In the second instalment of our series dedicated to Asian niche fragrance brands, we invite you to discover Maison de L’Asie .
Founded in 2020 in Singapore, Maison de L’Asie is a luxury niche fragrance house producing modern, unique fragrances that fuse French perfumery traditions with Asian influences.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Elizabeth Liau, the founder of Maison de L’Asie. Together we discussed the brand inception and expansion, the rise of niche fragrance in Asia and Maison de L’Asie future plans.
RiA: Can you give us background into your journey before launching your fragrance brand in 2020 and the reasons behind the launch of Maison de L’Asie?
Elizabeth: I worked in finance and I went into the arts business for a period of time before launching Maison de L’Asie. I have always liked storytelling and have a passion for cinema and perfume. What began as an experiment became more serious and I started studying the market. I noticed there was a shift in taste with customers moving away from mass brands as they were using fragrance as a form of self expression.
The brand is called Maison de L’Asie which is French for House of Asia to articulate the fact that I use techniques of French perfumery but at the same time, as an Asian woman myself, I am injecting my own voice into this.
Maison de L’Asie launched online in 2020. I launched my own company using my own investments and later through a fundraising campaign and some angel investors. At the same time I was sending samples to many people in the industry, from perfumers to marketing agencies that represented the big brands to the big distribution companies. The feedback was really good and soon Michael Edwards Fragrances of the World and Fragrantica quickly reached out to include Maison de L’Asie in their database. This helped get more visibility and credibility to both big and niche retail partners.
RiA: Can you elaborate on the niche and artisanal fragrance market in Singapore and in Asia?
Elizabeth: While niche brands are quite popular in Europe and the U.S I think it is still nascent in Asia. I started getting into niche perfume in the early 2000s, when I was traveling a lot and only recently have I started to see these niche brands coming into the market. Before, Singaporeans were quite reluctant to buy perfume from niche brands and they were focusing on the ones that are considered more branded in the European market because it’s all about social status and not so much personal expression. However this is changing in Asia with consumers starting to appreciate the craft in the products. Now the niche brands are quite confident to enter the Asian market and they are not necessarily working with distributors.
I believe the pandemic shed a new light on fragrance where people are starting to integrate perfume into their desire for self-expression. People put on less makeup as they are wearing masks these days so fragrance is still one of the things that allows you to “dress up”. Also fragrance is such a huge trigger for emotions and this just became more apparent during lockdown.
RiA: You mentioned that you are passionate about storytelling. I can see that Maison de L’Asie boasts different chapters or collections. Can you tell us more about the fragrances you have launched since 2020?
Elizabeth: The way my perfumes are done is in story chapters and philosophically driven by life themes. Every chapter is based on a different country in Asia with a different theme. I launched Chapter One “Nostalgia in Singapore” based on my personal story, but also about Homecoming which I feel is relatable to everyone. Chapter One features three perfumes: Nanyang, Mother x Love and Lost Lovers . Then I launched Chapter Two in 2021 which is inspired by Indonesia and the main theme is Reverie, and is really about this utopian ideal that we all seek in life. This also features three perfumes, Bali H’ai, Bois D’Indonesie and Les Nuits de Bali. All our fragrances are unisex. Sales are encouraging and a couple of our perfumes have been nominated for a few awards.
RiA: Maison de L’Asie is a digital native brand. You have opened a physical store. Can you walk us through the company’s growth since its inception?
Elizabeth: Growth has been very organic to date, and this is the year we start global expansion. We’ve been looking for the right partners in the last 12 months and are continuing to do so. We are working with Luxasia and we aim to expand and be more visible in Southeast Asia to start with a focus on Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia which are three very interesting fragrance markets in the region. We have also partnered with KrisShop, the commercial arm of Singapore Airlines. This helped us get more visibility as people shopped using their miles when they could not travel. Europe and China are also on my radar.
We opened our first store in Singapore late last year. It was a huge milestone and having a physical presence is very important for our customers to experience our products, and brand concept.
We have also invested a lot in brand building and will focus more specifically on digital campaigns on social media to convey our brand story. We are building community for the long term.
RiA: Speaking of your community, who would you say are your main customer types now?
Elizabeth: Our consumer base spans from people in their 20s to 50s. I wouldn’t say there’s one age group more predominant than the other at this point. I’m encouraged that the younger ones now have the spending power to buy these high end perfumes. Indeed Gen Z are willing to pay a few hundred dollars for a perfume even if they are not working yet. They are trying to stand out, and trying to be an individual and somehow perfume is slowly flowing into that space. People across the whole spectrum of 30s to even mid-40s are appealed by our stories and brand concept.
RiA: You mentioned the expansion in the region and in the long run globally. What’s next for Maison L’Asie?
Elizabeth: In terms of overseas market expansion, Southeast Asia will be the focus for this year and Europe would be great too, but it really depends on how travel opens up. If travels resume and people start coming to Singapore, I hope this will contribute to our expansion plans for the Singapore market. In terms of product range, there is a Chapter three in the works which will be launched this year and also a wider product range.