Interviews Interview with Xiujuexi Founder, Christie Shen

Interview with Xiujuexi Founder, Christie Shen

12/29/16 10:02:57 (11 comments)

by: Yi Shang

Christie Shen of Xiujuexi

Xiujuexi founder, Christie Shen

While American perfumistas have wonderful events like Elements Showcase, and Sniffapalooza, Italians enjoy Esxence and Pitti Fragranze, and the French visit the TFWA World exhibition and conference… somehow it always feels like there is not much going on for perfume lovers in the Asia-Pacific region. This might have been the case a few years ago, but thanks to Fragrantica I had the chance to interview Christie Shen, founder of Xiujuexi (嗅觉系, which can be loosely translated from Chinese as olfactory style). She is a passionate woman who tries to bring the wonderful perfume world to more and more Chinese audiences.

Xiujuexi staff and guests photoXiujuexi 2016 exhibition guests, staff, and volunteers group photo

SOFIA: Hello Christie, first of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview. What we’ve learnt is that you organized the Xiujuexi Perfume Exhibition in Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art, on 21-23 October 2016. This exhibition fully utilized the structure of Duolun Museum by occupying three levels. It showcased nearly 2,000 bottles of mainstream and niche perfumes and brought perfume workshops and bottle-signing to the audiences. This is the second cooperation between Xiujuexi and Duolun Museum. Congratulations for organizing such a successful exhibition! Firstly, I’d like to know more about this exhibition and Xiujuexi. For the benefit of those who could not attend, can you please introduce this exhibition to us, and what are some of the highlights?

CHRISTIE: What sparked our initial desire to host Xiujuexi Perfume Exhibition is that, in China, except for those perfume bays in shopping malls, you don’t have a place for learning about perfume. However, due to the goals of the salespersons, shopping malls are not the ideal place for learning about perfume culture or to exchange user experiences. Therefore, we organized Xiujuexi Perfume Exhibition. All you need to do is to buy an entrance ticket, then you can smell two thousand perfumes, take photos, jot down notes… all at your own pace. We also invited a few famous niche perfume founders from some European perfume brands, so the audiences can interact with them face to face. Many visitors brought their favorite perfume here, to show the founders what loyal fans they are. Then it is followed by the founders signing their bottles and having photos taken alongside their fans. This is a quite meaningful experience.

A fan getting her bottle signed at MDCI
A perfume fan having her bottle signed at MDCI stand

SOFIA: Can you share with us how Xiujuexi, as a company, has developed from a concept to now?

CHRISTIE: Early on, we noticed that there was little perfume variety in China, and most perfume brands hadn’t got into the Chinese market yet. If you wanted to buy some perfumes, your first challenge is inconvenience, secondly, you won’t know if you’ll like a scent or not if bought blindly.  Therefore, we believe that the possibility to test-smell a perfume is very important. Especially for the copious amount of niche brands which have no counters in China.

 

SOFIA: As the biggest mediator for brining overseas perfume to the Chinese consumers, what is Xiujuexi’s main business model?

CHRISTIE: We directly negotiate and obtain rights to represent and distribute some overseas perfume brands. What’s important is that the brands need to be ok with our model of using the Internet — after promotion, we allow perfume fans to test first, then decide whether to purchase. Currently we have two brands giving us exclusive distribution rights in China, they are MDCI Parfums, and Chabaud, respectively.

MDCI Parfums showcased at Xiujuexi perfume exhibition
MDCI Parfums at Xiujuexi exhibition

SOFIA: In the exhibition, Xiujuexi chose to go without cabinet counters, in order to foster a relaxed atmosphere, and let people smell things freely. On top of that, I learnt that there was no pressure to make a purchase. In today’s world where nearly everything has a touch of commercial aims, why did Xiujuexi choose to make smelling perfume an experience? Also, why did you prioritize perfume as an art for enjoyment?

CHRISTIE: Maybe it is because I was initially just a perfume fan myself. When you love something, and then get into that industry, you bring a sense of humanity and sentiment. In fact, I’m a bit more in touch with my feelings in my company and I do those things that logical people see as a waste of money with no immediate financial gain. However, I believe what we do will have long term benefit.

A visitor smelling perfume at Xiujuexi perfume exhibitionInside Xiujuexi Exhibition

SOFIA: I’ve learnt that all the perfumes for this exhibition are from someone’s private collection. Is it yours? If so, just out of curiosity, how did you get interested in perfume? Do you have any stories to share?

CHRISTIE: Yes, they are my private collection. I’ve been collecting perfume for about seven to eight years, and I have collected quite a bit. Since I am in this industry, such collection is nothing I can boast for, especially when compared to what many others in a similar position can achieve. The only difference is that we are more eager to do things, and organized an exhibition.

