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Our impressions of Esxence 2024

Our impressions of Esxence 2024

In March it was time again for Esxence, the annual artistic perfume event in Milan. It was the second time we went there, primarily to meet the brands we work with, but of course also to see what is happening in the world of perfumery and get new ideas.

This year's fair was significantly bigger than two years ago. Both the hall and the aisles were more spacious, and there were also a lot more brands presenting themselves. At the fair itself, there were more than 300 booths, and in the nearby hotel, the hall and some suites were occupied by perfume houses. On top, there were many perfumers and owners of brands walking around who did not have a stand, but were making contacts and carried their samples and bottles along. So in total, at least 400 brands were represented. That niche perfume is still booming is obvious.


There were a huge number of visitors, and what was striking was that retailers like us made up only a limited proportion of them. Many visitors had a badge of 'content creator' or 'perfume lover', which underlined the importance of social media for niche brands. As a result, at many booths we were received a little suspiciously at first until they realised we were potentially interested in selling their products in our shop. It also made many boothholders look distinctly tired after three days. How many times they had to tell their same story and present their perfumes, we dare not think about it. And then there followed a fourth day, open to the public, where even the police had to be called in to control access to the fair ...


Many brands had made every effort to stand out and be seen in this gigantic offering, with big, colourful stands, giant photos, extravagant private parties (to which we were not invited) or even a real casino. Others just kept it very modest (probably also for financial reasons), but sometimes caught our attention just because of that.


All call themselves 'niche' or 'artistic', but you could see huge differences between hyper luxurious, sometimes over-the-top brands on the one hand, and modest, sober and small-scale ones on the other. The world of 'niche perfumes' is more diverse than ever and, as far as we were concerned, some brands suited better under the heading of 'niche' than others.


It is impossible to visit all those brands on 3 days and smell all the perfumes present there. That would mean 100 brands and maybe about 1,000 perfumes a day. Even for a 'trained' nose, that is too much of a stretch. We had therefore taken the time and effort to pre-screen all the brands based on their websites to make a viable selection. Obviously, the fragrances are the most important, but elements like price, design and story already give a good first indication of whether or not a brand could fit in our shop.


What stood out was that brands from many different countries and continents were present this year. It was interesting to see that, besides the 'traditional' countries like France, Italy and the Arab Emirates, also brands from less obvious countries like Singapore, India, Poland, Ukraine, Lebanon, Turkey or Australia were present. That only makes the landscape more diverse and interesting.


Another striking thing what the number of new launches presented there. Sometimes it felt like a car show, where every brand shows off their latest model. So you can expect a lot of new perfumes in 2024. Gourmand and fruity fragrances are still on the rise, and fragrances around tea and musk proved popular as well. Yet, there were also plenty of brands that don't care about these trends and just follow their own path with surprising new fragrances.


Agatho, Francesca Bianchi, Manos Gerakinis and WienerBlut at Esxence


We visited Esxence in the first place to meet our current brands and catch up on their future plans, novelties and our cooperation. That personal contact is crucial for us. We want to know who they are, what drives them and what the story is behind their brand, so that we can translate that to our customers in the best possible way. And we also want to know their feedback about us to see what we can do better ourselves. Twenty of our brands where present in Milan, which is more than half of our total portfolio. That meant twenty fascinating encounters, good for a day and a half of fair. Unfortunately, in our enthusiasm we sometimes forgot to take photos together. After each conversation, we left with a good feeling, each encounter proving to be a confirmation of our enduring and constructive relationship and of the choices we made in the past.


Many of our brands will be releasing new fragrances this year, so you will soon see those appearing in our webshop and brick-and-mortar shop. It's important for us to know about new releases sufficiently in advance, because that means investing more in our current brands (which means there is less to spend on new ones), and thinking about properly scheduling each new product release to give it the attention it deserves.


Noème, Baruti, Gabriella Chieffo and Hiram Green


We had also made a few appointments with new brands that seemed interesting to us, and worked through our list we had prepared in advance as best we could, running from booth to booth for three days. We effortlessly reached our 10,000 steps a day at the fair. Several of our loyal customers were present at the fair, and it was great to exchange experiences and discoveries with them. It made our view of the offering much broader than what we could have ever achieved just the two of us, and it provided confirmation or just critical reflection on our own opinions. Having such a relationship with our customers is worth its weight in gold, and we would like to sincerely thank them for that.


Sometimes a brand turned out to be less interesting than we expected, with a story that was a bit unclear or uninspiring, or a contact that went less smoothly than hoped. In our shop, we try not to be pushy towards our customers, and when we experience this ourselves from a potential supplier, it does turn us off, no matter how beautiful the brand is. We met brands that showed little interest in us and our shop and talked mostly about themselves, so we ticked them off our list. But there were also some revelations, warm conversations and extremely interesting brands among them. From each of them, we went home with samples and information, which we will now further test and review thoroughly. We take our time to make decisions and choices. Not only because we consciously want to keep our portfolio selective and orderly, but also because we just don't have the financial resources to invest in every brand that we like and find interesting and that could be a nice extension of our offering. Smell Stories is our source of livelihood, and that means we can't make decisions solely on feelings and emotions, but that there is also a lot of rational calculation and puzzling involved.


Esxence was special for us for another reason this year. There are continuous panels, debates and presentations during the fair, and we were invited to participate in one of the panels, on the future of independent perfume retail. Being on stage at the world's biggest perfume fair and being able to share our own experiences and insights is an incredible honour, and also quite exciting. You can rewatch and listen to the full debate online below, or, if that's too long, read the interview based on the debate here.



Our visit to Esxence meant that we were forced to close for a week, as we have no staff, nor is our concept easily and quickly transferable to a temporary replacement (who preferably, like us, can speak three languages). This is not an obvious decision, but the contacts with our current and potentially new brands made it more than worthwhile and we firmly believe that this will ultimately benefit our customers as well. So thank you for your understanding. The fair is over, and we have since more or less recovered from our three-day immersion in an almost unreal perfume bubble. The sequel? Testing and evaluating all the samples we returned with under 'normal' conditions again, calculating and counting and further discussing possible new collaborations. We'll keep you posted.


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