Interviews Behind the Scenes of Fragranze: An Interview with Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Fragranze

Behind the Scenes of Fragranze: An Interview with Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Fragranze

10/31/16 10:24:50

by: Juliett Ptoyan

Pitti Fragranze has already finished, but the reviews on fragrances we've met there are still appearing in our newsfeed. After 14 years (this edition was the 14th), this event has become one of the two most important shows in the fragrant world, and it's easy to understand why: it is professionally managed, has a strong selection of brands and offers great press services. The result is an event that's interesting not only for insiders, but also for aficionados who don't have any connections with the industry, but simply a strong love for perfumes.

This time around, I had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Raffaello Napoleone, CEO of Pitti Immagine, a parent company that organizes a number of important shows in different directions, such as Pitti Uomo (a fair dedicated to men's fashion), Pitti Bimbo (a children's fashion event), Pitti Taste (a.k.a. 3 days in heaven for a foodie) and many more. We discussed the concept of the last fair, its connection with other Pitti projects and many more. Read the full conversation below!

Mr. Raffaello Napoleone

JULIETTA: How did you choose the concept of this year's Fragranze? 

RAFFAELLO: In fact, we organize not only this fragrance event, but also fashion shows like Uomo and Moda Prima, and therefore looks and aesthetics are very important. We're scouting for the latest trends and select the best of them to create a new atmosphere, to attract people's interest. It started with Pitti Uomo, but now we have a selection of fairs that cover different directions: children, food, home goods, accessories, and so on. As far as Fragranze is concerned, we have so much input from the outside; we put it all together with our internal committee of Pitti. In fact, we already used the Story of Numbers idea for Pitti Uomo, so we started thinking: "Why don't we use the same concept, with numbers, for Fragranze?". We liked this idea, because with fragrances we felt we could dive even deeper into the theme. You will encounter these magical numerical visuals everywhere in the Leopolda space, and it looks completely different from how it looked when we started 14 years ago, the year Fragranze was established. For the first exhibition we placed a lemon tree house from Corsini Gardens here, in Florence. There were far fewer exhibitors, and everything looked so natural and unique. The Corsini family is very noble, they have Popes and Saints in their family tree. 

JULIETTA: So, the concept of this fair can be considered as a pure form of art, since you've linked it with both feelings and the history of the fair. How do the concepts of the different exhibitions, like Bimbo, Filati, Taste, etc., intercross with each other and with Fragranze especially?

RAFFAELLO: In fact, each fair has its own appointments and meetings, they follow their own path because they're very specialized. But we always keep in mind a frame in which we can work, to keep events actual and to create a balance.  

JULIETTA: This is the 14th Fragranze, and it has played a big role in the development of the industry. How do you feel it has changed? 

RAFFAELLO: Of course it has changed, and the changes are quite big. In the very beginning it was a really small event with only niche brands, the niche of the niche, you know, and it was a part of our Home fair (so in reality it's even older than 14, probably 16 or 17 already). Now it's an important part of the perfumery business worldwide, because there a many more brands and they come from different countries, bringing elements of their native culture, their heritage and their spirit, of course. Still, there's a different approach here than in the mainstream fragrance and cosmetics business: different relationships between the brands and distributors, customers, etc. 

The hall at Stazione Leopolda

JULIETTA: How do you choose the brands? Are there any requirements for them?

RAFFAELLO: We have a technical committee with experts that organizes meetings and knows everything about the brands: who is behind them, how are they distributed, etc. Today if you're heading to Sicily, or another part of Italy, there is always a range of different Acqua di... (fill the gap). And we need to know everything about these brands just to be sure. Now, we also have a Spring chapter, in which we try to give an opportunity to young brands and introduce some of the hot off the press projects to the public.  

JULIETTA: But there are many small-time brands; brands we meet today and won't be able to find anymore tomorrow. What do you think about that?

RAFFAELLO: You know, that's not an unusual situation, it is part of the normal development of the industry. Many entrepreneurs start a new business, work on it for 1-2-3 seasons and then disappear, and you never know who it will be. When a brand starts to be seen as boring, it's always time to change something, but not everyone can perceive this. And our challenge is to select the ones who are promising, by analyzing their background, their history and their approach. 

JULIETTA: I can see how that could be a bit challenging. What role do you think Fragranze plays in Pitti Immagine's life?

RAFFAELLO: Actually a big role: right now, Fragranze is the leader in fragrant events, and we need to keep that at the same level. Of course, we also have Uomo, which is much bigger, but it has a 45 years old history, and Fragranze  only 14. 

JULIETTA: An important part of this fair is the events that take place in the conference hall. How do you choose the speakers?

RAFFAELLO: We always have Chandler Burr, because he's the person who was in charge of fragrance in the NY Times for several years, and now we have someone from India who works in the industry and produces different raw materials. Our goal is to try to catch the most influential people in the perfumery business, and we ask them for a lecture or something similar. It's simple: if you want good results, then you need to work with the best. 

Unscent area

JULIETTA: Please tell me more about the Unscent exposition. This event always evolves around entertainment and looks really nice, but how do you synchronize the main idea of the event with the concept of this area?

RAFFAELLO: Yes, you're right, it's about entertaining. In fact, we just want to make a place for visitors where they don't only have an opportunity to meet new scents, but to observe them, to have fun with them maybe. And its concept is always a part of the Fragranze theme, we always try to balance it. 

JULIETTA: There are also very many beauty brands at Fragranze, their number rising every year. Have you thought about a fair that would cover the development of this niche sector within the cosmetic industry? 

RAFFAELLO: No, not yet. We actually don't want to think about Fragranze as a regular fair but rather as a gathering where people can see each other and try new products. Since the very beginning, we have chosen brands with traditions, and now we have a selection of them here. Beauty brands are simply a part of this story and for now, I'd prefer to keep it that way.

Julietta Ptoyan


Julietta is an editor and columnist for who joined our team in 2015 after several years of working in the beauty industry.

She also contributes to Russian glossy magazines as a perfume journalist and has a passion for contemporary fragrances, launched from the 90s til now.

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