Alessandro Gualtieri, the dissident nose
Everything about Alessandro Gualtieri resonates iconoclasm. On a market smothered by its own routines and conventions, that takes shelter in “me-too” strategies, Alessandro has the courage to take the roads not taken in everything he says and does.
At a product level, his perfumes surprise the sense of smell with offbeat and audacious ingredient encounters. In his creative approach, he welcomes hazard and accident. Even though he draws the masterplan, he accepts that from a certain point, his creations may develop a will and life of their own.
Guided by his gut feeling and a vivid curiosity, Alessandro finds stimuli where others would feel offended or nauseated. His spectrum of inspiration embraces the raw smells of meat and blood, earth and manure, the body odors, the paradoxes and contrasts of the places he happens to visit.
From a brand identity perspective, the very name of his first-born brand – Nasomatto, meaning “the mad nose” in Italian –, is already a strong statement about his subversive stance in the perfume business. The post-modern shape of his bottles stands out from the crowd of fussy baroque or romantic morphologies that most of the brands have adopted on the market of luxury perfumes.
In a rather stiff environment, where most of the luxury perfume brands tend to take themselves too seriously and reiterate the same few leitmotifs, Alessandro’s brand communication is delightfully fresh, tongue-in-cheek and full of self-derision: who could ever imagine riding a billy goat or, even more, a farting flower for a greeting card? There are no taboos, just endless possibilities to defy conventional wisdom.
Despite his self-proclaimed madness, Alessandro is a profound artist. Keen, single-minded, untamed, he is a fine knower of the human soul, that he tries to empower and amplify through his creations.
For all the above-mentioned reasons and many others, we thought it would be fully legitimate to have Alessandro’s opinion about independence, dissidence and success in the “so-called” niche perfumes sector.
Before launching the Nasomatto project in 2008, you had been working for many years in the perfume business, namely 8 years for a big fragrance company in Dusseldorf, Germany. What triggered your decision to leave the comfort of a big company for jumping into the unknown?
It was my desperate outburst after being restricted during the years by many rules and regulations of the industry. I wanted to express myself fully and share my creations and thoughts with final consumers myself.
What was your initial vision and what did you hope to achieve by launching your own brand(s)? Now, years after, do you feel that you have achieved those goals?
I just wanted to express myself. Nasomatto was meant to be an experimental platform. And now, I’m happy and grateful that people understood me and my intentions through my creations.
The ups and downs of being an independent creator: which is the nicest part? How about the toughest one?
There are always ups and downs in every field of life. That’s life. The nicest and most precious part about being an independent creator is freedom. The toughest part is also the freedom.
Which is your favorite role from all the roles you have? How do you see yourself? Business man? Entrepreneur? Challenger? Explorer? Nose? Creator? “Entertainer” of human senses? Chemist? Alchemist?
I see myself as a scent artist and I communicate through my scents.
The perfume business is more and more competitive. What gave you the courage to jump into this business in the beginning? Which assets and strengths did you rely on? How do you feel about competition?
I started 10 years ago when the need for a new type of expression and a different quality of content was missing and necessary after the consumer era of the 80’s and 90’s and the crisis that appeared afterwards. It was a time when a few people felt the urge to redefine the meaning of quality and creativity in the perfumery sector.
Now this market is finished and most of the so-called niche or artistic perfumes are very mediocre, especially if you’ll remove the external part and consider only the scent itself, they smell like mass-market products. It’s difficult to create something great from A to Z, to have a unique scent and an outstanding packaging. I believe that there will be some companies of the niche world that will stay, many others will be gone very soon. In general, I work for myself and create my own market, so I actually have no interest in what others are doing.
What does it take to have attain success as an independent perfume brand?
A unique approach, a different angle, and especially high quality product in terms of components and ingredient combinations.
From the outside, we would certainly say that you have already achieved success with Nasomatto and Orto Parisi. How do you feel about that? What’s your own definition of success?
I am always creating for myself, and if people appreciate and can associate with my creations, I’m more than happy. Success is about having an audience who like or use the things that you create… for different kind of reasons.
Which was the importance of your branding decisions on the growth of your business?
I don’t like such words like “branding” and “marketing”. My decisions are based on my gut feeling. I start creating a smell and everything else builds upon it afterwards. I’m very attracted by all different kinds of materials, their quality and their cultural background, heritage…
How would you describe the essence of Nasomatto and Orto Parisi brands in just one word – okay, maximum 3 words?
NASOMATTO: No Limits.
ORTO PARISI: Attraction and Repulsion.
Is your creativity something that you could apply to other fields in the future or does it manifest itself only in perfumes?
Yes, I’ve been working now on “breaking out” from the bottle and the materialization of my scents by creating different installations and performances.
What does it take to be a maker, in your opinion?
Intuition and perseveration. You either have it or you don’t.
A dystopian question: I’ve heard about many people who lost, by accident, their sense of smell. How do you feel about the perspective of an anosmic life or world?
In a computer-driven society, the sense of smell will be compensated by technical devices for part of the population.
And now, a couple of “black or white” questions:
Disturb or please?
Control or hazard?
Vegetal or animal?
Now or tomorrow?
Car or bike?
People or solitude?
Fish or lamb?
Interview realized in English by Faurar. Images courtesy of Nasomatto and Orto Parisi.