I wish that I was sprayed with expensive perfume every time I sat down to conduct an interview.
Last month, upon being greeted by Acqua di Parma’s new CEO, Laura Burdese, she chose not to shake hands but instead to douse me enthusiastically in Colonia Pura, the house’s latest scent. Naturally, it smells divine; sophisticated and smooth, with a curious mixture of zingy citrus notes and a distinct mineral base.
Laura Burdese, Acqua di Parma’s CEO
‘It’s a fresher interpretation of our signature lightness,’ says Burdese, leaping straight in excitedly as we sit down to talk over frothy coffee. ‘The basic structure is always the same – it’s a citrus-led cologne like our original Colonia. But it’s fresher, much lighter and in a sense I think it’s more open.’
One doesn’t necessarily think of fragrances in terms of open or closed profiles – but this curious thought process alludes to the magic that Burdese is sprinkling over the 101 year old fragrance house that she’s been given guardianship over. She joined Acqua di Parma nine months ago, tasked with reinvigorating and bringing new life to one of Italy’s most rarified brands. The unveiling of Colonia Pura is her first step on this journey.
‘We’re moving into the light’, she continues. ‘Our approach to what we do and how we talk about the brand has to change. Historically, Acqua di Parma has missed out on storytelling, it’s been a little static and emotionless. Now, we’re re-embracing our typically Italian emotional identity.’
Which is why this freshness comes across so strongly in Colonia Pura. There’s a sense of lightness in its presentation too, for the first time Acqua di Parma’s iconic bottle has been made recyclable – ‘to me, it made no sense that you can’t recycle it’ Burdese says forcefully. The house’s vibrant shade of sunny yellow has been reasserted through the box and the liquid itself is a soft, cool shade of alabaster. The whole thing feels subtly new and undeniably crisp.
There’s also a sense of freshness in the communications surrounding Colonia Pura’s release. For the first time in its history, Acqua di Parma is attaching a face to one of its campaigns – three faces to be precise. The brand has featured a real family (both mother and father happen to be models, but nonetheless) to convey the warmth, lightness and generosity of spirit that underpins the house.
‘We knew we had to stay true to the soul of the brand,’ expands Burdese, still thoroughly excitable. ‘And this brand does have a soul. For over a century, we’ve evolved slowly. We’ve always represented the most refined elements of the Italian way of life, but in an understated, discreet way. Using this family in the campaign felt like the natural way to contemporise that story, it brings the brand back down to earth. You can sense the father is real, he’s sincere and genuine and affectionate. He has that nobility of spirit that Acqua di Parma has always drawn upon, but it’s presented in a relaxed way. The campaign has authenticity.’
Following Colonia Pura, Burdese is promising further transformations in 2018, with changes in formulas and this new, brighter perspective set to filter through more of Acqua di Parma’s iconic fragrance families. Beyond that, her instinct of the luxury market at large is dictating some other intriguing focuses for the brand.
‘Luxury, particularly for men, is moving beyond products and into experiences. Consumers don’t buy a product just because it’s associated with a brand, they buy because the product has purpose and relevance to it, because there’s a reason ‘why’ that underpins it. We’re carrying this mentality into our barberias too. We’ve always had barber shops in our flagship stores, but we’ve never really pushed them. It’s such a wonderful, traditional Italian experience – we need to make more of them.’ All well and good for Milan, Paris and Miami, but is one coming to London soon? The twinkle in her eye suggests so, although Burdese will neither confirm nor deny this.
All too soon, our prescribed half hour’s chat winds itself up, our coffee cups are drained and I leave with two firm convictions. The first is that I now smell marvellous, and the second is that Acqua di Parma’s new found energy is intrinsically linked with the infectious enthusiasm of its new CEO.
Colonia Pura is available exclusively at johnlewis.com. £91 for 100ml.