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Acqua di Parma: A Century of Nobility

Jan 1, 2016

In an interview, Gabrielle Scarpa of Italian fragrance house Acqua di Parma talks about the house’s century in the Italian style and fine craftsmanship.

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Text by Lise Coirier

In an exclusive interview browsing 100 years of creation and innovation, Gabriella Scarpa, president World at Acqua di Parma, reveals the essence of the brand housed in Parma, a city that gave birth in 1916 to Colonia, the true Italian Cologne. Acqua di Parma expresses the finest of Italian style, is a great supporter of the Italian arts and crafts, a publisher of a book La Nobiltà del Fare and a patron of the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation.

TLmag: In 2016, Acqua di Parma will celebrate a century of creation and appreciation. Does Parma as your city of origin impact a lot on your company? Colonia – which was created in Parma – remains unchanged. What will be your next creative step in this quest for quality, excellence, exclusivity?

Gabrielle Scarpa: The city of Parma is the birthplace of Acqua di Parma. The history of Acqua di Parma began in 1916 in a small essence laboratory in the old heart of Parma. Here, Mr. Magnani, aristocratic and refined man, nephew of the famous scenographer Girolamo Magnani, conceived an unusually fresh and modern fragrance – the first true Italian Cologne.

The characteristic yellow that has become a hallmark of Acqua di Parma, has been used on the façades of the finest Parma buildings since 1700. The Parma ducal blazon on our logo evokes the era of the Farnese family, during which the duchy achieved its major magnificence. The blazon underlines at the same time the aristocratic character of the brand and its deep link with a city, which was the cradle of a noble and lively culture in Italy.

As you say, Colonia is still produced in much the same way as it was a century ago, which means that in our quest for quality, excellence and exclusivity, I strongly believe that it’s fundamental to continue to keep the Acqua di Parma DNA with every product we’ll create. Our creative process is lead by the will of combining tradition and contemporaneity, and always looking for the most skilled craftsmen and the most precious raw materials.

Beyond perfumes and scents, what is the spirit of Acqua di Parma?

GS: Acqua di Parma is the expression of the finest Italian lifestyle. Acqua di Parma is elegance, refinement, aristocracy and quality of details. It is classic and modern at the same time, it surpasses generations, and it is timeless.

How does Acqua di Parma evolve as a highly sophisticated and singular brand within the fragrance market?

GS: As you may understand, Italy is our main source of inspiration. Art, history, landscapes and Italian craftsmanship are all elements that inspire our creations. This is how our brand has become the emblem of the most refined Italian style and not only a fragrance brand. All our products are completely Made in Italy in order to meet the need of a very sophisticated client. Our selective distribution is another important key of our success. It has let us to grow and establish as a luxury brand within the vast fragrance market.

La Nobiltà del Fare is one of my favourite books on Italian living craftsmanship. How do you relate Acqua di Parma to Venice and to Rubelli, for instance? I stayed at the Gritti Palace two years ago when Acqua di Parma had just opened its very exclusive spa. Is it a choice to have only two Acqua di Parma spas?

GS: La Nobiltà del Fare consists of 23 extraordinary stories of Italian excellence about arts and crafts. The concept behind is to remind people of Italy’s incredible craftsmanship and creativity. We wanted to show the real Italy, which has always been full of initiative and artistic brilliance. Acqua di Parma is engaged in this way because our products are completely Made in Italy and still handmade.

We chose to open the Blu Mediterraneo SPAs in Italy, specifically at the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda in Sardinia and at the Gritti Palace in Venice. Those locations represent the history of Italy, the beauty of Italian architecture and environment. We have many demands but we want to keep the quality of the service extremely high and moreover to keep the experience very exclusive, which is why it’s difficult to find the perfect spot for a Blu Mediterraneo SPA. We really want Blu Mediterraneo SPAs to offer a unique and exclusive experience to our clients. I can anticipate that in 2016 we are going to open another one in a top luxury location in Italy.

Colonia has been your iconic perfume throughout the years. How would you define it today following its variations on the theme of the eclectic gentleman? Are the more feminine perfumes Iris, Magnolia, Gelsomino, Rosa ‘Nobile’ successful or do women also wear Colonia?

