ESSENTIAL PARFUMS: Naturally Restoring the Essence of Perfumery
2021 . 10 . 08 |
The word “essential” indicates that something is absolutely necessary, indispensable, fundamental, even vital. When something is essential, it can’t be done without, it is necessary to have it. In regard to fragrance, the scent is essential and therefore so is the perfumer, but much of the rest is secondary. Consequently, the idea of putting the fragrance at the heart of a brand may seem obvious, but is it? In 2018 Geraldine Archambault did that very thing with the launch of Essential Parfums, a brand that’s challenging the (fragrance) establishment in so many ways.
Ms. Archambault may not seem like a rebel from her chic appearance, but her concept is disruptive in a sea of brands who rely heavily on marketing. The brand’s manifesto states: “We believe that bringing back authenticity is essential. Who cares about Kate, Giselle or Kendall, Perfumers are our true stars. Natural ingredients. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Wins over Synthetic. First quality perfumery shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg. Sustainability is essential, to manufacture responsibly should be an obligation. Top quality is our uncompromising commitment. Our mission is to restore the essence of perfumery.” Intrigued and curious, I decided to visit the recently opened flagship boutique in the heart of the Marais district of Paris to break it down further with the founder.
PERFUMER AS STAR
So indeed let those Supermodels step aside to make way for Calice, Quentin, Bruno, Olivier, Sophie, Nathalie, and Antoine! The big idea is to put the perfumer up front: to highlight the perfumer as the creative artist behind the scent. As Ms. Archambault said to me, “It’s the fragrance that is the most important.” Perfumers have rarely been given credit for their work. They tend to be on the periphery while the focus shifts on to the celebrity, designer or brand associated with the scent. Essential Parfums pays tribute to these gifted individuals in several ways. It’s customary for artists to sign their works, and fragrance is no exception here. Each fragrance bears the name of the nose, from Rose Magnetic by Sophie Labbe to Divine Vanille by Olivier Pescheux to Bois Impérial by Quentin Bisch. Their image is found on the packaging, in brand materials and also in the new shop where their framed portraits line one wall, placed above their scent creation.
Essential Parfums celebrates their ability to translate emotions, ideas, and feelings into fragrance. Their artistry, their talent, their passion and their creativity are all appreciated…..and essential to the brand. Which is also why they are given carte blanche with ingredients. It’s like giving a clean canvas to an artist without limits, allowing their imagination to run wild.
Making haute perfumery at an affordable price is also a credo of the manifesto. “I always wondered why fragrance was so expensive”, Ms. Archambault observed. Having grown up in the industry, working alongside her parents (Parfums Aubusson), she used her knowledge and experience to create an alternative. “I knew the marketing expense, the licensing fees and so much more was built into the price.” While still producing a superior product, her business model cuts out the middlemen to pass the savings on to the consumer.
MAKE IT EASY & NATURAL
Ms Archambault explains, “I wanted something that was easy to understand, affordable, eco-friendly and sustainable.” That’s a tall order to fill. To begin with the perfumers focus on using natural and sustainable raw materials that respect the planet. She added that, “It’s costly and complicated to work with naturals and that’s why they are harder to find in the fragrance world. Our perfumers source the finest sustainable ingredients whenever possible.” The fragrances are made with Beetroot alcohol and no coloring added. The label indicates the percent of natural ingredients in each fragrance which varies from 86 – 93 % - and in fact there are 1 – 4 sustainable ingredients in each fragrance. She did call out to me that, “People have to realize that synthetics are still important to use along with natural ingredients.” In some cases, a synthetic could be more respectful of the planet when considering all implications on the environment, from sourcing, scarcity, carbon footprint and so on.
With fragrance names like Orange x Santal, The Musc and Mon Vetiver, there is no mystery to the key notes. This transparency encourages online sales since “what you see is what you get” in terms of composition.
CHIC & SIMPLE
As stated in the manifesto, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Admittedly, Ms. Archambault wanted her brand to be chic and simple, and this is reflected in the packaging. The glass bottle is an elegant vessel for the fragrance within. “I never liked seeing stems in fragrances so we opted for thinner, more expensive invisible spray tubes,” another classy detail that elevates the product. Each flacon is simply labelled with the fragrance name and the perfumer’s signature. The paper packaging is genius: a corrugated cushion holds the bottle which is wrapped by a geometric-patterned color band. There are no plastics to be seen and this is a hot topic for the brand.
NO PLASTIC PLEASE!
As noted on the website, 8 million tons of plastic waste drifts from inland to the ocean every year. Further, plastic never completely degrades but instead breaks down into small particles barely visible to the naked eye. These tiny particles often end up polluting the ocean. This is one reason why the brand decided to pack the liquid soaps – which are 98% natural made with olive oil and coconut - and hydroalcoholic gel in amber glass bottles. In addition, their glass supplier adheres to “a sustainable development policy by opting for solutions that minimize the environmental impact of the production processes and replacing gas emissions with electric furnaces”. Refills for the liquid soaps are in the works.
This summer Ms Archambault opened the first flagship boutique in the trendy Marais neighborhood of Paris. She told me, “I felt it was a good time to settle the brand”. The minimalist, clean space in soft white shades with natural wood elements offers a calm background against which the fragrances can shine. She also shared that the brand has a high conversion rate, and in fact during my visit, which took place mid-week, mid-morning, at least three customers came into the shop and they all made purchases. In addition to the boutique and the e-shop, the brand is present in over 200 locations around the world in countries as varied as Russia, the UAE, Saudia Arabia, the USA, China, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
A new fragrance, created by Nathalie Lorson of Firmenich, will be launching later this year, as recently revealed on the brands Instagram account. This eighth scent will join the existing assortment, and so far the notes remain top secret. What direction will the new creation take? It’s sure to be an essential addition for all fragrance lovers.