Normally, right about now, I’d be planning my annual trip to Florence, and the fragrance fair Pitti Fragranze. A meeting place for perfumers, founders, makers, buyers, brands, olfactory artists and anyone obsessed by scent; it’s always a highlight of my year.
It’s also a wonderful opportunity to sniff the not-yet-launched fragrances, see interesting new niche houses and spot possible perfume trends for the next few years ahead. You might like to have a look at my report from last year’s Pitti Fragranze, to get a sense of the scale of the event. It’s huge! And quite overwhelming. But always wonderful.
Of course, this is not a normal year, and any such in-person events have sadly been cancelled or postponed. But while I am mourning meeting up with fragrance journalists and fragrant friends from around the world; I am heartened that Pitti Fragranze have taken to decision to still run their fair, but as a virtual, online fesitval.
Along with events, talks, special guests, and focuses on new trends (all in English), do check out the complete calendar to see which you might wish to take part in. The various events begin on Monday September 7th – Monday September 21st 2020.
Pitti Fragranze is one of the world’s leading fragrance trade fairs, where the industry come to see (and smell) new perfumes, spot new trends emerging and spy new houses showcasing their scents for the very first time. We took a trip to the glorious Tuscan city of Florence, our noses a-quiver in excitement, and invite you to look back with us at some of our favourite things…
Pitti is held in a huge old building that used to be a train station, an annual event that’s now celebrating its 17th year. If you can picture a space filled with hundreds of brands all competing for attention, and thousands of perfumes being sprayed in that space, you’ll get an idea of just how fragrant the whole situation can get. Add to that several thousand visitors, including press, distributors, buyers and store managers from around the world, and the odd perfumer wandering the exhibition – we spotted Betrand Duchafour, Cecile Zarokian and Pia Long – getting to have good catch-up chats with those last two – and you’ll also understand how overwhelming the experience can be!
As you walk into the exhibition space, the question is: where to begin? And the only answer is to wander around and around, going back with a greater focus for several hours over three days, and homing in on the things that caught your eye (and nose) the most.
We were delighted to see so many houses we know so well proudly showing their scented wares, and were introduced to other really exciting brands we hope will make it to the U.K. very soon…
The Miller Harris stand was definitely the most vibrantly enticing in the whole show – if you’ve ever visited one of their boutiques, you’ll know how these guys excell at visual merchandising that makes fragrance artistically exciting and accessible for everyone. Here they were showing recent launches of the ‘Brighton Rock’ collection (including our favourite, Violet Ida (softly powdered lipstick kisses) the lovely Blousy (all luscious strawberries and rose), and a sneak peek at a forthcoming launch of Secret Gardenia (think voluptuous bouquets of dewy white flowers).
Sana Jardin had their soon-to-be-launched candles on display – a first for the house which we will certainly be filling our own homes with! Torn between the options, if forced to choose we’d plump for the Tiger By Her Side: a stunning evocation of the perfume, weaving Morocan rose and Somalian incense for an intenseley beautiful scent we couldn’t stop smelling. There was a real buzz around the stand, of people entranced by the story of the foundation they’ve set up for the women who pick the flowers – allowing them to create their own side-business making products from the rose water, for example, left over from distilling the fragrances. With lots of questions about sustainability circling the industry, here’s a house who are way ahead of the game.
Talking of candles, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the entire aesthetic of Coreterno – meaning ‘eternal heart’ in Italian – a lifestyle brand ‘conceived in Rome and born in the streets of New York’ by designers Francilla Ronchi and Michelangelo Brancato. Drawing inspiration from rock stars and rebels throughout history, they began with candles and were now showing their fragrances for the first time. We loved The Wild Passion candle and the Catharsis perfume, which smelled spicy and soothing all at once, with drifts of cardamom and transcendental woodiness.
We bumped into Olfiction Director and perfumer Pia Long at the very moment she first saw the fragrance she’d created for BeauFort London finally on display. Given a difficult brief for Terror & Magnificence to evoke the imposing structures and life of notorious architecht Hawksmoor, with all the associated brooding spaces and darkly mysterious atmospheres, Pia absolutely nailed it. We sprayed and felt a shiver of cold flagstones, echoes of hushed voices, ancient church pews infused with incense and a stunningly wearable suplle leather dry down. There’s far more magnificence than terror, and she looked rightly proud (if a little overwhelmed) holding that bottle aloft.
