Italy’s fashion hub has also gained a reputation as Europe’s new perfume capital, and the beautiful Brera neighbourhood is where the best boutiques are setting up shop. Discover the leading fragrance stores in Milan and the exquisite niche perfumes they have to offer
Artisanal fragrance houses, once perceived as the preserve of Paris, have found a new home in Milan’s Brera district. Situated between La Scala and the Accademia di Brera, this formerly bohemian quarter of the city transports visitors back to the 19th century with its historical, artistic charm. That sense of stepping back in time is one of the factors that has persuaded an increasing number of established fragrance houses to open boutiques in this part of town.
This quarter of Milan increasingly feels like the fragrance capital of Europe
Creed is one example. Founded in 1760 in London by James Henry Creed, the house became an official supplier to the British royal household before relocating to Paris in the mid-19th century. Over 150 years later, the store on Milan’s Via Madonnina was the brand’s first European boutique to open outside France. Designed to resemble an apartment, the space reflects Creed’s investment in innovation and style.
Silvio Levi is a leading expert in artistic perfumery and the founder of Calé, the fragrance distributor responsible for the conception of the Milan boutique, alongside Olivier and Erwin Creed, the sixth-generation and seventh-generation ‘noses’ of the Creed dynasty. For Levi, the decision to open in Brera was an obvious one. ‘Via Brera, Via Fiori Chiari and Via Madonnina are now nestling more artisanal fragrance houses than the whole of Paris!’ he exclaims. ‘Walking the streets is more relaxing and interesting than in any other location.’
In terms of the design of the store, he says, ‘Creed’s code has been strictly respected, but originality and creativity are represented by pale grey shelves and containers in transparent crystal, cantilevered by long, shining stainless steel bars.’ This aesthetic is an ideal canvas for Creed’s individual approach to creating scents; its men’s, women’s and unisex fragrances have cult status and the house is known for creating scents for prominent figures from Winston Churchill to the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Merchant of Venice, an artisan perfumer on Via Brera, can be traced back to the 17th century and the Vidal family, who saw the need for a cultural luxury brand that would encapsulate the unique Venetian spirit. The boutique in Milan opened in 2016 and is characterised by a distinctive dark red decor, a nod to its Venetian heritage. It was designed by Brera-born stage designer Pier Luigi Pizzi, who later moved to Venice. ‘My design is nostalgically reminiscent of the classic nobleness of ancient pharmacies, ideally merged with the contemporary context of functional shelves. Venetian red is the chromatic, dominating element that exalts the brand in this aristocratic urban space,’ Pizzi explains.
The Merchant of Venice offers an exclusive assortment of eaux de parfum and eaux de toilette, and is renowned as much for the elaborate design of its bottles as the fragrances inside. The Murano collection, inspired by the Venetian glass of the same name, is an evocation of travel from Italy to the Orient, and is presented in beautifully coloured Murano glass bottles.
Where the Merchant of Venice and Creed offer an indulgent exploration of a single brand, Campomarzio70 on Via Brera has been scouring the globe for exclusive scents for almost 100 years. As a result, the boutique offers a carefully curated selection of fragrances from esteemed names such as Acqua di Parma and Floris, alongside modern classics that include Comme des Garçons and Byredo and quintessentially British fragrance houses Miller Harris and Penhaligon’s. Campomarzio70 has stores in a number of European countries and is known for its personal service, but the Milan boutique is particularly distinguished by its decor in opulent tones of lapis lazuli blue – and by its elegant champagne bar.
While these three boutiques epitomise artisanal luxury, they are by no means the only ones to visit. Profumo is a fragrance boutique situated in a palazzo that was once the home of the noble Beccaria family. The Olfattorio Bar à Parfums multi-brand space is perfect for sampling a range of scents and there is also Diptyque, whose distinctive, old-world aesthetic fits seamlessly into the landscape, looking as though it has been there for hundreds of years.
As this quarter of Milan increasingly feels like the fragrance capital of Europe, one wonders what scents we will be wearing in the years to come. ‘Research now is about odours that do not exist in nature – metals, stone, electricity or laser-inspired fragrances,’ says Levi. He also notes a new code for strong femininity: ‘steel and flowers’ and ‘aluminium and romanticism’ are some of the pairings he predicts. Intrigued by the future of fragrance? Brera is the place to visit.