I remember the first ever perfume I smelled is Cool Water for Women by Davidoff. At that moment, I was so intrigued by how a perfume can mimic the scent of water. And from then on, I’ve been studying perfume, and never looked back.

Perfume at the Xiujuexi Perfume exhibitionPerfumes from a private collection being showcased at the Xiujuexi Exhibition

SOFIA: In order to fulfill the needs of the Chinese market, Xiujuexi is selling perfume in small sizes; in addition, you developed new packaging for some perfumes, for example, we can see MDCI perfumes have new labels and they come with corresponding Chinese brochures. Therefore, for those brands pondering whether to get into the Chinese market, can you talk about the needs of the Chinese market? Is localization somewhat a must?

CHRISTIEThe Chinese market has seen drastic improvement in their level of perfume knowledge. I think it is mainly due to Internet celebrities and the economical mode associated with it, and more and more convenient ways for media and communication. These days, if you have a great product, it will sell due to how easy it is to spread the word over the Internet. Therefore, this is a great opportunity for niche brands.

With regard to localization, we respect what a brand’s wishes are. Different brands have different cultures; some have more open-minded approaches when cooperating, and are willing to give the distributor the rights to localize a product. This is the case with MDCI, thus their new packaging and brochures in Chinese.

MDCI packaging for Chinese marketMDCI sets showcased at the Xiujuexi Exhibition

SOFIA: In the exhibition, besides niche brands’ founders and a perfumer, Xiujuexi also invited famous bloggers who have huge followings, popular idols from a reality TV show, like Shao Mingming, Ge Weiyin, and online celebrity shopping anchors who do live broadcasts. I guess some of these guests can seem unlikely for an exhibition, from a more Western perspective. Can you please share a bit about the Chinese market with regard to the Internet celebrity phenomenon?

CHRISTIE: According to some research, China has the world’s number one Internet market. Mobile shopping contributes to more than 90% of e-commerce transactions. Therefore, for this exhibition we thought: if all focus was on the actual exhibition, we could at most reach the people who attended the exhibition. But what if we added in live broadcast at the same time? We would spread to the Chinese netizens. Therefore, we invited two popular idols, and several online celebrity anchors.  They guided their fans through the whole exhibition over their screens. What differentiates Taobao’s [Chinese eBay] live broadcast platform from the others? The difference is that whatever product the anchor is talking about will show up on your screen, and you are only a few clicks away from successfully purchasing it. We got thousands of orders through such seamless instant purchasing function. We’ve also thoroughly experienced the impact of live broadcasting events.

Popular idol Shao Mingming holding a MDCI perfume bottle at Xiujuexi perfume exhibition
A popular TV idol posing with MDCI Parfums perfume bottle

SOFIA: Talking about the Chinese perfume market, according to your observation, how’s Western perfume doing there? Is there any trend in what the Chinese like?

CHRISTIE: Generally speaking, the Chinese still like fresh, light and elegant perfumes. Some themes are naturally preferred by the Chinese, for example, osmanthus, gardenia, bamboo and so on. However, as the Chinese consumers are having more and more improved knowledge about perfumes, top selling perfumes here will also have great quality, because simply relying on marketing won’t get any poor quality perfume to withstand the market.

 

SOFIA: What difficulties will perfume lovers face when buying perfumes in China? What are some of the common ways to buy perfumes here? And what’s an average consumer’s biggest perfume concern?

CHRISTIE: For one, people are quite concerned about the price; another concern is the variety of perfumes one can choose from. Nowadays, more and more people are buying online. I guess an average perfume consumer would be most concerned about how to pick the most suitable perfume for him/herself.

 

SOFIA: Xiujuexi aims to be a bridge between the Chinese perfume market and niche brands. Why niche? What’s the current situation like, and what kind of future do you foresee for niche brands in China?

CHRISTIE: There’s a “blue ocean” opportunity with niche perfumes.  There are so many varieties and background stories, and there are many strongly artistic ones. Many famous salon brands had their very niche days. We are like talent scouts, just like how the Chinese proverb puts it, we are the Bole looking for our Maxima horse. There’s a lot of fun doing it. Niche perfumes are seeing more and more acceptance and popularity in China. Some famous salon perfumes are no longer niche, they metamorphosed into successful commercial brands. It’s quite exciting to see how a perfume brand’s grown.

Chabaud stand at Xiujuexi Exhibition
Chabaud stand at Xiujuexi Exhibition

SOFIA: Whether we like to put it this way or not, we can notice certain popular trends in the perfume world and fashion world. For example, many brands have been quite focused on raw materials like oud recently by launching deep oriental perfumes; whiles a few years ago, it seems many were eager to get on the rose & patchouli bandwagon. So in the newly emerging Chinese market, is there any popular trending scent? Or do you see people self-group by more abstract themes, like “artistic girls love Keiko perfume”?