A new name we got excited by was the French niche house of Maison Rebatchi, founded only last year by Mohamed Rebatchi, collaborating with a stellar line-up of perfumers, including Bertrand Duchaufour, Alienor Massenet and Maurice Roucel. All seven scents are remarkably beautiful, with an assuredness and elegance reflected in the noses who made them, and the freshness of this Rose Rebatchi really blew us away – exactly like standing in the rose fields of Grasse during May. We have no doubt this house will be picked up by a U.K. stockist soon, and we’ll be forming an orderly queue…
A standout event had to be the Jean-Claude Ellena Retrospective – choosing fifteen of his fragrant compositions and discussing how and why they were created. Collated by Chandler Burr, and including a fascinating interview with the great perfumer himself, you can listen to to the English translation in full, here. It’s a must for any perfume fan, to give you greater insight into Ellena’s work, and no doubt (as we did) scurrying to find your own favourites from his collections, now smelling them again with a new understanding.
We could go on and on (and on) about the highlights we saw and smelled at Pitti this year, but are still mentally processing the many hundreds of perfumes and people, to be perfectly honest! We do hope, though, that we’ve given you a flavour of this year’s fragrance fair, and an idea of what you want to smell next…
We’re huge fans of Australian niche house Map of the Heart here at The Perfume Society – from their stunning bottles to the beautiful fragrances inside (each with a seam of sandalwood as their signature), and the creatively engaging imagery – everything they do truly represents a feast for all the senses.
Having just flown back from Pitti Fragranze, the annual fragrance trade show in Florence, and fresh from our first-sniffing of their latest launch, we’re thrilled to be able to share with you White Heart v.7 – The Heart of Love. Scroll down to read our review, and watch the film…
The first thing that struck us was the purity of the bottle, how all the features of the sculptural shape really stand out with the matte finish (a first for the house), and we noticed everyone who came to their stand tenderly stroked the texture as they held the flacon. [N.B: Texture and colour (or the absence of colour) is a hugely emerging trend from what we saw at Pitti.]
Sarah Blair, co-founder of Map of the Heart, told us that White Heart v.7 ‘is all about love: its power and dualities. That love can be hot / cold, tender / wild, innocent / knowing, everything or nothing…’ So the white can be the starkness of juxtaposed emotions, or the blank page on which to write your own story. Fascinatingly, Sarah also explained a deeper inspiration for the white, because ‘…it’s about the purity of emotion, and possibilities. When you refract white light it splits into a rainbow, and at the time we were creating this, we had the equality vote in Australia, so the symbol of rainbows was really important to us.’ The matte finish became the obvious choice, too, because of its ability to ‘draw you in, to make you want to pick it up and hold it, to feel that connection.’
Emotional connections and the imporance of touch are all very well, but of course we were most excited to get our noses on it at last! We’re happy to report it was worth the wait.
What does it smell like? Well, there’s a whoosh of freshness, a cold breeze that tickles like just-poured Champagne bubbles as the exhilarating opening launches French lavender, aldehydes and cardamom and feels like an unsuppressable giggle of pure joy. Into the brightness a bold red umeboshi (Japanese salt plum) accord languorously seeps to fill the space with an almost-booziness – the mad intensity of love that overtakes sense, always. We’re drawn back to purity as sandalwood swirls through radiant gardenia, a natural oud resonating gently in the base like a softly comforting hug that lasts for hours.
Map of the Heart White Heart v.7 £150 for 90ml eau de parfum
Exclusively at harrods.com
PS: Have you tried the other Map of the Heart fragrances yet? The enticing warmth of saffron-infused milk opulently laps within Map of the Heart Gold Heart, and you can try a sample of it in our luxurious Velvet Collection Discovery Box (currently on sale from £19 to just £12, so snap one up while you can!)
An annual affair dedicted to showcasing artistic and artisinal fragrance houses to buyers, distributors and press from around the world, it’s always an eye (and nostril!) opening experience to visit glorious Florence and the Stazione Leopolda – an old train station repurposed as a huge and atmospheric conference and event venue.
