulous fragrances awaiting us on the show floor.
The Five Finalists for The Young Perfumers Contest
The other thing going on which was fascinating was The Young Perfumers Competition to be named The Scent of Esxence. On Friday and Saturday there were five fragrances which were placed out to be experienced and voted on. The overall winner was Etoilegance by perfumer Alex Lee of Mane. All five of the fragrances show that the future of artistic perfumery is in very capable hands.
Overall on the fragrance front it was an interesting show for me as many of the new brands on display I had been fortunate enough to experience prior to arriving in Milano. What I enjoyed was watching others experience some of my favorites and see the smiles break out on their faces. As Majda Bekkali used a fan to gently waft Mon Nom est Rouge or Anais Biguine of Jardins D’Ecrivains handed someone a strip of Wilde or the real life love story behind Jul et Mad introduced their fragrances to the public. The show floor was full of smiling faces experiencing the best of niche in one place.
Because I was so well prepared it was the future which grabbed my attention as many of the perfumers tantalized with me things still to come. So without further delay here are my awards for the Fifth Edition of Esxence 2013.
Best of Show: This was a difficult choice but the best fragrance I smelled all weekend was the upcoming Robert Piguet Knightsbridge. Joe Garces gave perfumer Aurelien Guichard a wonderfully simple concept to build a perfume on; “Imagine it is 2AM and you are walking through Harrod’s.” Knightsbridge imagines the smell of leather and the remains of the day from the Haute Perfumerie all mixing in a chilly darkened store. There was only one other fragrance which captivated me almost as much.
Most Anticipated New Release: Neela Vermeire Creations Ashoka will be released later this year and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has made a fig and leather over resins fragrance that is captivating and fall can’t get here too quickly.
Most Interesting Collaboration To Come: Mark Buxton, Bertrand Duchaufour, and Geza Schoen are combining their talents to create a new line of fragrance to be released early in 2014. The three creative minds are still working out the final details but the one thing I know is I most definitely want to sniff what comes from this lineup of perfume all-stars.
Best Bottle: I loved the hand-blown bottles from CnR Create but the lace draped bottle for the new Le Parfum Couture Denis Durand for M. Micallef was a perfect match for the perfume inside. This bottle feels like it comes direct from a boudoir and the fragrance inside slinks up behind you and seduces you with its animalic passion. I’ve had a sample of this for a couple of months but once I saw the bottle that went with this fragrance I saw a perfect match.
A Perfect 10 Award: Eau D’Italie Acqua Decima is the tenth release from Eau D’Italie and it is a refreshing citrus fragrance that feels like a concentrated shot of lemon which slowly unwinds and expands beautifully.
Favorite New Brand: This is a bit unfair because brands like Naomi Goodsir, The Vagabond Prince, Nu_Be, and others were not new to me but to others these are amazing new brands and the response they got makes me hopeful that the quality they show will rise to the top. My favorite new, to me, brand was Stephane Humbert Lucas 777. M. Humbert Lucas has a bold aesthetic when he creates for SoOud and Nez a Nez. For his 777 line he takes that aesthetic to a new place as the eight fragrances which make up the collection were the best top to bottom of any of the multi-fragrance collections I tried. Kohl de Bahrein and Oumma stood out among a group of overachievers.
I once again have to thank the entire team behind Esxence for inviting me and being so gracious in hosting me during my stay. I look forward to returning soon.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor