Esxence 2022 - Through the mirror

Three years have passed since the last Esxence – The Art Perfumery Event, held in 2019, and the new global circumstances have brought changes:
Esxence 2022 was held on the threshold of summer (15 – 18. June), and for the first time located in MiCo – Milano Convention Center, a huge fair complex.

The Esxence is overwhelming, and challenging, but the end of June made it a little bit more so.
I will remember this Esxence by the hot daily temperatures that on the streets of Milan in the morning, around 9, when I left the apartment, already exceeded +35 degrees, danced around +40 in the early afrernoon, and in the middle of the night or morning, did not fall below 25.

Trough the Mirror and about mirroring “Through the Looking-Glass”

The instant association I had when I read a theme of this year’s Esxence – Through the Mirror – was the novel written by Lewis Carroll in 1871 : Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, actually a sequel of much more known “Alices adventures in Wonderland”.

I went through the looking glass on this Esxence, and what I found on the other side of the mirror, in fact, partially corresponds to Carroll’s novel.

So, this report is not only about people and perfumes, what I saw and where I’ve been after I went through the mirror, into Esxence-Wonderland.
The report is also about the coexisting bubbles of stand-alone realities, and about some reverse logic – the motifs Lewis Carroll explored so well in his Alice series.

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The first-morning coffee, before the beginning of the event. The planning helped. But still, when I look back on my geeky preparations before entering the multi-bubbled dimensions inside the Pavilion 16, I don’t know why I thought that I could prepare myself.

Each morning, at the entrance to the event, while I was leaving Milano’s bright heat behind my back, I had a peculiar and overwhelming feeling of stepping from one-bubble dimension (that’s Milano!) to a bubbled multi-dimension inside the Pavilion 16.

Esxence 2022

Each bubble – one stand, and, yes, there were dozens of bubbles… The official number is 270.

During my working hours among the stands, from 10 am to the 6 pm, while visiting one brand I was interested in after another, my visual, olfactive, intellectual, and emotional perspective was constantly switching:

From exhibiting brands’ on the stands to the off-stand presentations made by not exhibiting, but very interesting perfumers or brands, I jumped from within one bubble to the inside of the another, and each brought a slightly different atmosphere, different personalities, different concepts, and olfactive compositions.

Inside the Esxence: from inside the bubbles

I mostly cared for the impression that the brand indeed has found a very unique and sometimes even delicate way to personally pass factualities and its story not only by presenting the visual identity and the perfume, but its soul…

Filippo Sorcinelli bubble

Entering this bubble was like entering an underground club, and church, a gallery, and a perfumery at the same time, and feeling simultaneously at home.

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Parfum Dusita’s bubble

Here is an image without the person, without the brand’s name, even without a perfume, but, in my opinion, sometimes the smallest well-thought detail, like the background of the counter on which Dusita’s perfumes were exhibited, tells everything there is to know about the brand: Imagine the counter dressed in real flowers, visitors leaning over the collection, not noticing that their bodies press the delicate flowery carpet. Imagine the microscopic perfume drops falling down on petals, for full 10 hours each day of the event . Then, imagine my instinctive physical grounding when I stepped into Dusita’s bubble at the end of exhaustingly hot Day 2, and a fresh, smooth, and rather coldish petal touched my hot and perfume-impregnated skin, saying: “I am real…“. That’s Pissara Umavijani, and her perfumes: polished, thoughtfull and spiritually fresh from inside out.

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Neela Vermeire’s bubble

A deeply soul-touching visit, filled with kindness and calmness. Deep into the day, while passing through many other bubbles, I carried with me Neela’s personality, the brand’s resilience to commercial trends, and the vision of honest perfumery Neela promotes while creating beautiful and complex perfumes.

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Perfume Sucks bubble

Absolutely beautiful Andreas Wilhelm, the owner of The Perfume Sucks, coherently promotes the perfume transparency, while offering interesting and well-crafted perfumes. I stepped into another bubble cariying with me the brand’s philosophy. And there was some dancing! Beat that!

