Prada’s spring/summer 2015 presentation showed a delightful army of coats with dark frayed hemlines and opulent, vintage-style fabrics that looked like it came right out of an upholstery shop. A fawn-coloured carpeted runway piled high with dunes of sparkling lilac sand set the stage for the visual tapestry, as the melancholic guitar riffs of Maggot Brain’s “Kiss Me” drifted through the air. Yet, as the models marched out to the delight of audiences, it was palpable that one thing was missing: A matching scent. The sensual Prada Candy perfume, with its powerful combination of musk and caramel, would have made the emotional intensity of the show complete.
Such is the nature of a fragrance: It elevates and enhances experiences through its engagement of the senses. Despite this, a perfume’s appeal can still be short-lived if it is not anchored in the context of a story—a fact that Barcelona-based fashion and fragrance business Puig is apparently well acquainted with.
Founded in 1914 by Antonio Puig, the company calls itself the “novelists of scent;” an apt epithet that captures Puig’s divine ability to shape the image of its fragrances through fashion, coupled with associations of feelings and sensations. It’s a formula that clearly works for the house. After all, the third-generation family-owned firm celebrated its 100th anniversary last year after a century of worldwide expansion through the creation and acquisition of new brands, and the affirmation of fashion fragrances as its key priority.
Fashion Forward Puig’s first foray into fashion came in 1968, at a time when the family had two respectable fragrances—Agua Lavanda and Agua Brava—to its name. Seeking to expand beyond its native Spain, Antonio and Mariano Puig, the founder’s sons,
visited a young Paris-based designer in his tiny, black-walled studio
on Rue Bergère, where they discussed business on stools made of bicycle seats. The designer was Paco Rabanne who was on the
lookout for a partner, a “virgin in the field of perfumery.” That
meeting led to a four-decade long relationship that resulted in fragrances imbued with Rabanne’s fashion DNA—from the rebellious rock star of ’93’s XS line, to the ultra-virile hero of
Invictus in 2013. Puig’s choice of top noses like Michel Girard and Olivier Pescheux for Paco Rabanne was also key in the success of the brand. As Rabanne notes: “The Puig family taught me that a perfume should aspire to reach several generations. A fashion collection lasts six months, but a fragrance can last 40 years.”
Wise foresight led the Puig family to later purchase Rabanne’s fashion division, and to establish relationships with Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci and Jean Paul Gaultier. It was CEO and Chairman Marc Puig’s belief that a brand’s potential in the perfume industry “is proportional to its strength as a fashion house,” and the company acted in accordance
to that conviction.
In 1988, Puig created Carolina Herrera’s eponymous first perfume, with fruity and citric notes complementing her bright fabrics and designs before acquiring the fashion
label eight years later. Nina Ricci’s romantic fashion and beauty universe was the next in sight and the Spanish luxury group added the brand to its portfolio as well in 1998.
Game On Up until 2011, Puig’s forays into the fashion world occurred through collaborations in the scent department. But its purchase of a controlling interest in Gaultier’s eponymous label that year signalled a marked departure from its usual mode of operation. With such French legends under its care, and licenses to manufacture fragrances for Prada, Valentino and Comme des Garçons, Puig had established itself as an energetic, creative force capable of propelling any brand upwards.
“In the Prestige fragrance category, the biggest percentage of successful names is those inspired by fashion designers or brands,” says Puig. In 2013, Puig’s net revenue came up to 1,499 million
euros (S$2,310 million) and it ranked sixth in the international selective perfumery sector, with 8.6 percent share in that market. It hopes to rise up to the third spot with a 12 percent share in the market by 2020. It’s highly likely it will, given its track record in innovative marketing.
The lines between fashion and beauty—across skincare, makeup and fragrances—have indefinitely been blurred. As Peter Copping, Creative Director at Oscar de la Renta, sums it up nicely: “The two [fashion and beauty] have a very strong legacy of working together. Fashion makes people dream, and for some the only way to achieve that dream is through a perfume.” ■