Milano and Esxence

Once again, it has been far too long since I’ve written.   I’ve been here in Grasse since August, and life has been so full and exciting and stressful and all-consuming that blogging has fallen rather by the wayside.  However, yesterday was my birthday, and one of the resolutions I made for this new year, is to once again share with you what life is like here in the Country of Grasse (Le Pays de Grasse).

Let me begin, by speaking about a trip to Milan last weekend that I had the good fortune of sharing with 2 perfumers who also live here in Grasse (one French and the other Russian).

This year was the second year of the Esxence- The Art of Perfumery event that takes place in the centre of Milano, Italie.   This magical city is only 4 hours by car from Grasse, so on the morning of the 31st, we set out early so we could have the afternoon to begin exploring perfumes.

We arrived around lunchtime, and after we had installed ourselves in our lovely apartment in the region of the city where there are canals (empty this time of year) designed by Leonardo de Vinci (we rented a place through http://www.airbnb.com), we made our way to the Esxence event via the Metro.

Love locks on a bridge over the canal

Nothing could have prepared us for the immensity of this event. Two expansive floors of booths showcasing hundreds of niche perfume brands.   We hadn’t even made a dent in the exhibition when it was closing time for the day.  We were however, invited to a private launch party of the new collection of fragrances from the renowned French perfume house, Piguet.  This was held in an amazing wisteria covered outdoor patio at the Sheraton hotel not far away.

After champagne and some wonderful conversations with old and new friends of the perfumed world, we were famished.  At a certain point, food must become more important than perfume.  It was already 11pm when we found an adorable and packed full (the Italians eat late) little restaurant, where we stood in line until a table came up.  It was worth the wait, and dinner was delectable.

The resident chihuahua eyeing down another dog that had come in with a customer...

The next morning, I was determined to make a thorough tour of the event and get my nose around as many perfumes as absolutely possible.  This would also include an extended visit to the Osmotheque booth to smell vintage perfumes composed in their original formulae.

I also attended a very interesting conference on the subject of the synthetic raw material, Hedione, presented by the man from Osmotheque- Bernard Bourgeois, which was very interesting indeed.

The most unusual booth I saw at the event was of the brand Nasomatto.

To make a long story short- I was far too ambitious in my attempts to take in almost every single booth.  Later that evening, as I reflected on the day when we were finally enroute home to Grasse- I realized that it was almost a complete blur. I had taken in far too much information, both visually and olfactively.

I did however, leave with a sense of being inspired by the finesse and beauty of the presentation of fragrance brands.  This is a luxury product- in an artistic, refined, expensive, and beauty-based kind of way.  Many flacons are works of art and design in themselves.  The careful choices of colour, of shape, of texture to present an alurring identity of a brand, that then must somehow be balanced with the beauty and appeal of the juice inside the bottles themselves.  To be honest, often I found that the fragrance of the juice didn’t captivate me as strongly as the visual impact.  I would be wowed by the bottle, the artwork, the logo, the display, and then the perfume would somehow fall flat and be disappointing in comparison.

There was one brand however, who stood out to me, that presented a luxury, haute gamme beauty, with beautiful hardwood cases housing golden flacons of scent.  These fragrances I also found quite gorgeous.  This was Maison Dorin from Paris.

So for the future, I would recommend preparing beforehand for an event such as this, in order to maximize the benefits.  This for me, would include studying the list of exhibitors, and choosing the ones that I would specifically like to see.  If any time was left over after that, I could make a more general tour.  I would not repeat, however, my attempt to take in everything as I did in Milan.  Lessons learned by a first-timer!

As a closing note, I must say, that I LOVED Milano!  It was not what at all what I expected.  It was artistic and active, with little funky boutiques lining cobbled streets, vintage clothing shops, graffiti (both banal and amazing) everywhere… and lots of young people dressed in wild and creative ensembles.  At one in the morning, the streets were full of people of all ages out socializing.  I was reminded in a way of the arts scene in Vancouver, Canada… and in that, was touched by my experience.  My impression of the Italians in general, is that they are much more expressive and fearless in the creative process than (dare I say it?)…. the French.  Also, they are extremely friendly and warm.  All in all, a super weekend!

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