Pitti Fragranze 2016 took place last weekend and marked the 14th successive year of the trade fair, with visitor and exhibitor numbers greater than ever, and we plunged into the seehing crowd with noses twitching to discover what was on offer this year…
We were thrilled to see many of our fragrance friends there, bumping into 4160 Tuesdays floral-bedecked founder and perfumer Sarah McCartney spritzing her Mystery of the Materials (scents with a story to tell) into teacups (how wonderfully British) for eager sniffers to discover, and causing much swooning by revealing the photograph of her much-admired helper Arthur McBain – an actor when not helping out at her Ealing studios, and currently starring as the model in her just-shot advertising photos. Sarah says customers have been known to write him fan-letters and apparently come over all peculiar when they receive a package with a note in from him. We couldn’t possibly comment…
Just around the corner, ‘fiercely independent’ Beaufort London were causing something of a buzz – appropriate given the honeycomb-themed decoration of the area – with their five uniquely maritime-inspired fragrances, including the latest launch, Fathom V – a fantastically other-worldly salty, ultra-green scent that puts us in mind of a Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia surrounded by flowers and giving herself up to the embrace of the icy depths…
In the same golden-hued area was dear friend to The Perfume Society, Andy Tauer, on great form as ever and here showing two new fragrances: Tuberose Flash (an iridescent and totally sparkling tuberose with zero screechiness) and the much-anticipated Au Coeur du Désert (think bestselling Air du Désert Marocain in extrait beauty!)
It was also a joy to bump into the lovely Atelier Des Ors founder and Artistic Director, Jean-Phillipe Clermont – you may recall we were rather excited when they launched in the UK – and sniff the exqusite new Iris Fauve – softly suede-y with a distinctly addictive edge.
We thought it was really interesting seeing a Japanese natural fragrance brand showing at the fair – Di Ser – not a culture historically known for their perfume brands, this one uses unsual oils and essences from around the world blended with fabulous quality native natural ingredients, thoughtfully composed and beautifully presented. Interesting, too, to learn that Japanese ladies have long scented their kimonos with delicate fragrances – as Middle Eastern cultures have wafted their robes with highly scented smoke…
Intertrade‘s room is always a must-visit, with their fingers on the perfume pulse of cool, edgy and just beautifully curated brands that carry genuinely interesting but always totally wearable fragrances, available at Avery Perfume Gallery. With the theme of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ they laid a huge table with coloured glasses and ‘place settings’ for each fragrance house. There we saw, and sniffed, new launches – some standouts being Blood Concept‘s gender-bending David Bowie-inspired XX and XY, AGONIST‘s incredibly evocative (and intriguingly named!) White Lies (so-new the bottles weren’t ready yet, but we snapped their previously released, soothingly smoky Hope), and the ravishingly sexy A Lab on Fire‘s cheekily named Messy Sexy Just Rolled Out of Bed…
You see absolutely everyone at Pitti, no matter where you are – and we met the marvellous Barbara Herman – vintage perfume expert and author of the book Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Subversive Perfumes, in the cafe of all places! The perfect excuse for a quick sniffing session of Eris Parfums – a trio of frgrances Barbara worked with a perfumer to create, all based on interpretations of animalic ‘beasts’ (with huge glugs of beauty to balance). Irreverently opulent, glamorously modern with echoes of vintage va-va-voom. And we got a sneaky sniff of the 4th, equally show-stopping scent.
An real treat for cinephiles and fragrance fanatics alike was the private viewing of Perfume, a Certain Tradition – a film by Amsterdam-based Short Notes Portraits offering in-depth portraits of some of the greatest living perfumers – including infamously reclusive or seldom interviewed figures such as Pierre Bourdon, Michel Roudnitska, Frédéric Malle, Mark Buxton, uber perfume-collector George Stam (seriously jaw-dropping pieces!) and the iconically irreverent Serge Lutens… a roll-call of noses and creators that would intimidate many but which the Amsterdam-based company clearly relished the challenge of. A charming, witty and fascinating film, you can watch it on their website and we will be sure to keep you up to date with when the film is released on DVD – so watch this space.
With so much to see and smell, it’s really quite an overwhelming experience – and nigh on impossible to see absolutely everything – but though we were exhausted at the end, we managed to fit in a quit flit to Florence’s wonderful Sunday-morning vintage market. And – ever nosing around for interesting things – we came across a stall laden with vintage parfums, including the most humungous bottle of Lanvin‘s Arpege – sadly our of our pocket, but We Wear Perfume‘s Amanda Carr [NB watch out for the imminent issue of our magazine, The Scented Letter, featuring Amanda’s scent memories] snapped up the Bvlgari scented pencils.
Until next year, dear Firenze…
Written by Suzy Nightingale
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