Thierry Duclos: “Holding SIMPPAR in Grasse made perfect sense”

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The mayor of Grasse, Jérôme Viaud, made an important announcement at the traditional cocktail party held at the International Exhibition of Raw Materials for Perfumery (SIMPPAR) on 31st May: next year the show will take place in the world’s perfume capital after sixteen years in Paris. Thierry Duclos, who has been running the event for over twenty years, talks about its journey so far and the choice to hold it in Grasse.

You had a successful career in the raw materials field before taking on the organisation of SIMPPAR. Could you tell us a little about it?

I spent fifty years of my life working with essential oils. I started off by joining the company my great-grandfather founded in 1874. At that period, when communication was drastically limited compared to what we’re used to today, the business was based on brokering raw materials. When I began working there in the 1970s it was obviously very different – but still far from today’s reality. It’s a profession where you travel a lot, to countries where the geopolitical situation is sometimes very complicated, but where you meet extraordinary people who are passionate about the lovely things they produce.
Duclos Trading, created in 1986 to move into trading activities, was sold to Quimdis in 2009, which went on to be acquired by Azelis in 2021.
I also cofounded the European Federation of Essential Oils in 2002 to tackle the issue of increasingly strict regulations affecting our ingredients.
Then when I was a member of the steering committee of the Société Française des Parfumeurs-Créateurs (SFP) I took on the organisation of SIMPPAR – a role that has become full time with the growth of the exhibition.

What are the main changes SIMPPAR has undergone over the years?

The show started off as an event organised by the SFP to introduce its members, perfumers, evaluators, analysts and so on, to producers and their ingredients. The first one was held in 1991 with just a handful of exhibitors, but it wasn’t a regular event at that point.
The decision was quickly taken to hold it every two years, alternating with the World Perfumery Congress (WPC). We went from around ten stands to twenty or so at the Evergreen Hotel in Levallois.
Then in 2011, we realised we needed more space so we could host around fifty exhibitors, and we rented Espace Champerret, also in Levallois; this took us to a whole new level, because now we had an unfurnished space requiring far more organisation.
That year we hosted 110 stands. The show also had several associations in attendance talking about their work defending essential oils in Brussels, as well as companies presenting new technological innovations such as the ones based on artificial intelligence, which is another contemporary issue.
But the idea behind the exhibition hadn’t changed: we wanted it to remain a friendly place where people could meet and talk and avoid the speed dating approach to ensure participants got the chance to spend two days making discoveries, seeing what they felt like seeing and smelling what they felt like smelling. And we always, then and now, put each exhibitor on an equal footing: multinationals and small-scale producers all have the same 12-square-metre stand. We supply the structure and they simply need to install themselves – not that it stops some exhibitors finding very ingenious ways to decorate their stands!

Last night the mayor of Grasse, Jérôme Viaud, officially announced that the next event will be held in Grasse: what are the reasons behind this choice?

We have always held SIMPPAR in Levallois, which is near to where perfumers work. But that also applies to Grasse, the French birthplace of perfumery and its ingredients. For the last few years the town has been wanting to organise international events centring on raw materials, and really rolled out the red carpet for the event, which was lucky, as organising a show the size of SIMPPAR was not exactly easy in a town like Grasse.

How did the set-up go?

Holding SIMPPAR in Grasse made perfect sense, but setting it up was difficult. We’ve been working with the mayor for two years to make the event possible.
First was the question of the venue: there’s no covered space big enough there. The only possible location was the large esplanade facing the Palais des Congrès, which has a magnificent view. But it’s an open site. So we had to find solutions for keeping the exhibitors under cover while ensuring the event offers the same high quality as in Paris: this called for a major structure, with a tent of around 1,300 square metres. The Palais des Congrès will serve as a gathering space with bars and restaurant areas.

The other problem was the town’s hotel capacity: in Paris, around 1,000 of the 2,300 visitors this year are coming from outside the city. There will of course be visitors from Grasse itself, since the town and surrounding area are home to plenty of perfumers and composition houses. But even though the Grasse event will be on a smaller scale, we had to think about hotel solutions.
Then we had to find a date that avoided overlapping with the Cannes film festival while ensuring visitors will be able to take part in other exhibition-related activities: taking into account all these factors, we opted for 28 and 29 May 2024.

What are the other events visitors will be able to enjoy in Grasse?

We wanted to tie the show in with the Rose Festival, which takes place every year in Grasse. There will be tours organised visiting rose fields, distilleries and local factories. The concept is to devise an entire week of activities related to essential oils. A little like the field trips offered during events such as the IFEAT conference.[1]The next conference organised by the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (IFEAT) will be held in Berlin from 8 to 12 October 2023. It means people can smell locally produced raw materials and really immerse themselves in the planting and processing world.

Is the event likely to be repeated?

We’ll see how it goes for this first year, but we’d be delighted to alternate with Paris on a regular basis. 


1 The next conference organised by the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (IFEAT) will be held in Berlin from 8 to 12 October 2023.


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