Premium Beauty News - The Different Company was born with the concept of niche perfumery. What was it meant for back then?
Luc Gabriel - When the brand was created, there was no “niche” market, so to speak. There were only perfumer-composer-creators, designers, and a desire to go back to a genuine form of olfactory luxury, since this dimension had almost disappeared the previous decade. In the 2000s, perfumery as a whole had become very popular, and the luxury category was mostly supposed to help make a lot of money on booming markets. Everyone was happy from an economic standpoint, but as regards the olfactory dimension, since the 1970s/80s, things had been more complicated.
As our name suggests, The Different Company emerged with the idea of launching an alternative perfumery with a return to basics. First, it was about rediscovering truly exceptional materials worked very differently, or introducing hardly known olfactory elements. Also, it was aimed to offer the possibility to create a perfume without any constraints related to a type of customers or to what was thought to be a market demand. And all this should be showcased in beautiful, specially designed bottles which were already refillable, much before it became a trend. That was the starting point for the brand, and all this remains true now.
Premium Beauty News - Back to basics. Does this still characterize niche perfumery?
Luc Gabriel - The message has become very confused. Many players associate their own image to niche values, but they do not respect them. To me, the offering changed after the 2008 crisis. New brands emerged, some of which had creative ambitions, while others were more marketing-oriented. The market had grown big enough for brands to position themselves on a given segment. For example, By Kilian was definitely a luxury brand with very high prices. As for L’Atelier Cologne, they entered a category that had clearly been abandoned, and they managed to develop and add value to it. These are two completely different positionings, but both brands were purchased by major groups. As a matter of fact, with the help of very strong investments, they are now available all around the world, in Asia, in Duty Free stores. In both cases, the model defined at the beginning has changed, and it is no longer the same trade, but the terms used do remain the same: “niche perfume” describes completely different products now. It is a message that is difficult to understand for consumers.
Premium Beauty News - So, is a niche emerging in the niche segment?
Luc Gabriel - There will most probably be a segmentation in the offering of perfume brands, together with a segmentation in the distribution offering. Some niche points of sale offer up to 60 brands, sometimes more. To me, it is antinomical with the very notion of niche. It is just not possible to appropriately advise customers with so much choice. So, the upstream selection done by points of sale will strongly develop. And so will the number of points of sale, with marked specificities meeting the demand of consumers in search for more sophisticated creations. Things will just go back to what niche perfumes were when they emerged in the early 2000s.
Premium Beauty News - How has The Different Company evolved over the past 20 years?
Luc Gabriel - We have known different phases. A growth phase until 2008, and then there was the crisis: everyone got their fingers burnt. Then, there was a slowdown during which customers were keener on new launches. But, since 2016, we have noticed renewed interest in our fragrances. The market is getting saturated, but our strategy remains coherent.
Our bottles have always been refillable, and it is now a strong trend. Everything can be recycled, except for the pump. Customers like that, although we never really communicated about it. We are perceived as an authentic niche brand strongly developing in the whole Asia-Middle East region.
Premium Beauty News - What are your projects?
Luc Gabriel - We have projects focusing on olfactory products which go beyond the mere bottle and spray combination. We are also working on bases other than alcoholic ones. I am considering all forms possible to use a perfume differently.
Premium Beauty News - How do you think the market will evolve?
Luc Gabriel - The post-COVID era will make things complicated for many players. This situation will most probably drain the market in terms of purchases, distribution, and brands. It is not necessarily a bad thing.