“Cannes during TFWA,” as it’s known among niche fragrance players, has become the de facto third annual European niche fragrance trade show, alongside Esxence (Milan, Italy) and Pitti Fragranze (Florence, Italy). Lacking formal structure, definition, or even a name, this improbable “odd couple” arrangement involving two separate yet intertwined annual gatherings ticks the most important trade fair boxes for mature niche fragrance players, and seems on course to thrive over the foreseeable future.
Before The Existence of Cannes During TFWA, There Was Simply TFWA (Tax Free World Association).
Founded in 1984, TFWA is the world’s biggest duty-free and travel retail association. Its purpose is to provide a business platform for all categories of products sold in travel retail and duty-free shops worldwide—spirits, fashion/accessories, cigars, chocolates, and of course, high-end, luxury fragrances generally referred to as “masstige” perfumes. At the time of TFWA’s creation, and even as late as the 1990s when TFWA took up residence at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, “artisanal” or “niche” fragrances were hardly even a blip on the worldwide fragrance radar.
The Arrival of Niche, or Artisanal, Fragrances on the World Scene
When niche fragrances began to grow in importance in the early 21st century, two European trade shows were founded: Pitti Fragranze in Florence (2003), taking place in the autumn and catering to new, unknown, often experimental niche fragrance brands; and Esxence in Milan (2009), taking place in the spring and catering to niche fragrances in all stages of development.
In Europe, the distinction was clear. TFWA was for masstige fragrances. Pitti Fragranze and Esxence were for niche fragrances. This tidy arrangement didn’t last long, however, because in 2010 a handful of mature niche fragrance brands and distributors in search of wider visibility than what they were getting at Pitti and Esxence had the bright idea of coming to Cannes during the same week in October that TFWA was taking place, to see if they could do business with the same high-powered industry professionals in town for TFWA. Individually or in groups, they set up “shop” in apartments, hotels, yachts, and sometimes simply at café tables in the immediate vicinity of the Palais des Festivals, and … it worked! Over the ensuing years, the number of niche fragrance brands coming to Cannes during the week of TFWA increased significantly. Today, this unofficial gathering of niche players in combination with the official TFWA event has become known as Cannes during TFWA.
Why is Cannes During TFWA So Important For The Independent Niche Perfume Industry? Here’s the Word From Key Players.
Silvio Lévi, co-founder of Esxence and founder of fragrance brand Calé, told me: “Because of the specific market for TFWA, Cannes during TFWA is an interesting moment of comparison and exchange for both the masstige and the more selective markets. As a distributor, I can meet many of my suppliers in person in a few days and at a key moment of the year to take care of the pre-holiday trends, discuss expectations and plans for Q4 and the following year. As a brand owner, I can meet new and existing international partners.”
Johann Vitrey, distributor, retailer, and Principal Managing Partner at public relations agency Sesame Sarl, echoes this sentiment, adding: “Cannes during TFWA is essential for us as a distributor and retailer because in a short week’s time we can meet key players for the worldwide industry.” For François Hénin, retailer, franchiser, and brand owner of Parfums Jovoy, Cannes during TFWA is an indispensable business opportunity. “It’s frankly impossible to imagine not going to Cannes. During this short week, we meet players we might not see anywhere else: our brand owners, distributors, suppliers, journalists …The quality and quantity of information we get is very important about the industry in general, and helps us decide what to do going forward,” he enthuses.
Emphasizing the importance of its industry crossovers and timing, Clayton Ilolahia, Evaluation and Communications Manager at Fragrances of the World, notes that Cannes during TFWA “offers a unique crowd and ideal place to launch products for the late summer and early autumn seasons. I don’t know of any other fragrance event where this diversity of brands is on show at this scale. With the rhythm that niche brands tend to launch novelties, this positions Cannes during TFWA as an ideal place to launch Q3 products since so many distributors, retailers, and fragrance industry players are coming to Cannes for the TFWA.”
For Chantal Roos, co-founder of fragrance brand Roos & Roos, the casual, welcoming atmosphere of Cannes during TFWA is key. “Every year we set up a showroom in a junior suite at the Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic, and contact our friends. We love the intimacy this provides us. Cannes during TFWA has always been important to us and our brand Roos & Roos since the first day of our existence five years ago, because we can meet and expose our brand to people in our showroom, or more casually in cafés or at parties.”