Furniture and lighting brands move into "big wonderful world" of fragrances
Milan 2015: design companies are launching fragrances, scented products and cosmetics to diversify their brands into new markets (+ slideshow).
Dutch brand Moooi, British designer Tom Dixon and Italian firm Kartell have all recently unveiled olfactory products including scented candles, soaps and diffusers for the home.
Dezeen spoke to all three companies in Milan last week, during the Salone del Mobile. Dixon, who launched a range of candles last year, said the move was an obvious one, since smells are so important to the experience of an interior.
"I don't think we ever were intending to be just a furniture and lighting brand," he told Dezeen. "We like to attack the whole interior, and the more you do shapes and colours the more you realise that there's a lot of intangibles as well that you wouldn't have noticed. A visit to a restaurant might be destroyed by the acoustics, a visit to a theatre might be ruined by the smell of some bleach-y floor."
Dixon launched his London scented candle at the Maison&Objet fair in Paris last year. The candle's aroma is described as "the smell of red brick and London parks with crocuses and nettles, and the salty smell of the Thames at Dagenham." The candle comes in a copper vessel with a marble lid.
More recently the brand introduced a range of four scent diffusers for interiors, named earth, fire, air and water. Earth, for example, is "a mysterious concoction of mint, cedar and guaiac wood creating a mossy freshness". The mouth-blown glass container is diffused by a thick chunk of British charcoal.
Dixon described the product-development process as "designing with your nose" and said: "It's been a kind of amazing pleasure to train your nose and think in the slightly less tangible bits of interior design."
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He added: "I don't understand why people feel that once you've designed a light you should remain in the lighting business. It's a big wonderful world of opportunities."
Now Kartell, the Italian brand best known for its plastic furniture, has followed Dixon's lead, launching a range of scented products for the home. Kartell Fragrances features eight different scents and four different diffusion methods including candles, charcoal diffusers and electronic diffusers.
The containers – made of Kartell's trademark injection-moulded polycarbonate but with glass linings to prevent the scents reacting with the vessels – are designed by Italian designer Ferrucio Laviani, who created the iconic Bourgie light for Kartell using the same crystal-like plastic.
The fragrances were developed in conjunction with a series of "noses" from leading French and Swiss perfume houses and include ombreuse, a "flowery, musky" scent containing rose, peony and lily of the valley against a background of sandalwood and musk. This was developed by Fabrice Pelegrin, a nose at Swiss perfumery Firmenich.
For Kartell CEO Claudio Luti, the move into fragrances is a natural part of the brand's growth strategy, which has led the company to diversify beyond furniture over the last few years.
"First of all we introduced lighting, which combines very well with our furniture," Luti told Dezeen. "Then we introduced a small section of fashion, then with Laufen we launched bathroom products. Now we are making a new catalogue of objects for the table. Fragrance is the same."
Lute said the fragrance range would be sold in Kartell's own-brand stores but also distributed via specialist channels to department stores, homeware shops and pharmacies.
Kartell will collaborate with more designers in future to produce a wider range of packaging and vessels for the fragrances, Luti said. "Tomorrow I could do one with [Philippe] Starck, one with [Patricia] Urquiola, one with another designer and every year the collection can grow."
Dutch brand Moooi has also launched a range of aromatic products. The range, which will be sold to upmarket and designer hotels for use in guest rooms, consists of soaps, shampoos, shower gels and hand creams in packaging designed by Moooi creative director Marcel Wanders.
The range is manufactured under licence by Luxury Hotel Cosmetics, a company that specialises in manufacturing and distributing toiletries and spa products to hotel groups.
For Moooi, the venture is a way to put their brand in front of thousands of potential customers each year as well as extending their brand into new areas.
"Fashion companies do licence deals but it's quite unusual in the furniture and lighting industry," said Moooi co-founder and CEO Casper Vissers, who has also this year launched another brand extension, Moooi Carpets.
Developed with a top nose in Paris, the Moooi products contain bergamot, cardamom, nutmeg, tobacco and musk and have a "very strong, outstanding scent," according to Vissers. "Moooi could not be a maybe," he said. "It's something you either love or hate, like our products".
Tom Dixon is considering going beyond the realm of luxury fragrances and developing a range of branded cleaning products.
"I do products that are used in offices, and bars and restaurants and I'm always noticing now that the bad smells that are coming from cleaning fluids and furniture polishes and the rest of it and I think that there's definitely a connection there that I'm interested in targeting," he said. "A lot of these things are poorly made and poorly considered from a manufacturing perspective."