lunedì 27 aprile 2015

A trip at the Perfume Chest.




Do you think perfumes stores are "shops where people sell perfumes"? You're right.
Do you think perfumes stores are shops where people sell perfumes  only? Well, this time you're wrong.
There are a few stores which are "Perfume Museums", too. 
Try to imagine it: when you enter in such a store, you enter in a Time Capsule: surrounded by perfumes from 30, 40, 50 years ago... 
A real (and pleasant) blast from the past.
Here, in the heart of Turin, in the northern Italy, not far from the French border, in the beautiful 19th-century "Galleria Umberto", there is a very unusual store: actually, it's a sort of  Historical Museum of Perfumery. Its name? "Elide's Perfumes".
Just enter at "Elide's", have a look around, and guess if you travelled back in time.
The owner, Mr. Gianni Bertetti, is not just the person serving the customer: he is a person who loves to chat, narrating stories and anecdotes about perfumes from the past.
And, above all, is an extraordinarily competent person, with decades of experience in the perfumes field.
(All photos in this article were shot at "Elide's Perfumes" in Turin, Italy)

The 19th century "Gsalleria Umberto", in Turin, Italy.

AndreMoreau (AM): Good morning Mr. Bertetti, can you tell us something about your perfume store?
GianniBertetti (GB): My family entered the world of perfumes during the II World War, in 1944, when Elide (it's my mum's name), arrived here in the "Galleria Umberto", to work as a saleswoman. Fifteen years later she bought the store, adding it her name ("Elide's perfumes"), a name preserved until our days. 
There could not be a better time to start such a business, because at the end of the Fifties Italy started to become a wealthy country. 
The store underwent several renovations during the Sixties and Seventies, and since 1992 -following my mum's death- this store arrived in my hands. 
Today I am still the owner, and I manage "Elide's Perfumes" together with Carmen, my wife.
Briefly, my family has been involved in perfumes, here in Turin, for nearly seventy years, continuously. 
Seventy years during which we have witnessed virtually all ages and all trends in perfumery.


...such things could happen during the Seventies....
Estèe Lauder and her husband (on left), on holidays in Italy, 
during a dinner with Gianni Bertetti (sit at the table) and his family.

AM: I have no trouble believing that, during the last 70 years, you and your family have been living all different trends in perfumery... but I understand you witnessed it at the highest levels! For example, I see here your famous photo, portraying a dinner with Estée Lauder -just her in person!-  I wonder how many people can claim to have had dinner together with Estée Lauder!
GB: Well, many people remain surprised and admired for that photo, but at least for me, such things were pretty ordinary! 
What we call "perfumery" was very different, when you compare old times to the modern ones. 
First, "perfumes" were a synonym for "elegance", and a perfume was an important element in daily life, gaining a lot of attention and consideration; apart this, it was easier to stay in touch with important people during old days.
So, when Estée Lauder and her husband went in Italy for holidays, it was not difficult for us to call them for a dinner all together. 
And the same thing could be said for other people involved in perfumery, such as many directors, for example the ones from "Revlon", "Estée Lauder", "Helena Rubinstein"... all friends of mine.

Profumeria Elide,Torino.

AM : Let's say it, it was just a different era ...
GB : Absolutely different. Let's admit it, the commercial aspect was always important, but I can assure you there were solid human relationships between us. The motto: "Money is everything", was not so imperative during old times; it is imperative in modern times. 
In addition, there was a lot of competence in those days. Any people in charge for perfumes, in any aspect, was really competent and expert in such a field. He knew the subject and what he was dealing with. 
On the contrary, today, many people do not even know what's a "perfume".
During the "Golden Age" of perfumes, in the Sixties and Seventies, and until the Eighties, there was a lot of mutual respect between people. 

Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM: Here, let's talk about "golden age" of perfumes, yesterday and today: what about the "sale figures"? Can you give us an example?
GB: First, we must consider that we had many wealthy years -with highs and lows- at least until the Nineties ... let's say it, Italy has been a rich and wealthy country, for decades. 
And this led to a greater purchase of luxury goods, such as perfumes. People spent a lot of money. I remember Atkinsons delivering perfumes, creams, soaps, shaving foam ....using light trucks full of these products, only for our store! 
Another one that comes in my mind mind was Revlon: when "Charlie" hit the market, we were not even able to cope with all the requests. 
In those years there were the "reservations", i.e. customers came into the shop asking a "reservation" on the merchandise that was yet to come. Yes, this means "blind buys"! People were hungry for news, and everything was welcome.
An interesting aspect was that people paid more, for less products than today.


Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : What do you mean ?
GB : That is to say that the number of fragrances available at the time was much lower than today: the launch of new products, although highly anticipated by the public, was slow and saltuary. Today we are launching a disproportionate number of new scents by hundreds of different manufacturers, with a distribution pulverized into a thousand different channels .

Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM: I wonder if you are talking about the so-called "niche perfumery" ?
GB: Look, for old sellers like us, the term "niche perfumery" is something that makes us smile. I think it is essentially "a trend", orchestrated by money reasons. I attend salons, fairs, seminars, I observe trends. There are dozens of new manufacturers, hundreds of new fragrances, many, many new "noses" ... but is it an exaggeration, isn't it? How many of these new brands, or perfumes, will remain in the next 10 years? 
And the "distribution".... we have to spend a few words about it. 
People think only at "perfume on the shelves", but they never think to the "distribution". Yet the distribution is very important: when you have to deal with hundreds, thousands of new perfumes and manifacturers, how a "distribution" can exist? 
At last, how many of these new "noses" are really competent about perfumes? I talked to some of them, and I do not hide my concerns. Are all these new "noses", or "fragrance inventors",  really competent in their task?

Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : Well, in your opinion, when did perfumery begin its decline ?

GB : If we want to talk about historical periods, the first signs that something was wrong arrived, incredibly enough, in 1990. In 1995, we understood that the "golden age" was over, since there were many signs of fatigue and decline. Why? Because of the "cannibalization" by big corporations. Traditional brands were acquired by large groups, corporations, and lost their independence; had to keep an eye on revenues more than the quality of the scent, and soon it came to affect the final product. At last, you have to consider the IFRA regulations at the end of the Nineties, which limited the use of the ingredients commonly used in perfumery, and you get the whole picture.


AM : Can you give a practical example?
GB : Let's talk about a cornerstone: Guerlain. The last great, unforgettable perfume created by Guerlain was "Samsara", in 1989. After "Samsara", there were very few perfumes at the same high level.

Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : Speaking about perfumery during the "golden age", what are the scents you remember with most pleasure?
GB : Among female scents, I'd put "Shalimar" by Guerlain, "1000 " by Jean Patou (which was my mother's scent) and "Fracas" by Robert Piguet on top of the list. About masculines, being a traditionalist, I choose "Vetiver" and "Habit Rouge" by Guerlain. But I like old Hermès too, such as "Equipage" and "BelAmi", and the old, traditional "Floris" scents, now discontinued. Yes, I'm a nostalgic man!


Profumeria Elide, Torino.
AM : Regardless of the commercial success and regardless personal preferences, can you give us some examples of "well crafted scents", in your opinion?
GB : There are many, it's difficult  to name just a few.... 
However, the first that come in my mind are Hermès and Caron scents, both able to convey emotions, still in our days. 
Other fragrances superbly made are the very first Armani and Dolce&Gabbana. And Van Cleef & Arpels ones too. I am speaking about "First" and the classic "VC&A pour Homme" ... and many others.

Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : What are -in your opinion- perfumes that got huge success, although not deserving any merit at all? And, on the contrary, what perfumes deserved a lot, but failed?
GB : Unfortunately, you are right. Many perfumes did not get the deserved success, or received appraisal only after discontinuation. 
There is a factor that is not sufficiently emphasized: the "success" is given not only by the "quality", but mainly by the "distribution" and "advertising".  
These are the two elements (distribution and advertising) that make "success or failure". 
If a perfume is sold only in one or two stores, or if it don't receive any advertising, how can buyers know its existence? And how can buyers know its value and quality?
About bad perfumes: I do not want to mention any scent because it is unpolite, but a lot of scents got huge success only thanks to a widespread distribution and consistent advertising, although - we perfectly know it - being absolute craps.


Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : Any name in modern perfumes, on which you would like to bet?
GB : Unfortunately I do not see many rising stars in modern perfumes, unless you want to consider really small producers... However, I hope them to be noticed by the big brands. It could be an attempt to produce something different - do you notice how scents seem to be very similar each other, in our days? 
However, keep in mind that very few things in perfumery remain to be "created". Sometimes I think that it would be better to re-evaluate old masterpieces, instead of "creating" new perfumes.
These old scents apparently appear as "antique", "dated",  yet they are very "modern", even according to the current days. 
So my proposal is to "rediscover",  rather than "create". 


Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : Among the many anecdotes you know, there is one in particular you'd like to tell us?
GB : Well, just moments ago you asked for the difference between yesterday and today. Here, I want to tell you this funny story: one day a refined and elegant lady enter in the shop, worried because her perfume seemed to be discontinued: "Ombre Rose" by Jean Charles Brosseau . I assure her that it was still in production, and she happily -and perhaps fearing of not finding it anymore- bought all the bottles I had in the shop. I had twelve bottles of "Ombre Rose"! Can you imagine "Ombre Rose" premium price, many years ago? And someone buying twelve bottles at a time? This is unconceivable today.


Profumeria Elide, Torino.

AM : One last question . What about the future of perfumes?
GB : Good question! Not being able to see the future, I can not predict anything , but I think the honesty and willingness to learn are foundations on which you can build something, in this field. And, after decades of work, we are still here.

Gianni Bertetti in Milan, 2015

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MISCELLANEOUS
PICTURES from "Elide's Perfumes".

Giant 1-liter, 31.4oz. Pierre Cardin 
Giant 0.9 liter,  30 oz. Aramis









"Femme", by Rochas

Shalimar Extrait, by Guerlain








2 commenti:

  1. Grazie per aver postato il nostro scatto caro Gianni.
    Complimenti ad Andrè per la magnifica intervista.
    Un osservatorio nostalgico sulla profumeria d'altri tempi... di cui avvertiamo molto la mancanza.
    Per fortuna, professionisti come te riescono ancora a fare in modo che sopravviva.
    Un abbraccio.

    Silvia

    RispondiElimina
  2. Great website you've got here, I intend to bookmark and come back with more time for a better look round! Stumbled across your site trying to work out the age of some vintage Opium and got completely side tracked reading your articles. I am hoping you have a good one on Caron, trying to date my Narcisse Noir EDT. Only issue with the site is I find the white letters on black background quite hard to read. Keep up the good work!

    RispondiElimina

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