CHRISTIE: Indeed, trends converge in the fashion world, like this year’s oud trend, and many designer brands launching their exclusive collections. But the majority of Chinese consumers’ preferences are unchanged: fresh, floral and gourmand perfumes are still preferred. With regards to abstract self-grouping, it happens when a brand has at least three or four perfumes sharing similar characteristics, then people give that brand a summarized personality, and that brand in turn becomes the spokesperfume for a certain group of people. Such progress also makes the brand’s personality increasingly clearer.

A visitor at Xiujuexi perfume exhibition
Inside Xiujuexi Exhibition

SOFIA: Do you have any tips or suggestions for the Chinese perfume lovers? No matter if they’ve been hooked for years, or just started showing some budding interest.

CHRISTIE: I hope everyone can thoroughly listen to his/her olfactory preferences. Don’t let a brand’s fame, price, bottle design, or any other outside elements influence how you feel about a perfume. Of course, this is based on the premise that one has smelled quite a lot of perfumes, otherwise the grass is always greener, or the next perfume is always better. Be confident of knowing that what you want is based on experience, same with anything else.

 

SOFIA: Christie, is there anything I haven’t asked, but you’d like to share with our readers?

CHRISTIEWell, I think I’m very lucky because I’m doing what I love as a career. I hope everyone can bravely go after their heart’s desire, and leave no regret in life.

 

Thank you Christie of Xiujuexi for taking time to answer our questions!

 

Photos credits: Xiujuexi

Yi Shang (怡 商)

Editor, Writer & Translator, Fragrantica.asia

Yi Shang, known as Sofia by friends, studied Biochemistry, Humanities & Social Sciences at the postgraduate level (University of Melbourne). Her interest in fragrance began at a young age when she became curious about her mum's perfume while growing up in China. Now residing in Melbourne, she enjoys the lively arts and cultural scene and beautiful beaches. The discovery of Fragrantica has led her on an olfactive journey of discovering what both the Oriental and the Western worlds can offer.



Previous Interviews Next


Advertisement

jeji2c
jeji2c

In 2015 when XJX was organizing the event, a website called NoseTime ("NT" for short) aggressively accused XJX of illegally embezzling the database of NT in order to host and support the event. This accusation was made based on exhibits provided by NT on hxxps:\zhuanlan*zhihu*c0m/p/20275426 (in Chinese, but you may take a look on the screen shots). However, it is also a fact that by that time the accusation was made, the database used—and is using—on NT was batch-fetched from Fragrantica, without any authority of course. Try the website aforementioned and you would easily find the "surprisingly" coincidence. Both sound horrible, right?

Jan
06
2017
jeji2c
jeji2c

Taking into account I have never had or will have any conflict of interest relating to XXJ except when sometimes I searched some niche perfumes on Taobao (comparably Chinese version of eBay), the name of XJX might appear in the results; but should anyone question my intention of exposing the intelligence above, it is your choice to believe either 1) I am a hater who is jealous of XJX making big money and the founder(s) being *filthy* rich; or 2) I only want other perfumistas, brands, perfumers and etc., to be alerted.

Jan
06
2017
jeji2c
jeji2c

The horrible thing about Xiujuexi is that at the beginning of their business, decants of perfumes (1ml, most of the time) were bought in from some Chinese perfumistas to diluted and then re-decanted into 5 (if not more) decants of 0.2ml and sold to others at an unreasonably high price comparing to the cost. Such business pattern lasted for a while and was exposed by few perfumistas and may have stopped since the business of XJX has expanded dramatically over the past 4 or 5 years. Nevertheless, very frequently there are buyers reported the decants they bought from XJX were remarkably different from the full bottle they bought via more reliable channels, viz. shopping malls, duty free stores, official websites, etc. So you do the maths.

It is true that XJX has been very influential in Chinese perfume society and established corporative relationship with various brands, perfumers and other perfume-related organisations, yet I have every right to doubt their business integrity severely.

Jan
06
2017
zoka
zoka

This event is one of the most impressive consumer oriented perfume events from organizational stand point I have ever seen somebody pulls off.

This year at Pitti Fragranza I had honor to meet Christie Shen and we have spent good 2 hours she was educating me about China and Chinese market and what they do. As in many other things when talking about China western people use to say "It's another world". I am impressed with Christie Shen and her team what they do. Also we from Fragrantica are committed to help her next year also we would like to be present at her new event in 2017 in Shanghai.

