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EXCLUSIVE: Atelier Cologne Readies for Relaunch, Starting in Mainland China

PARIS — Atelier Cologne Paris is set to relaunch in China’s high-end perfumery market, with reworked fragrances, retail environment and image.

“It’s a new dawn for Atelier Cologne,” said Sandrine Groslier, global president, luxe fragrance brands at L’Oréal, which acquired Atelier Cologne in 2016, seven years after its introduction.

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The next generation of Atelier Cologne will be revealed in the middle of March, when it opens doors in Shanghai’s IFC mall, Beijing’s SKP mall and on Tmall.

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While Atelier Cologne executives would not discuss projections, industry sources estimate the brand will generate 100 million euros in retail sales in China during the first 12 months after being introduced there.

In the repositioning, the name Atelier Cologne Paris and a new identity ­— described by brand executives as “scented art crafted from nature” — played key roles.

“We wanted first to reinvent the spirit of ‘atelier’ around two notions that are very important,” said Groslier. “First is craftsmanship.”

Ateliers are also where artists work and collaborate, so the brand began partnering with them on various aspects of the revamp.

Olivier Pascalie helped redefine the flacon with thicker glass and geometric details in order to capture and reflect light. On its back is a swirly, embossed pattern. Matte brass decorates bottle caps and the scents’ labels.

A rendering of Atelier Cologne’s new retail format.
A rendering of Atelier Cologne’s new retail format.

“All the inspiration for the bottle comes from art — Art Nouveau,” said Groslier, referring to the artistic movement at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries that elevated nature to an art form.

Atelier Cologne also partnered with two Shanghai-based Chinese retail designers from Chaos Programme on the brand’s new store environment, which has a central fragrance organ, where people can discover the scents.

“We want to inspire and to educate” what perfumery and fragrance are today, said Groslier.

Both the bottle and retail spaces were fashioned with curvy shapes and Atelier Cologne’s signature teal blue — as seen in the marble of the stores and the perfume’s outer packaging, for instance.

“Everything is minimalist, yet elegant,” she said. “We ended up with a warm and expert atelier with very modern design language.”

This also includes wood and brass elements, as well as artists’ tools. Personalization services there will include engraving of leather cases and pouches, which has always been a part of the brand’s offer.

Meanwhile, cologne — the fresh, citrusy scent that is a bedrock of the perfume industry — remains at the core of Atelier Cologne. “We’ve got a unique heritage,” said Groslier.

That’s because the brand, from Day One, put colognes back on the map. She explained it was crucial to remain faithful to the vision of Atelier Cologne’s founders, Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel, who turned the traditional olfactive pyramid upside down to make colognes into high perfumery.

“They wanted to bring poetry and luxury in the world of cologne,” said Groslier. This dovetails with what’s being introduced by the brand today — more sophisticated and long-lasting perfumes.

Those effects come in part thanks to Atelier Cologne creating its own proprietary cologne, called “colognade,” which is now at the heart of the brand’s 18 fragrances. It is based on traditional cologne’s savoir-faire from the 17thcentury mixed with today’s innovations.

“We reinvented the complexity of the formulation and increased the concentration of essential oil, to be even more powerful and give even more trail,” said Groslier. Woody and ambery base notes were added to that end, too.

Atelier Cologne’s redesigned packaging.
Atelier Cologne’s redesigned packaging.

Nature keeps inspiring Atelier Cologne. “But it’s not classical nature. It is a very artistic nature,” she said. “It’s not only about natural ingredients, but it is also about how we craft our ingredients, innovate in the process of extraction and sourcing.”

Atelier Cologne scent ingredients have long had mood-boosting and well-being attributes — characteristics that are more significant for consumers post-pandemic than ever before. Lemon zest, for instance, is astringent; petitgrain is relaxing, and thyme has antiseptic qualities.

The brand’s fragrances are divided into two families. There is Absolue, with a high concentration of essential oils and traditional cologne ingredients, such as citrus. The collection includes eaux de parfums, like Oolang Infini and Orange Sanguine, blended by perfumers Jérome Epinette, from Robertet, and Ralf Schwieger, from Mane.

The Rare line of scents blends noble and uncommon olfactive ingredients. Found in Gaïac Eternel and Rose Cuirée, for instance, are Damask rose, guaiac wood and oud wood notes.

Firmenich perfumes Marie Salamagne and Fabrice Pellegrin were also involved in reworking the Atelier Parfums juices.

Product prices range from $104 for a 30-ml. Absolue fragrance to $330 for a 100-ml. Rare perfume.

While Paris — Atelier Cologne’s birthplace — remains central to its identity, China — where super premium fragrance sales are flying — is to become Atelier Cologne’s prime market.

That perfume category in China already generates 36 percent of the country’s overall fragrance market and 22 percent of the world’s total perfume business. In three years’ time, it is expected to reach 40 percent of total fragrance sales globally, according to L’Oréal.

“Atelier Cologne is a brand we want to reposition clearly on that market of very luxurious, premium fragrances,” said Groslier. “We are born in France, but the reinvention of niche fragrances was clearly initiated by the young, edgy consumers in China.”

Atelier Cologne is to be anchored in the equity of exceptional perfumes, she explained. That will begin in mainland China, followed by expansion into North Asia.

“To do so, we really want to rebuild the desirability of the brand,” she said.

Education is important for this. So Atelier Cologne will hold masterclasses in a fragrance academy to help teach in-store experts and end-consumers, as well as share information using the fragrance organ.

All of this feeds into the brand’s new positioning and identity. “Atelier Cologne is a quest for emotions, culture and artistry,” said Groslier.

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