Meeting perfumers can be intimidating. These alchemists who work such magic with their noses and who hold the keys to thousands of notes, processes and formulations can be quite a scary prospect. Thankfully, the exact opposite was true when we were lucky enough to meet the people behind the Angela Ciampagna brand. We are huge fans of the work of this Italian perfume house that makes thoughtful, surprising fragrances of exquisite quality. Not only was it a huge honour that Angela Ciampagna herself and her partner, Enrico Maraffino, took the time to answer some of our questions, but they were friendly, down-to-earth and warm as well – qualities which we Yorkshire folk prize highly.
The Angela Ciampagna Alta Profumeria Artigianale brand began in 2010 after Angela had worked as a ghost nose and private producer for various niche or high-end brands. The team also operate Label, a craft perfumery workshop, which they are currently relocating from Italy to Tenerife with the hopes of expanding into creating a botanical garden alongside the production house. Just last year the Label brand launched a separate line of products to increase the range of what Angela and Enrico produce. The Label line includes perfumes, candles, fragrance diffusers, and skincare.
Whilst Angela’s work concentrates on the fragrance design, Enrico is responsible for technical and production management and, as Angela points out, without synergy between the two of them, no perfumes would be produced.
“I like sincerity,” Angela tells us. “I don’t believe there is any point in ruining one’s life chasing something which isn’t real. Every day I pursue beauty and goodness. I try to fill my life with the love of my family and my work and this forms the basis of what we do. My inspiration is all that is part of life, the search for beauty, feeling the nuances of living. I want to create things which are like the feeling you get when you take a deep breath.”
As admirers of the fragrances Angela and Enrico have created we may be biased, but this passion has clearly filtered into and influenced Angela’s work.
“Our production model is one of high artistic craftsmanship and that allows us to retain a sense of sincerity in our fragrances. We value human processes over mechanical ones and believe that the brain, nose and hands are our strengths.”
“We did some research at a distillate production company in our region and found that filtration can be done to retain all the beauty of the natural resins used. To capture this more fully, we have inserted a new procedure at this stage of production which allows us to have vivid fragrances with beautiful natural colours.”
One look at the vivid green of Liquo or the chestnut amber of Ignes will clearly demonstrate what Angela means about the beautiful natural colours of the ingredients, colours which are shown off rather than hidden in the brand’s clear glass bottles.
We asked Angela which of her fragrances she was most proud of.
“It is not easy, currently my favorite composition among those made in our Label workshop is Miracula, a true miracle. This fragrance is the opposite of what is easy and expendable on the current niche perfumery market. It’s a fragrance in which we present timeless style, beauty, research, study, and exclusive raw materials, such as Indian tuberose. We’ve done this without altering the tuberose’s powdery tone, and we have pushed the colour of the scent to be earthy and bold.”
“I like Miracula because it dares and exposes itself. It goes beyond the dynamics of a market that seeks at all costs to make a novelty that sells, something with the wow effect. We are not like that. The perfumer’s art, for us, is always about showcasing the result of study and profound reflection, not of creating something which appeals to the masses. Artistic perfumery should aim to produce masterpieces not bestsellers.”
If you’ve read our review of Miracula you’ll be aware that we are in wholehearted agreement that this fragrance is indeed a masterpiece. To us, it felt like it was telling the story of the triumph of nature over the built environment and about how no matter how urbanised we become, eventually nature will win.
“Since our laboratory started working, the production process for a fragrance is continuous and follows technical innovations and daily experiments. A formulation is born in time, but its first face is conceived when there is something that cannot be contained, that one wants to share, when one has that idea that shines. This flash of lightning depends on many factors or sometimes on just one, its shape is always different but its substance is always the same: the sense of beauty that dazzles like a warm ray of sunshine in the morning. At this point we must remain with our eyes closed and be caressed by the warmth of our great star.”
“In the desperate search to sell anything to anyone, we often lose sight of the goal of artistic perfumery in favour of easy and fake artistic products. The problem in today’s industry is that many enter the industry to speculate, they are not perfumers, they do not have a perfumery house, but they commission medium-low level products. Then there are the many shop owners who want bestsellers but do not know how to train those looking for a high-end product. Instead, they offer the customer the fashion bestseller at that time, of which they have plenty of stock. It may sound cynical, I know, but to make true art perfumery it is necessary to have the sincere objective of creating olfactory gems. Producing art perfumery provides intellectual satisfaction first, and only after that, perhaps, money.”
One of the things we wondered, was aside from all the intellectual endeavour, if there were things that Angela did or didn’t enjoy about running her own brand.
“I don’t enjoy being the front-person for the brand. I usually prefer the backstage area. I do not feel at ease in the protagonist’s shoes, I always prefer that the perfumes take the scene rather than me. I consider myself very shy in this area.”
Whilst the perfumes do have an irrefutable beauty, Angela herself is warm, generous and the passion from her craft positively radiates from her, which makes it very easy to feel drawn towards her positive energy. Her warmth, intellect and razor sharp sense of smell, must have served her well over the years.
“I always carry a vivid olfactory baggage with me,” she says. “The pittosporum, the pines and the saltiness of my native town, Silvi Marina, my grandmother’s bedroom, the skin of my two daughters when they were babies, so many things. I’ve always been hungry for smells, and when I smell an interesting smell, I kidnap and never leave it.”
So many people within the fragrance community will recognise that insatiable hunger for scents in their own experience, it has certainly been a factor in our own journey here at The Sniff. If Angela Ciampagna are kidnapping smells to populate their brand then we wholeheartedly support this behaviour. There’s been more than one delightful moment that we would love to snatch into a bottle to store away for future delights. Angela Ciampagna are just the alchemists who are able to do that for us.
This article is published with the permission of Angela Ciampagna. We have not received any incentive for writing or publishing this article from either Angela Ciampagna, or Bloom Perfumery although we have received occasional no-strings-attached samples from both.
Photo reproduced by kind permission of Angela Ciampagna.