Seldom seen in Oman, the National Museum became the centre for a national discussion as three world-renowned perfumery houses dissected the topic "The Perfumery Industry: Exploring New Frontiers."
A collaboration between the National Museum of Oman, the French Embassy to the Sultanate of Oman and the Omani-French Friendship Association, fragrance creators and experts from the Houses of Amouage, Givaudan and Hermes shared some insights as to how perfumery has helped shaped the world and where the industry is headed in a world full of different evolving economic and socio-cultural challenges.
The panel discussion is part of the cultural programmes accompanying the ‘Fragrant Journeys’ exhibition, which is a collaboration between the National Museum of Oman and the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon who have agreed to showcase a selection of perfume related artifacts.
H.E Veronique Aulagnon, Ambassador of France to the Sultanate of Oman, said “Already, prestigious perfume houses such as Amouage work closely with French perfumers and producers. But we could certainly go even further in our exchanges of expertise and cooperation, given the Sultanate's desire to develop this sector within the framework of Vision 2040 and France's leading role in this sector. I am convinced that Oman has much to learn from French know-how to develop its brands internationally and create more jobs around the perfume industry in Oman, just as France has much to learn from the scent heritage and creativity of the Sultanate, this land of incense and refinement.”
An archive of perfume history
Hermes, being the most storied among the three houses, had its first perfume appear in the market in the 1950s. Represented by Patricia Mourier, Area Manager of Hermes, she went through the brief history of perfumery sharing how its origin is traced back to ancient civilizations and used as offerings to the gods.
From its early popular use by the Egyptians, the Romans and the Greeks, how the Middle East and the Islamic culture had been instrumental in the industry's development and propagation between the 6th and 19th centuries officially introducing the concept in Europe in the 14th century.
She also briefly looked into its growing popularity in the 19th century and the modern times with Italian regions including the French region of Grasse becoming the centre of studies, production and distribution.
She expertly navigated through time offering insights into how a perfume was used, not only as a way to mask the bad smell or to deter the plague but its elevated status in society.
"Hermes is driven by beautiful materials and objects. The artisans are at the heart of the business and we are always in search of quality, excellence and innovation," Mourier shared.
"Hermes style is associated with creativity, high quality and know-how. The quality of the materials we use is at the centre of what we do whichever branch of the house it is under," she added.
Bringing back the magic
For the House of Amouage, CEO Marco Parsiegla and chief experience officer Renaud Salmon presented the portfolio of Amouage including the company's direction and its role in modern perfumery.
Parsiegla explained that they operate under three key points: making their clients stand out, bringing the magic back to the category, and becoming an ambassador explaining that what they do becomes a reflection of Oman as a country filled with mystery and beauty that needed to be shared with the world.
Parsiegla shared that he and his team have decided to skirt away from the luxury brand category and focused more on high perfumery which he said has amazing potential and where their expertise lie and that testament to this right approach is their continuous global expansion as well as Amouage's successfully crossing the US$100 million retail sales threshold during the first half of 2022.
As someone in charge of the direction and creativity of the company, Salmon shared that he went through a lot of self-reflection and has come to the realization that the world is ready for a different kind of luxury, one that puts Oman at its heart.
"I think the world of luxury is ready for a different type of luxury. A luxury that is more aware of its time, that is a little bit off-the-beaten-track where Oman is not just another destination or country but something that offers something more unique and with meaning," he said.
To take the company forward and take a bigger pie of the high perfumery market, Amouage is committed to working with some of the world's perfumers, young and experienced ones, that would help create a diverse range of fragrances but all centred around their vision board of Oman.
Stronger France-Oman relations
The National Museum's Bayt Greiza is currently home to the "Fragrant Journeys" exhibition officially opened in October of this year. In the first joint cultural exhibition between Oman and France, 23 well-curated art pieces were loaned from the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts and will be on display until May 7, 2023.
For his part, Quentin Bisch, perfumer and expert from the House of Givaudan, shared that he was commissioned to create three scents that would become an interactive and crucial part of the exhibition.
He explained that for his process, he takes inspiration from different art pieces and his travels, and he identified three art pieces with different historical values to become his muse. The result was three fragrances that he shared captured the essence of the pieces.
Beyond the three fragrances, Bisch shared that he was excited to also have been allowed to work on a fourth fragrance that connects the two friendly countries of Oman and France.
Because the direction was so clear, he said the process resulted in a fragrance he called Muscat Paris, which strongly captures the two countries' unified essence.
Asked whether small perfume producers in Oman will ever have an opportunity at Amouage, the panellists from the company shared that they are looking forward to finding an Omani master perfumer that would become a part of their team.
They said that as part of their social responsibility, they are also working with different communities not only supporting the farmers that produce the raw materials but extending their support where it can be of great value to the development of the industry in Oman.
At the end of the panel discussion Sayyid Khalid bin Hamad al Busaidi, Chairman of SABCO Group addressed a speech said: I was very touched to listen to all our speakers this morning, at Amouage we have been very proud to be associated with Oman and to be Oman’s leading fragrance house in the global scene. We thank very much the Omani French Friendship Association for organising this event today, it is also an honor to be here and to be part of this whole process over the past few weeks about the Omani adventures in the world of fragrance.