Beautiful article Sofia and Christine thank you both!

Dec
30
2016
StellaDiverFlynn
StellaDiverFlynn

Thank you for this insightful interview! Holding a convention to introduce and educate the public about perfumes is a brilliant idea. Kudos to Xiujuexi pulling this off, and I hope one day I can also experience this wonderful event.

Dec
29
2016
kristenboris1997
kristenboris1997

Hey takeasniff! Same here - I'm an Aussie and I am now finding perfumers who sell duplicates or Arabic/oriental scents as I am sick of the old, out of date stuff we get sold at not so cheap a price. No wonder the perfumes we get don't last as they are so obviously old stock! I would love for someone to do what this lady has done. We are severely lacking here in Australia though we still love to smell nice. I am imagine the Asian market would be absolutely huge - there are plenty of people. Another option to buy from is India. I am even buying from the UK, direct from Dubai or Egypt etc. Sigh, it doesn't end up being to badly priced and oils are a much better option or Palermo Perfumes in Australia are a good option too.

Dec
29
2016
takeasniff
takeasniff

Try living in Australia where all you get in stores is the same old thing and chemist warehouse or other chemists just get the overstock that didnt sell at myer or david jones forget new flankers there are a lot that i have never been able to try we just dont get them and im not talking about niche this is popular perfimes with flankers that we never see just the same old things that were released ages ago or they get a flanker that was released ages ago and want to charge a fortune for it when it is already old news and the world has moved on.

Dec
29
2016
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Brilliant interview, overview, and concept!

I personally believe this approach to selling/displaying/educating about scent is IDEAL. It's too bad that we don't do such conventions in other parts of the world ( regions of the US included) where perfume is also hard to obtain. The Chinese are not alone in facing blind buys!

Everything about this convention makes excellent sense to me, from the niche brands to the smaller size bottles available. It is heartening to see such a concept being put into execution. KUDOS. :D

Dec
29
2016
AriaNikolic
AriaNikolic

So sad that I missed it

Dec
29
2016
smellagent
smellagent

I never knew that they had less access to niche then me in the United States. I am always complaining about some exclusive only available at Harrods, now that has been put into proper perspective. It does sound like things are about to blow up in China with the Niche market so I am happy. Everyone should have thousands if not millions of choices. Great interview Sofia.

Dec
29
2016
johngreenink
johngreenink

Extremely important interview and lots of great information about the Chinese market. I have always thought that it will emerge very soon and be a very important one for perfumes. It's important that people understand what the public appreciates in China and other parts of Asia. Thanks for asking great questions, I know this has helped me understand it much better!

Dec
29
2016

Add Your Review

Become a member of this online perfume community and you will be able to add your own reviews.

Advertisement

Advertisement

New Perfumes

Chocolate Perfume OilDame Perfumery Scottsdale
Chocolate Perfume Oil

Esprit Pure Summer Edition For MenEsprit
Esprit Pure Summer Edition For Men

Esprit Pure Summer Edition For WomenEsprit
Esprit Pure Summer Edition For Women

Dream FearlesslyMary Kay
Dream Fearlessly

Live FearlesslyMary Kay
Live Fearlessly

Love FearlesslyMary Kay
Love Fearlessly

My SinLanvin
My Sin

La Viola ParadiseLouis Cardin
La Viola Paradise

Crystal ScentLouis Cardin
Crystal Scent

Prelude S. BlancheEudora
Prelude S. Blanche

IodiceJAFRA
Iodice

Claudia RaiaJAFRA
Claudia Raia

ManAvon
Man

RoseSolinotes
Rose

Chrome PureAzzaro
Chrome Pure

Original OudLouis Cardin
Original Oud

La Viola HommeLouis Cardin
La Viola Homme

Credible OudLouis Cardin
Credible Oud

HanahirakuParfum Satori
Hanahiraku

Gucci Bamboo Limited Edition Gucci
Gucci Bamboo Limited Edition

MinaudièreJudith Leiber
Minaudière

Minaudière OudJudith Leiber
Minaudière Oud

Maasaï MaraParfums Berdoues
Maasaï Mara

Glam X Eau de ParfumChristina Aguilera
Glam X Eau de Parfum

Orris VetiverElegantes
Orris Vetiver

Ultimate MuskElegantes
Ultimate Musk

Rose ElegantesElegantes
Rose Elegantes

La Nuit Tresor L'Eau de ToiletteLancome
La Nuit Tresor L'Eau de Toilette

Sweet Like Candy Limited EditionAriana Grande
Sweet Like Candy Limited Edition

Fantasy in BloomBritney Spears
Fantasy in Bloom

Popular brands and perfumes: