Innovation | 24 August, 2017

Latin American Entrepreneurs in Switzerland (I)

Cristina Albuja Operational Risk

Perfumes: The Empire of the Senses

The cosmetics industry and the perfume segment in particular are especially competitive sectors. Two Swiss firms, Givaudan and Firmenich, account for between 30% and 40% of the global market, making them the world’s main fragrance and flavour creators.

The two companies founded in 1895, Givaudan located in the Canton of Zurich and Firmenich in Geneva, produce food flavourings (a large part of their business is creating the flavourings we consume in drinks or snacks) as well as personal hygiene products.  Furthermore, they are the main fragrance suppliers for top-market perfume brands. With operations across all the continents, these companies report sales exceeding $8 billion dollars a year.

With such a background, setting up a luxury perfume business in Switzerland (or in the world) would seem a utopia.

How do you manage to enter such a competitive industry as cosmetics?

“The most important aspect is to attract attention and that is achieved by marking the difference,” explains Julián Bedel, creator of the top brand among South America’s most sophisticated perfumes:  ‘Fueguia 1883’. This Argentine perfumer and entrepreneur is also a musician, sculptor and luthier, which explains why his brand is different – because he offers perfumery as an integral product.  “From seeking out exotic native species, formulating the aromas, packaging and sale in our own outlets,” Bedel comments.  They have stores in Tokyo, New York, Zurich, Buenos Aires, Milan and Zurich and  Bedel confesses that Fueguia has been well received in Zurich where clients are more demanding and always seeking the most exclusive products on the market.

Many of the ingredients have been used in perfumery for the first time, a challenge seeking to capture the delicacy of subtle, invisible reactions.  “There are fragrances produced by night flowers that are chemical reactions, very difficult to recreate due to the fragility of the essence.” He is currently working on capturing the fragrances produced in the interaction between microbes and plants, scents overflowing with suggestive qualities.

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This entrepreneur tells us that his main source of inspiration for creating his perfumes is nature, above all Argentinia’s Patagonia region.  One of his most acclaimed creations is ‘Ballena de la Pampa’, the perfume used by Laurene Powell, Steve Jobs’ widow, achieved from ambergris, a substance produced by whales and a dry paste distillation.  His most loyal clients include Elton John, who buys candles to create the ambience in this studio, and the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, amongst other celebrities.

In order to choose a suitable fragrance, this perfumer advises that it is important “not to buy impulsively, to always smell it on your skin and to let it settle.”  He explains that we are not the same during the day and at night and we project different energies, therefore we need different fragrances.  There is always a perfume that reminds us of a stage in our lives, so a good way of concluding that stage, were it necessary, would be by changing the perfume associated with it.