Continuing today with the second and last part of my interview with Lutz Herrmann of J.F. Schwarzlose. I like to link you here again the first part, for all who missed the post yesterday. Enjoy reading! 🙂
How would you define the signature of Schwarzlose or the fragrances of the brand then and now?
Schwarzlose offered quality that was largely unique in the German perfume market, and we are trying to maintain this tradition. At that time, the trends were often set by the French. We, on the other hand, make ourselves independent of the trend because we use history as a source. This alone brings to light so much of our own that the current trends do not determine our fragrances. But sometimes trends and new developments on our part come together, such as with our next launch Rosa Centifolia. This has been the absolute classic from Schwarzlose since 1912 and the fragrance has also been excellently received internationally.
The design of the flacons deliberately fades into the background. Visual and design features include the prominent lettering, which is based on the old logo, and also the design of the lid, both of which are based on designs by Bauhaus architect – and student of Mies van der Rohe – Eduard Ludwig. The latter revised the entire range of the Schwarzlose brand from 1948 on. Also in the design is our credo: to give the fragrance discreetly the aura to unfold and not to whitewash it in any form gimmicky and put in the background.
Personally, I found it difficult to approach this fragrance and its reinterpretation. We have made various attempts to reinterpret the fragrance since 2012, and it has now actually taken 10 years to find the right formula. The fragrance was the icon of Schwarzlose. Around 1930 a trial was held in Budapest because of the trademark right even to the name Rosa Centifolia. Because it is the botanical name of a type of rose, the dog rose, and there were competitors who called their products the same. In the process, the Schwarzlose brand was able to ensure that it would retain its unique selling proposition because of its almost 20-year history. Other suppliers could be prohibited by Schwarzlose from using the name Rosa Centifolia for their products. An unusual process.
How would you describe the Rosa Centifolia fragrance?
The fragrance is based on roses. In French, this type of rose is called Rose de Mai or Grasse Rose. The old bottles exude an intense, distinctive fragrance. Capturing that and modernizing it at the same time was difficult. But here, too, Véronique Nyberg has found a convincing solution. All the experts we brought into contact with it at Esxence in Milan were enthusiastic. The result is different from what you would expect. Not cloying, but cool and elegant. Of an upbeat intensity that is somewhat vintage but also modern. The scent is difficult to describe.
In the meantime, you have also launched your own fragrances and room perfumes. What was particularly important to you to ensure that these fit into the overall concept of the Schwarzlose brand?
Schwarzlose had a large portfolio of fragrances, but also made room fragrances early on. They took this over from Treu & Nuglisch, who were already producing fragrances for the “royal” chambers around 1860. So room fragrances are not a modern invention, but were already an important part of the brand back then. We also want to relaunch other traditional products from the large Schwarzlose range in the future.
What kind of response did you get to the revival of the brand?
Actually, Schwarzlose had a small fan base from the very beginning, from very different camps: fragrance connoisseurs, creative people, people interested in history. The perfumeries were admittedly rather critical at first. We often received information that they did not want to add another brand to the range. But a few of the trendsetters in the trade have realized what’s behind Schwarzlose and have supported us.
Was the original Schwarzlose brand still known to many?
There were actually a few perfumeries in the early days that still knew the brand from the 1960s. Since many perfumeries are run as family businesses, a lot of knowledge has been passed on. That was great to experience. Then the family members or descendants of Schwarzlose approached us – one after the other. Everyone was full of praise.
How has the brand evolved in your eyes since you took it over?
It was our goal from the beginning not to be under pressure commercially. The brand should develop in a stable and continuous manner. Without venture capital, simply by conviction. The first 8 years, Schwarzlose has developed steadily and well. Then 2 years ago we increased the team and since then the development has increased. That’s nice to experience. In the early days, it was also more of a showcase for me. To show what can be done differently in the industry. The hobby has now developed into something that can stand on its own two feet.
How has Schwarzlose been received internationally?
The brand is now also recognized abroad. That’s a great result, because the competition is tough. Some of the “smaller” brands did not survive 2020. Schwarzlose has actually grown in that time. Germany is still the home country and the main sales market, but abroad people are looking at what we do and are also willing to take up the brand.
Which Schwarzlose fragrance is particularly close to your heart, and was there any kind of “problem child” in the portfolio?
Problem child… hmm… maybe 20/20. After the year 2020 rather stands for Corona, and we had not thought so before. The historical name was “Chic” and we found that a bit inappropriate. That’s why we thought long and hard about what kind of name would “beam” the idea of “Chic” from the 1920s into our time. That was just 20/20, simple and easy to understand.
I’m particularly interested in the latest developments, but my personal favourite is Treffpunkt 8 Uhr. It has something very fresh and at the same time animalistic. Very ambivalent and it changes with its own body heat, sometimes in one direction or another. And of course I am in love with Rosa Centifolia. I use the first samples daily and get so some reactions in everyday life. This is always my personal test. And the reactions are consistently positive! What fragrance are you wearing? It’s great … Then I can always answer that the perfume is homemade, and it is not yet or only recently available. Meanwhile, such reactions often came to Rosa Centifolia. That puts me in a positive mood.
What can we expect from Schwarzlose in the future?
Our goal is to continue to work on quality and fragrances. However, we also want to pursue innovations in the broader area of scent again – similar to the early days. From the very beginning, it has been our conviction to make production sustainable. In 2012, this was not a general focus in the perfumery sector. Back then, it was still state of the art: more is more. But as a designer, I was always aware that you also produce waste. With Schwarzlose, I could decide for myself how much and what. We have minimized this issue from the beginning and are working to optimize it further. We also want to move into new categories, whether it’s just personal care or other application forms of fragrance. There are a lot of projects, but none of them are ready to go yet.
Dear Lutz, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions.