When it comes to fragrances, the brand name may be everything. Many American, European, and even Japanese brands leverage that with their high-end perfume lines. In most developing countries, the luxury fragrance market is exclusively dominated by Western brands. In China, that trend may change with consumers, especially young ones, leaning towards domestic brands. But that doesn’t change the fact that competition may be tight for such brands.
DOCUMENTS is a young Chinese premier fragrance brand that has recently received investment from the L’Oreal group, the French beauty conglomerate. Their Shanghai-based Chinese investment fund, the Shanghai Meicifang Investment, has invested $1.4 million in the novice brand. That’s an impressive feat, considering the company is less than two years old, founded in 2021. According to statements by L’Oreal China’s president, the move from the investment group springs from the growing interest of young Chinese consumers in local premier fragrances. Targeting young consumers has been the main strategy of the founder, Zhaoran Meng, since the brand’s inception. He partnered with the multinational Givaudan, a revered fragrance manufacturer.
The brand’s profile and aesthetics are on par with other notable luxury brands. However, what may set it apart from its much more powerful competitors is its choice to stick to the roots in terms of fragrance offerings. The fragrances are made from more traditional Chinese sources, embracing the country’s rich culture and heritage. However, the packaging is contemporary. Their Instagram profile contains carefully curated photographs of perfume bottles and young models dressed in all black.
The brand’s had a strong start, but its trajectory ahead isn’t without challenges. Establishing its name in an already saturated luxury fragrance market may take more than eye-catching packaging. Even though the fragrance market revenue in China has increased ($1.76 million in sales in 2020), it’s still dominated by an international brand. Then, there are fears of the impact of a slowing economy that may cause consumers to clench their wallets. The fragrance isn’t necessary, with only 2.5 percent of the Chinese population reportedly using perfumes. That said, as far as the brand profile goes, it’s promising enough to compete with international brands.
Documents Parfums has two stores: its inaugural flagship location opened in Shanghai, and a second one opened in Beijing. With more investment from the L’Oreal group, the company aims to open more stores. That may prove monumental for the brand’s success because, unlike established brands, they may need consumers to try their fragrances before they buy them. And physical stores can make that possible. Besides, many young Chinese retail brands are embracing offline shopping models, creating experience-oriented spaces where consumers can walk in and have a more fulfilling buying journey than they would if they bought online.
This series of articles named “Design in China” was initially published on the author’s LinkedIn, and will provide a snapshot of new DTC Chinese brands. Joss Roulet will review emerging brands in China and outside of China. But all these brands are designed and created from China.