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Nishane bubble

I came to pay my respect to the brand I love, and the respect came back in a form of a small talk about their plans. Stepped into the next bubble with the wish that Nishane never changes its quality and approach.

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Meo Fusciuni’s bubble

“This one is for me!”, said Frederica, the wife of Giuseppe Impezzabile Meo, about the new Fusciuni perfume called Encore du Temps.

While I was smelling her perfume, in the back corner of the stand, far from other perfumes from the collection, Frederica shared her emotion about wanting time to stop right at this point of life. I felt the authenticity Meo translated into her perfume with my whole body. I stepped into another bubble wishing I had the power to stop “the Esxence time” on Meo’s and Frederica’s stand just to talk a bit longer.

Perfumers’ bubbles
The bubbles the perfumers create when talking about their creations are precious, because each encounter is an oportunity to learn, while grasping half-hidden, very subtle messages. I still havent’t become imune to the delicate mixture of modesty, humbleness and gratefulness when I express my opinion on the perfumer’s creation, because I am just Alice.

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Pierre Gueros, the perfumer of Uermi Solaro Collection, on a photo with Aurora Carrara and the colleagues Lucasz Szczezniak and Elena Cvjetkovic. Photo by Pierre Gueros.
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Jean-Christophe Herault on vetiver material used in Vetiver Gris, and how his creation came to be a part of Jack Fath Collection.

Off-stand bubbles
Even the halls, corners and the cantina tables were bubbly: here are some presentations of non-exhibiting brands, the future projects, and some on-the-spot labeling, too…

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About not-yet-trends and moving along

I believe that more than a two-year-long exhibiting gap and the global insecurity of the business caused by the pandemic prolonged the already dominant “playing safe” trend, and I am not happy because of that.
While I was scanning the production presented on Esxence, the new launches, and the accompanied concepts, I encountered quite a number of the new brands that were all about the presentation of safe.

I also noticed a few generic and commercial, visually nice, but unfortunately relatively “thin” concepts based on the popular clean/natural, and/or culturally inclusive trends.

I also stepped out of these bubbles thinking just: “Really?”, and moved along.

There is a “not yet a trend” I wish to mention: though the fashion of “smell-me-from-a-mile-away” perfumes is still at its peak, I’ve heard brand owners questioning the fashion of high concentrations and the “heavy-hitters”.

Overall, being exposed to Milano’s 35 degrees Celsius, and dozens of perfumes I wanted to smell, I tended to treat (and spare) my nose with the lighter, more summery creations, and that wasn’t difficult at all.

The overview of the new collections gave me the impression that the perfumery is slowly, but steadily moving away from heavy ambers trend.

I certainly tested a few smart and different light compositions based on citruses and figs, a spectrum of the different vetiver-centered perfumes, and noticed some interesting green or aquatic compositions.

Speaking about “moving along” as an, in fact, necessary measure when one is faced with almost 300 brands, there was one type of “moving along” that especially grabbed my attention during the first two B to B days:

Some very big stands of the brands that in the last decade produced the exclusive and overpriced presentations of uninventive and utterly untransparent perfumes were empty each time I passed by.

That probably changed in the afternoon of Day 3 and during Day 4, when the event opened to the public.

As I was moving along, I hoped that this significant, but subtle “moving along” might point to some “not-yet-trend”, or at least is an indication that the appreciation of the authentic creative process may become a strong deal-maker, that buyers, eventually, always follow.

About the guardians of the present and the past

In a new MiCo location, the Osmotheque stand, on the previous location cited in a more prominent position, near the entrance, was moved together with Le Nez to the -1 level, at the beginning of an underground hallway that leads to the conference rooms and – the cantina.

Even before writing this report, I deliberately blocked myself from the line of thought that wished to explore and elaborate on a symbolical level the positioning of the education, publishing at this Esxence, because it made me sad.

But, it is what it is.

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Antonella Fontana and Anne-Cécile Pouant, Osmothèque Deputy Director connecting the present and the past. Photo by Antonella Fontana.

While smelling some of the resurrected masterpieces, l was stunned, stuck in the moment, and unable to share the word.

