EXCLUSIVE: Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella Names New CEO


MILAN — Historic Florentine apothecary Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella has named Giovanna Paoloni as its new chief executive officer and general manager.

In the role, Paoloni succeeds Gian Luca Perris, who is himself a fragrance entrepreneur and creative director of the Perris Monte Carlo artistic perfume label and will continue to serve as consultant of the Florentine brand.

A graduate in economics and public relations from Milan’s IULM University, Paoloni counts two decades of experience in the luxury and retail industries. Since 2019, she served as general manager for Northern Europe at Bottega Veneta, overseeing the brand’s business in markets such as the U.K., Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria as well as the Scandinavia area.

Prior to Bottega Veneta, Paoloni was retail director of beauty, luxury and fashion at Value Retail since 2017, and before that, was named general sales manager of Harrods. Previous stints included managing roles in the wholesale and retail areas at Prada Group, which she joined in 2007, and at Giorgio Armani, where she started her career in 2004.

In her new role, Paoloni will be tasked with further accelerating the development and international expansion of the Italian beauty label, which Perris strongly propelled during his tenure.

“I feel the pride and responsibility of taking the helm of this historic brand, a heritage of Italian values ​​and beauty that has no equals in the world,” Paoloni said. “My goal will be to accompany the brand in the next phase of internationalization and strong growth, with particular attention to product development and the enhancement of our retail strategy also with the opening of new markets.”

Giovanna Paoloni

Giovanna Paoloni

Courtesy of Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

Considered a gem of the Italian beauty industry and one of the oldest pharmaceutical laboratories in the world, the company was founded by Dominican friars after they arrived in Florence in 1221 and settled in the Santa Maria Novella location, cultivating herbs to prepare medicines for their monastery’s infirmary. After manufacturing successful recipes such as aromatic waters and a bergamot-based fragrance for the queen of France Catherine de’ Medici in 1533 — which is still a bestseller — the apothecary opened to the public, officially launching as a commercial activity in 1612.

Today the brand is distributed in 30 countries across 300 doors, 81 of which are monobrand stores. Last year a second unit in Rome opened in central Via del Babuino, following ones in the U.K. — where Santa Maria Novella tied up with Harrods, building on its two London stores in Piccadilly Arcade and on Walton Street — and in the U.S., where it opened a boutique at The Pierre hotel in Manhattan.

The retail push was part of an overall change of pace kickstarted following Italmobiliare’s takeover of the firm. As reported, the investment group owned by the Pesenti family took 80 percent of the Florence-based beauty company following two separate deals in 2020 and a combined investment of 160 million euros. Finalized in October 2021, the purchase of the remaining 20 percent stake was valued at 40 million euros. 

Carlo Pesenti, Italmobiliare CEO and president of Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, praised Paoloni’s “skills, international experience and strategic vision,” which he believes will “give further impetus to the global development” of the brand.

The beauty company marked Italmobiliare’s first investment in the perfume and cosmetics industry. In three years, the brand doubled the number of stores and sales, which in 2022 climbed 56 percent to 46 million euros compared to the previous year and are expected to have exceeded 60 million euros in 2023.

The eau de parfum collection by Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

The eau de parfum collection by Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.

Courtesy of Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella

In addition to the distribution push, drivers of this acceleration included also an enhancement of product assortment and brand awareness internationally.

To wit, a new course was initiated following Italmobiliare’s takeover with some products tweaked to meet current sustainability demands and the company opening up to newness by promoting its heritage. The approach culminated in 2022 not only with the introduction of “L’Iris,” the first eau de parfum the brand launched in 800 years of history, but also with a boost of its skin care offering, which attracted younger consumers to the brand. 

Yet the overall customer base remains cross-generational as it counts on many loyal clients still purchasing historic categories such as ambient fragrances and liqueurs. Santa Maria Novella has more than 600 products in its portfolio, encompassing scents, soaps, pomades, colognes and candles, all delivered in its signature, old-school packaging.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella soaps.

Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella soaps.

Courtesy of Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella



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