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A true jack of all trades and hyperactive, Silvio Levi is a key figure in the so-called niche perfumery (in Italy, one might say more artistic). At the head of a perfume brand, a distribution company, and the organiser of the Esxence show in Milan, he created, before the summer, Essencional, an information website dedicated to independent perfumery.
Can you introduce yourself in a few words? What is your background with niche perfumery?
I attended a high school with a humanities-based curriculum, before going on to do a degree in Organic Chemistry. I worked as a researcher at the University and for three pharma companies, before taking over the family business Calé Srl in 1995. The company was established in 1955 and is now the oldest Artistic Perfumery distributor; we are proud to have the longest-standing relationships with the families that founded historic brands such as Floris London and Creed. In addition to having exclusive distribution of more than 12 brands for Italy, I currently have three boutiques in Milan: one Boutique Creed, one flagship store Histoires de Parfums, and one multi-brand store, Pérfume by Calé, as well as a Creed concession at the Rinascente Department Store in Piazza Duomo. In 2008 I created my own perfume brand, Calé Fragranze d’Autore. In the course of my twenty-five years of experience in the Artistic Perfumery field, I have founded several trade fairs such as Fragranze in Florence, Masterpieces in Bologna, and later Esxence in Milan. I translated Guy Robert and Maurice Maurin’s books and distributed them in Italy, and have written countless articles for various magazines, which are available to read in Italian and English on our website www.cale.it. I have also been President of the Esxence Technical Committee since it was set up in 2009; from this year, with my research centre Essencional, I’ll be working officially alongside the Organising Committee, helping them choose the topics and speakers for every presentation held inside the conference hall.
You launched Essencional a few weeks ago and it seems like a very meaningful venture, as there were no B2B media dedicated to this part of the industry, even if we are constantly being told that it is a very dynamic market category. What led you to this idea?
In early 2018 I ran a brainstorming session with a group of professionals and experts (whom I’ve thanked individually in my editorial on essencional.com). Together with them, I pinpointed the requirements and needs of the market, and envisaged a series of services for which we might see a demand in the sector within a few years.
The Essencional research centre was set up in 2019, and it produced “Whispers about Artistic Perfumery: the online audiences perception”, a web-listening study that monitored online discussions about Artistic Perfumery; we also designed a survey in which visitors to the ten editions of Esxence were invited to take part.
As it became clear that there was great confusion and a lack of reliable references for the sector, I was even more motivated to set up www.essencional.com: this hub allows us to continue analysing the sector’s needs, and to identify and offer services to support the international development of Beauty and Artistic Perfumery distribution.
As our initial service, I thought of offering a solution to the enormous difficulties faced when trying to distinguish which online sources of information are reliable, for both B2B and B2C: the internet is awash with unverified “cut and pasted” snippets, superficiality and urban legends.
Given that I have the opportunity of working with a large panel of experts and friends who can give a professional opinion on the value of content posted online, I thought I would share this vital screening service – which is a crucial tool for our research centre – with our community of industry insiders and fragrance lovers.
As we understand it, Essencional is more a curation platform than a media outlet per se. Can you explain how it works in more detail? What is exactly the purpose of such a website, and who is it aimed at?
At the moment we are providing a service of selecting and endorsing published information.
We use an algorithm to scan the internet each week for anything that might be of interest to our sector. The Editorial Board then makes a selection and presents it to the group of Advisors; their task is to review and comment on this content. Only content that gets at least two votes of approval will be cited on the Essencional.com website, along with a brief abstract, a reason why we think people should read it, and a link to the original text.
We’ve built in a tool that allows registered users to notify us directly about content to review.
Essencional’s mission is to support and grow the Beauty and Artistic Perfumery business community and its key players. There are a lot of excellent, reliable resources in the online space: they are specialised, passionate about the sector, and include bloggers, e-magazines, databases, informational websites and so on. All too often, though, outstanding content goes virtually unnoticed among the thousands of pointless or uninteresting texts. Essencional sets out to strengthen links within the community which has come together over years of work, largely through Esxence. We want to bring together its vital forces to boost and sustain the sector’s growth at an international level, based on creativity and innovation; we firmly believe that Artistic Perfumery and Beauty have excellent growth prospects around the world.
Several professionals are mentioned as Advisors. What is their role?
The Advisors have the same role that referees have for scientific journals. They read, fact-check and comment on the content of the articles we give them to review. When at least two of them agree that an article is of interest, only then do we publish it for our readers. So they are the guarantee that our recommended reading is worthy of attention and consideration. The Advisors can propose their own original published work if they wish, or recommend other articles that they are specifically interested in and think should be brought to the attention of our readers, as well as those sent to them by the Editorial Board.
Will its use remain free of charge? Can you tell us more about your business model?
The basic service of selecting and endorsing content found on the internet will remain free to use. Like any online service, we will of course start by checking that it garners a positive response and a significant user base before asking for any financial contribution. Even now, registered users enjoy a few additional services and in the future they will gain access to in-depth content and advice. As a publisher, I have planned for a period of financial support to the project, which will gradually lead us to define a revenue model that allows Essencional to become financially independent. There is still a lot of work to be done to get to that point; this will require the efforts of the research centre, to highlight its expertise and identify which priorities and projects deserve greater attention; then we can expand the services that our hub could offer according to the needs of the user base that we will have built up in the meantime.
The Essencional website: www.essencional.com