GS: Colonia is a timeless classic. There’s no way to describe it best. If you think that its formula has remained unchanged since 1916 and it is still appreciated worldwide, you can easily understand why it means to be a timeless classic. Meanwhile, the success of Colonia has led to the launch of a wide range of Eaux de Cologne, all true to the characteristics that had made it a byword for Italian sophistication over the years.  The world of Colonia has been enriched with new creations that correspond to a multi-faceted man. A man, that shares the same values and the same attitude towards elegance and refinement. Our customers love the brand so much that they use many different Acqua di Parma fragrances, not only one. Our feminine universe, represented by Le Nobili, is indeed very successful, it is inspired by the noblest flowers from gardens of Italian aristocratic villas. Iris Nobile – the iconic Acqua di Parma women’s fragrance – was the first of Le Nobili. The range was then developed with the addition of Magnolia Nobile, Gelsomino Nobile and Rosa Nobile. They are all huge success worldwide, but yes, women use also Colonias.

The handmade process at Acqua di Parma applies to all the steps of the production. How can you maintain this high-end craft level without any compromise nowadays?

GS: If you want to keep the quality high you must not accept any compromise. We still have someone on the production line fitting the labels on the bottles and fitting the Bakelite lids. The outer packaging, our unmistakable hatboxes, is completely handmade. Our candles are all handmade one-by-one. The glasses of Collezione Murano are produced with the traditional ‘caneworking’ technique in the Murano island. Expert craftsmen handcraft the leather accessories of our Tournée Collection. As you can easily understand from this, the quality of Acqua di Parma’s products is linked to a strong attention dedicated to the handmade, strictly Italian manufacturing. Indeed, every Acqua di Parma product is exclusively realized by small selected Italian laboratories where the secrets are transmitted from a generation to the other one and where every part is the result of patience, time and dedication. We only use the most precious essences and the most exquisite materials. And this is how we are able to create unique objects, which express elegance and prestigious exclusivity.

Acqua di Parma has the classic yellow line but I am particularly appreciating the even more sensory Blu Mediterraneo line. Does this collection apply to your Italian culture revealing its diversity and connection to the unique landscape and natural environment?

GS: Blu Mediterraneo fragrances evoke the energy, the sun and the colours of the Italian Mediterranean. Every fragrance is declined around an ingredient, which symbolizes an unforgettable and unique place in Italy. Those places are really different, from the romantic Amalfi Coast to the authentic Calabria and of course reveal the diversity and richness of Italian landscape.

What is the added value brought by the home and the leather collections to your world of perfumes?

GS: Acqua di Parma follows the client throughout his or her life; we have Home Fragrance candles, and leather goods accessories in the Tournée Collection; you can find our amenities in the most luxurious hotels worldwide, or you can experience a special treatment at our Blu Mediterraneo SPAs or a Deluxe Shaving at our boutiques. We also launched a new wonderful pen collection in collaboration with the historical Italian brand Aurora. An Acqua di Parma product makes you live the authentic Italian lifestyle, and this is what our customers look for.

Acqua di Parma is a cultural partner of important venues such as the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation in Venice, and many more around the world. How do you relate visual arts to the culture of your house?

GS: Art and culture have always been essential to the identity of Acqua di Parma. Supporting the different expressions of art is a natural attitude for us, and a way to share a set of values with an engaged and conscious audience. Since the beginning the brand has been cultivating and promoting different forms of art from ballet to music and drama – supporting internationally-famed Italian artists such as Roberto Bolle – and to modern figurative arts through Intrapresae, a group of companies that support the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. This commitment finds also its expression in high prestige publications, such as Essenza di Parma, Il Giardino Nobile and La Nobiltà del Fare. This year we also stepped into the contemporary art field with the production of I’ll Be There Forever / The Sense of Classic, an exhibition that represents a progression in the evolution of Acqua di Parma’s commitment towards art and culture. I think that it’s a duty of a company to promote the values you believe in, and as we believe in the beauty and the excellence of Italy, I think that art and culture is the best way to present Italy worldwide. •

Gabriella Scarpa.
Gabriella Scarpa.
Making of Acqua di Parma handmade candles.
Making of Acqua di Parma handmade candles.
2_ Colonia Acqua di Parma_La nobilt+á del Fare_ Stories of Italian Excellence -® published by Electa_web
Making of Acqua di Parma shaving line.
Making of Acqua di Parma shaving line.

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