Thinking of Roots, the topic for Smell Festival, you immediately think of Profvumvm Roma, the brand that with its name recalls an important past, of the Eternal City and the Imperial Rome. This is a perfume house that, generation after generation, has skillfully passed down a craft: first that of knife grinder, followed by that of perfumer. This is a typical case of Italian niche perfume that comes from the ability of making difficult choices that prove to be wining ones in the long run. Like that of making their fragrances according to their own rigid quality standards and adopting a careful, highly focused distribution policy, becoming part of the niche market circuit. They have about three dozen sales points in Italy for the desires and tastes of their sophisticated, loyal public. Because this may be the secret of Profvmvm: The ability to create loyalty to its fragrances.
Furthermore, in a world that is ever more focused on image and appearance, the Durante family knows how to remain on the threshold of discretion. Few public appearances. No fairs in Italy. An idea of luxury that we often forget can exist.
To better get to know the owners of Profvmvm Roma, you can go to one of their brand stores in Rome and hope to run into them. Or you can go to Smell Festival on May 27, where Luciano and Felice Durante, along with their niece, Flavia Romana, daughter of the founder, and Paolo Fadelli – their Italian distributor – will guide us along the discovery of the perfumes that best represent the house. Well aware that they will encounter a well-prepared, curious audience, along with their perfumes, they will bring with them a few raw materials and their undeniable storytelling skills. As we await this encounter, we got to know Flavia Romana, the latest generation of the Durante family and already a rising star in Italian perfumery.
You have breathed perfume from your first breaths, thanks to your family’s business and above all, your father’s dedication, as the founder of Profvmvm Roma. It is thanks to his love for Rome’s history that your House has taken its name and its particular Latin spelling, which immediately captured everyone’s attention. Would you share us some of your memories of him and how he passed down his passion to you?
Rome was one of my father’s greatest loves. He was never interested in visiting other cities much; he was sure he would never see anything that could hold a candle to the Eternal City. On the other hand, I have always had the itch to travel, to visit faraway places, to understand the differences; perhaps this was the best medicine for my great curiosity. He often called me a “xenophile”!
But when my travels turned into long stays, first in London and later in France, I understood better what he meant…
Whoever leaves Rome is often “condemned” to finding it everywhere.
Very fond of his city, Giuseppe Durante wanted, with Profvmvm Roma, to pay a tribute to her, recreating an olfactory fragment of her melancholy, breath taking beauty.
My father was a great scholar of Ancient Roman history, from its monuments to its customs and traditions!
People would to visit him at the shop in Piazza Mazzini, in Prati. They went to listen to his fascinating explanations and stories, on Imperial Rome and the origin of the most beautiful, noble raw materials used in perfumery. He was quite knowledgeable about these too, as contact with Ecology and Nature were his other great passion. When you entered his shop, it was like entering a living room. There was lots of talk, even personal (“Do you like pasta? With what red wine?”) and you left with the olfactory feeling and a human touch. An escape…
His memory lives on vividly in the memories of those who knew him.
As a father, in addition to his boundless affection, he instilled in me values for my origins and roots. Yet he always let me free to decide and encouraged me to spread my wings. Without deep roots, we cannot go far.
One of the characteristics of Profvmvm Roma is its ability to make people fall in love. Those who marry Acqua di Sale or Confetto never leave it. How have you been able to create this strong establishment with the public and your perfumes? What do you think your secret is?
I believe that one of the most important characteristics of a perfume is the welcome by the final user, how they respond to a specific creation, their ability to identify with it, their personal memories, their fantasies…
If people can find themselves in a perfume, if that perfume becomes an integral part of a memorable day, a place, a loved one, a feeling; well then, that perfume becomes an integral part of an experience and that experience can be relived even when it is thought lost in time. The power of perfume is enormous, capable of being transformed into slow motion, or a time machine. So the secret, well naturally in addition to the quality of the creation, lies in the message and the manner of communication: it works on a direct, emotional level. They are the backdrops for life lived, the essences of life, the past and imagination.
Finally, as we know, a perfume is something that is extremely subjective and intimate. So the last work is always that of the person who loves wearing it, for themselves and for those who live with them. They give them life. And that perfume will be the olfactory theme for their memories or their olfactory signature, their “presence” in that particular moment of time.
You are one of the Italian brands that are most coherent with the idea of niche. Is it true that your fragrances are not available for sale online? Can you tell us about thought, which I consider truly courageous and radical?
The thought behind this radical choice to not sell online in Italy is always that of the importance of human contact and personal experience. Perfume is a physical experience that involves the senses, all of them. So, buying a perfume online becomes a reductive act, without senses or sensuality.
Flavia Romana, you are currently conducting a wonderful, personal study abroad, coming into contact with French and other International fragrance creators and experts. Within the overall context of perfumery, where do you see Italy? What are our most important resources for the present and future? What is missing that is needed?
I began my training in Grasse in 2015, and I have been in Paris since this fall.
It is undoubtedly the front line in France and the Perfume Industry. The roots of Perfumery, however, as sunk deeply in our country. In 1500 in Florence, it was Caterina de’ Medici, who bought the use of perfume to the French court. Italy has always been a country of incredible works of art and highly skilled craftspeople. I believe that these characteristics must be conserved in time and with passing generations. Today, Italy still plays a very important role, especially in the niche perfume market. In my opinion, a deeper culture of perfume should be implemented, starting in elementary school. The use of specific vocabulary and a greater generalized sensitivity to the issue, to start. The yearly event of Smell Festival in Bologna, for example, is a wonderful example of promoting the culture of perfume!
How would you like to contribute to the future of Profvmvm Roma?
My opinion is that almost any success can be improved, with dedication and humility. It is right to remain loyal to the original ideas, to your roots… It is equally right to be creatively innovative. So I hope to continue to contribute in a growing, increasingly important manner to projects at Profvmvm Roma.