Leather, Evenings, Carner
3 August, 2012
It could be the title of a poem. In fact, it is almost the metaphor of a life – three words that summarise intense moments of the person who has lived it.
Leather, in reference to a childhood surrounded by it in Igualada tanneries. Evenings, a clear allegory to late summer afternoons as the light falls and one’s imagination can devise and come up with magical moments. And Carner, the surname and reference to the trajectory of the family behind the firm.
These three words say a lot about Sara Carner, the businesswomen who two years ago invested all her knowledge and experience in the perfume sector into creating Carner Barcelona.
Part of the niche perfume sector, Carner Barcelona is a young company that takes its creator’s family name and joins it with that of the city of Barcelona to reinforce the creativity, innovation and delicate nature of all of the brand’s details. “It’s not just about creating fragrances. It involves evoking memories, sharing experiences and conveying emotions,” Sara Carner says.
To do so, she turned to some of the most renowned perfumers in France. Although she didn’t know much about the sector, she sought them out to create the perfumes she had in mind. “The best perfume makers are in France, where they also have the best schools. I wanted designers of renown because if you don’t have big names behind you when start out with a new brand it is very hard to position yourself,” Sara says. The key to getting the perfumers onboard was, as she puts it, the fact that they picked up on her enthusiasm. She also puts it down to “a bit of luck, like everything in life”.
The brand works with well-known names such as Christophe Raynaud, who studied at the prestigious ISIPCA school in Versailles and whose creations include 1Million by Paco Rabanne and Lancôme’s Cyclades. Carner Barcelona also collaborates with Daniela Andrier, the perfumer responsible for a long list of scents including Prada’s Infusion de Tuberuse and Zegna’s Intenso, and young perfumer Sonia Constant, who has worked with fashion houses of the likes of Escada and Oscar de la Renta.
Born around the world
The firm is still young, which surely explains why it is so ambitious. Carner Barcelona, in other words, Sara Carner, has already managed to carve itself a place in 120 sales points in 20 countries around the world. “We listen carefully to the most select perfumeries to keep the brand real. In Germany for example, we are in 30 sales points and we won’t open up in more because we don’t want to flood the market,” she explains.
Sales this year are set to double those of 2011, a figure Sara rests importance from by saying “it responds to geographic growth”. However, the figures speak volumes: on the one hand, Carne Barcelona only sells 1% of its production in Spain, meaning that it had a clear international vocation right from the start. “Our first sales were in Dubai,” explains the founder and head of a team that today comprises a further four people.
Sector trade fairs open the gateway to new countries, where a local distributor is then found. In a month from now the firm will open in Israel and it has just launched in Russia. The growth of the luxury sector has been a boost for the company. “It was of key importance to get into that segment”.
Shiseido and Chanel were the “schools” where Sara Carner learnt a good part of the secrets of the perfume sector, having worked in them when she lived in New York, where she was studying a master’s course in brand management and business studies at Columbia University. She came up with the idea of starting her own business while she was there. The project would be based not on making a perfume company but developing a product targeted at very exclusive segments. “Carner Barcelona is a niche perfumery, different from the prestige or commercial one,” she says. The Italian and French markets, as well as Middle Eastern countries, have taken enthusiastically to the firm’s goods and are where most of the sales are made.
Product at the heart of the business
For now, Tardes, Cuir and D600 are the perfumes that Sara has personally designed and later had developed by the French perfumers. The names of these three fragrances, as well as the brand itself are, as mentioned, a reference to Sara Carner’s life story. Her family, which for generations has worked in the tanning sector in Igualada, has left its mark. To that ends cuirs (leather) is a word filled with significance for Sara. “I like all the perfumes I create. I wouldn’t be able to do focus groups beforehand – I make scents that I like and that’s it,” she says. Indeed, one of the firm’s peculiarities is that the fragrances are unisex: “I think the most important thing is that the customer decides whether the scent is for a man or a woman”.
Starting your own business is a hard and exhausting task by definition, and never more so than today. As well as the tension and nerves of any newcomer, there are the obstacles of the present economic situation, the lack of credit for those indispensable initial investments, and fierce customer loyalty. Sara Carner’s company has been up and running for two years and all of these initial phases are still very recent and continue to require a large investment of time. But that hasn’t stopped her from combining the early days of Carner Barcelona with recently becoming a mother. “There’s never the perfect time,” she says, while also assuring that she is very happy with the way her business is going.