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The Warsaw Voice » Business » December 30, 2014
Business & Economy
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The Art of Perfumery
December 30, 2014   
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Sergio Momo, the Turin-based founder and creator of the Xerjoff perfume house, was in Warsaw Dec. 5 to conduct a workshop on scents at the Perfumeria Quality Missala store, which brings niche fragrances to Poland. He spoke to Marzena Robinson.

You have created one of Italy’s most recognized niche brands of perfume. Who are your target customers?
Our customers are usually people who do not absorb the classical kind of communication which you have in traditional perfumery, like advertising, models, actors, celebrities, what we call technically testimonials. Niche perfumery is talking to the kind of customers who have themselves as the point of reference; they don’t need testimonials.

How does the niche perfumery business differ from the traditional one?
We have completely different dynamics in the way we create perfumes. First of all, out of the entire budget given to the creation of a single perfume, 90 percent is given to the quality of the product. This is possible because there is almost no advertising; there are only certain elements of promotion. In the commercial perfumery business, it is exactly the opposite; probably 10 percent goes on the product and the rest on marketing, promotion, advertising and so on. So it’s a completely different approach. Our aim is to create something different. The aim of a classical perfume is to meet as many tastes as possible—create one perfume and sell millions of bottles. It has to be pretty much flat in terms of a proposal, very similar to what the trend is. We don’t follow trends; we hate trends. A trend is the opposite of our work. In our thinking, a trend is the opposite of personalization, of being different, being creative.

And what makes your business stand out from other niche brands?
There are obviously different types of niche perfumes. We are fully dedicated to quality, the raw material, the distillation. This is our DNA. If we moved away from that our customer would realize it straight away. There is no way that we can lower our standards. There are two key elements which are of the utmost importance and have guided our every move from the very beginning—respect for Italian nature and Italian craftsmanship.

Working with nature means continuous research on the raw materials. Most important is the distillation technique. Distillation is what makes a good element even better, or an excellent element creative. I can take something very simple like lavender and instead of the traditional distillation technique I can use fraction distillation, which gives me a different result. I can perhaps take away the earthy, dry part and leave the heart of lavender, which is much lighter, much more transparent. So the element is the same but I gain something different out of it.

The knowledge of distillation techniques is what makes us able to be creative. In a way, it’s easier to be creative with synthetic perfumes because this involves the study of a molecule, the association of different molecules, in order to reproduce an existing fragrance. I’m not against or for, it’s just a different way of creating perfumes. There are certain quality elements and certain distillation elements that make our perfume quite unique.

Would you agree that what makes your brand well recognized is the way in which your perfume is presented, in unique glass flasks created by Italian master craftsmen?
Yes, the multi-sensorial element, the way the perfume is presented as a work of art is very important. In this we get inspiration from the past, when perfume was a form of art and was presented with another form of art from Baccarat crystal to Murano glass. It was never a commodity concept to different artists or designers and producers; it was always a particular way of introducing the element of perfumery in an artistic way. Me and my partners see it the same way. Before we started the niche perfumery business we were all designers—brand designers, corporate designers, involved in everything that evolved around the design of a product or a concept. We all come from that background. Perfume was our passion so we merged these two things together and now we design the perfume bottles ourselves. Among Xerjoff’s offerings are handcrafted, sculptural bottles, carved and molded from precious materials including quartz stones, bronze and gold, Murano and fine Tuscan glass. Everything is designed by us and produced in Italy. We work with many renowned Italian artists who create these rare and precious art pieces—painters, sculptors, jewelry designers, diamond cutters and wood engravers.

Where do you draw the inspiration for your fragrances?
Every collection tells a story. It’s never just the perfume, it’s the whole concept around it which is important. It also helps the retailers sell the story, which is much more than just a perfume. It is the culture, the knowledge, the creativity, the history and many other elements that are brought forward. And that’s why our distribution is selective, because the retailers need to talk for us. It is the kind of shopping experience that you don’t get in the commercial perfumery business.

How important is the Polish market to you?
It’s growing and getting bigger, but the most important for us is not so much the size or turnover but the typology of the customer. Poland, like many other European countries, has got a very long history, and for us the background is very important. It’s because a certain kind of culture is brought back when you talk about certain elements. Perfumery is one of those. So in Poland the retailers have no compromise on quality. There is full dedication to niche perfumery and not trying to use the niche element to draw people in. And this full dedication is working here, which means that the customers have recognized that this address is different from other addresses.
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