Contrary to what I felt when I encountered Osmotheque on my first visit to the cantina, after smelling some parts of the restored history, I became glad that the Osmotheque ended up in the white, empty and quiet hall:

Maybe my choice of seeing this -1 hallway position as an exclusive one is just a rationalization, but I suddenly understood the quiet whiteness of Osmotheque’s corner as an exclusive negative of black walls and brightly colorful stands, and the whole loud space spreading on a ground level of the same pavilion.

For me, the Osmotheque wasn’t a bubble.

Far from the river of people directed to flow only forward, towards the new offsprings of Ma Griffe, or Iris Gris, or Vent Vert, this small corner of Esxence occupied a whole dimension, existing parallel with multi-bubbled reality upstairs.

Since the Osmotheque, like all archives and educational institutions, is about turning back and re-examining, so that we could better understand the path we are walking right now, I rationally chose to elaborate on the exclusiveness in this context.

While upstairs the physical obstacles were in the first two business days guarded (!) by Esxence staff, channeling exhibitors, perfumers, distributors, media, and other professionals to move only forward, preventing them from taking the shortest way back to something they want to see or smell again, or generally from creating an individual route through the event, in this corner of Esxence the custodians of our olfactive past posed no such boundaries on the individual exploration.

I once again remembered Carroll’s “Through the Looking glass”: in the fictional Wonderland running forward helped one to stay in place and not move, and walking in a different direction brought you where you wanted to be.

Speaking about the freedom of having the individual path while exploring (and creating, and producing, and presenting) perfumes, on Day 2 I told the merciful guardian: “God bless you!”, just because he let me pass through the forbidden shortcut between the stands, instead of making me endure another corporal punishment in a form of more unnecessary walking because I decided to go back.

So, imagine the extent of my gratitude to the Osmotheque for offering me to chose my own rithm of exploring, and my personal thankfulness to Anne-Cécile and Antonella for the exclusiveness they shared in the quiet and white underground corner.

Outside the Pavilion 16

I finally met colleagues whose perfume choices, reflections, and writing I love – now they are truly a part of my life.

I spent three beautiful days in the company of Lucas (The Chemist in the Bottle) and one with Ana (Ana y el perfume). I miss them both, and I am looking forward to the next opportunity to meet.

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Lucas, together in the most photographed mirror in Esxence

And, yes, a party to remember also happened, and it was hosted by Nishane:

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Unexpectedly, I had a most fulfilling opportunity to share my thoughts on investigative writing with Gabe Oppenheim, the author of “The Ghost Perfumer”, a book published in the last days of 2021. that should have been written a long time ago, and now it finally is.

With Gabe and Elena Cvjetković (The Plum Girl), the party was spontaneously upgraded to an off-program round table about perfumery – and a quite serious one, with some rear values, added: the opinions were shared without BS (pardon my French!), as it tends to happen when there is no plan and no schedule, just the open minds and a lot of goodwill.

Bits and pieces

I omitted from this report my first impressions about the perfumes I liked right on the spot, so, please, view the media gallery.

I hope that the visuals will fill the gap until the reviews come:

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Esxence 2022 – perfume highlights

Each day of this summery Esxence ended with my feet up, high against the wall because they were painfully swollen from the heat.

But, the bubbled reality and the long-waited Esxence heat were well worth it!

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Alice

UPDATE, 28.6.2022

The official numbers by Esxence

– 281 exhibitor brands (+25% on the previous edition in 2019), of which 108 Main Brands and 173 Spotlight Brands

– Experience Lab66 exhibitor brands

– 31 countries of origin of the brands (including some new entries: Japan, Australia, Argentina, Hungary and Hong Kong)

– 8,000 square metres of exhibition space

– 70% of all exhibitors came from abroad

– 9,200 visitors

– 70% of all visitors were professionals

– 25 conferences and meetings listed in the calendar of events at Esxence, all open to the public of enthusiasts and to specialised operatives for the first three days of the event, which were attended by some of the most authoritative names in the sector at world level.

Source: Esxence – The Art Perfumery Event

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