Hermetica opens in Bloomingdales; rolls out its indie concept worldwide
One of the more novel new niche perfume concepts, the molecular perfume range Hermetica, opens in Bloomingdales on Wednesday, the latest step in a three-pronged business model in perfume.
The NYC space marks the launch of Hermetica in the United States. Last month it opened its debut boutique on rue Marbeuf, in Paris’ Golden Triangle.
The opening also marks the latest step by John and Clara Molloy, the husband and wife team that have built Memo International into a three-pronged strategy to develop atypical niche perfumes.
They are part of a wave of high-end perfume houses that opened at the beginning of the century; Frederic Malle; Kilian Hennessy and Francis Kurkdjian to name just three. Though the other three have since sold control to large brands: the first two to Estée Lauder, the latter to LVMH.
Memo, however, and its two sister concepts Hermetica and Floraiku are both still very much independent, with no plans to change that anytime soon.
“We’re one of the last Mohicans not bought out. And we don’t want to be bought out unless our health goes. With the luck of god; good partners; Clara’s creativity and some great scents we have made things work,” says CEO John, in a phone call from Hong Kong, in the midst of an Asian tour.
Like Malle, Clara – a published poet – is very much an editor, who comes up with original concepts and finds the nose to create her vision; most notably Aliénor Massenet, who has won a prestigious FIFI award for a Memo scent.
The Molloys began with Memo in 2007; their goal to create personalized perfumes inspired by their voyages, both physically and within their minds. In 2016, Memo opened its first flagship on rue Cambon opposite Chanel’s world most famous flagship. Today, Memo retails in 40 countries, in over 500 doors, including 100 department stores.
“We believe in getting our feet wet by opening our own boutiques first. Besides, it really fills out each concept,” says Molloy.
Though reticent about commenting on competitors, he clearly shuns the idea of becoming another mass brand: when even up-market names like Chanel or Lancome can retail in as many as 45,000 doors worldwide.
Selling out would certainly lead to a far more brutal commercialization of their brand. Like Kilian, who since his takeover has opened in 900 Sephora doors, going so far as to name his latest scent 'I Don't Need A Prince By My Side To Be A Princess.'
The name Hermetica refers to Corpus Hermeticum, a mystical work on alchemy that dates back to antiquity. The store captures that idea, with undulating, Leonardo da Vinci-style contraptions in bronze, where bottles can easily be sampled. Every scent based on an alcohol-free central component.
“It’s like the idea of one accord in music; one perfect chime; we believe the same thing about perfume. There has been practically no innovation product-wise in perfume for years, but this about to change. In my view 70% of perfume will eventually be alcohol-free. And because these scents are non-alcoholic you can send anywhere in world, which isn’t the case with perfumes today due to customs regulations,” stresses Molloy.
This year, Hermetica will also roll out in six Bloomingdales stores, and it already has a store inside Harvey Nichols in London. Concurrently, Clara has developed Floraiku, a Japanese-influenced perfume brand whose presentation mimics a tea ceremony.
“We both adore Japan and wanted a Japanese perfume for Memo, but suddenly we did one, two and then three so we decided we needed a whole new brand. We went with our hearts,” said Molloy, who began his career as the menswear general manager of Kenzo.
“Harrods loved the concept and signed a deal on a napkin 18 months ago and now we have a proper shop on its sixth floor. We opened in 11 other countries, from Taipei to Scandinavia and the Middle East; and will open in 30 more department stores in 2019.
All three brands are not cheap; most of these scents start at €150. Molloy is coy about annual sales, though he did reveal Memo has sold over one million bottles of perfume. However, industry insiders estimate annual sales for the company at €60 million, and predict Hermetica will achieve €20 million next year.
Married with two children in Geneva, they employ 27 people at their headquarters, and some 100 worldwide.
Their exit strategy?
“We will fly the flag for independent and for as long as possible. We are not building to have an exit strategy. It’s more about keeping your principals and being sustainable manner – not about driving sales,” he says.
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