Some moments are life-changing. My parisian encounters with the Différentes Latitudes crew, and the discovery of the niche perfumes they create and distribute have inspired the creation of the new perfume counter H Parfums.
CONVERSATION WITH DAVID FROSSARD
You studied philosophy, you boxed, you still teach; how did you “land” in the world of perfume?
My uncle had a perfume distribution company in Africa and the Indian Ocean and I worked in his warehouse when I was studying philosophy. Then he offered me a distribution job in Africa, which I refused because I wanted to be a teacher. But then I ended up accepting it; I told myself: it’s an adventure!
You founded a niche perfume distribution company about ten years ago. What pushed you in that direction?
I noticed that the major known brands like Givenchy, Dior, etc, were selling under the guise of making a mass market or medium market product into a luxury. Their system was to do mass communication with enormous budgets and movie stars, and then obtain an immediate return on investment. The products are highly standardized, particularly through blind tests. They bring people together in a room to find the lowest common denominator: generally, it’s that the perfume is fresh, that it smells a little good, a little clean. These are very easy things.
Fortunately there is an informed clientele who love perfume and who are looking for real creativity in perfumery. That’s what I sensed when I set up my company ten years ago. The market has evolved greatly in the past 4 years. The big groups aren’t growing any more. That’s why they’re vying with new product launches to avoid losing too much market share. The niche has exploded. It is now being bought out by the big groups who know this is the future of the perfume industry.
How do you choose a perfume?
Perfume is a reflection of personality, of a certain originality that people put forward. It requires a certain amount of research and exploration.
You choose a perfume like you choose a book. You think about what you want to read, you browse in the bookstore, you ask yourself is this really what I feel like reading right now? It’s not like buying a loaf of bread in 2 seconds.
If I take my time choosing a perfume that suits me, that has a story that pleases me, that has scents that appeal to me, then it becomes something authentic, and when someone smells me, he’ll say, “what are you wearing?” and I’ll answer, “it’s a unique perfume I found in a very special boutique…”
What’s the difference between the niche and the commercial market in terms of raw materials?
90% of the time, the commercial perfume industry doesn’t need to use expensive fine raw materials. They have a cost of goods for their product that is very, very low, generally 3%. Except in the limited editions. With their advertising clout, they don’t need to make a product with creative juices, raw materials that have a value of 250 to 500 euros per kilo, which is what is involved in our case. Why? Because we aren’t known and people have to appreciate a certain olfactory quality and feel that the perfume has staying power, that it’s something different.
When you go into large surface stores, the perfumes are presented in well-defined sections, men or women. The niche proceeds in a completely different way with a mixed perfume offering, at least most of the time.
This whole Man/Woman story was created with the same vision of perfume as a mass market product. But perfume as such isn’t for men or for women. It depends on the culture. In the Middle East, many men wear very refined rose notes and this suits them very well. There are women who wear woody perfumes that are magnificent. It depends on their personality and the pH of their skin. You can be a big guy with lots of tattoos and counterbalance this with a floral note. Obviously, when creating perfumes, there are some stories that are more masculine, others that are more feminine.
Above all, the perfumes I create or distribute seek to express a certain point of view, like French-style quality and elegance with Frapin, dark romantic creativity with Liquides Imaginaires, or Parisian femininity with BDK Parfums
Frapin, BDK Parfums and Liquides Imaginaires are available at H Parfums in Montreal, and on our website hparfums.com.
Article: Louise Lamarre