Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Guerlain Conundrum

If you have been under a rock in a cave in the Sumatran soil, you might have missed the discussion around Guerlain's modus operandi of the last few years. Let's do a very brief recap for those of you who might have: First there was a colossus who bought an historical house: LVMH (that's Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy) ~the Guerlain boutique at 68 Champs Elysees is getting refurbished and Guerlain starts to produce "niche" and exclusive lines within the brand as well as "for old time's sake" re-issues for those who have access to select distribution and serious trust funds. Then someone pronounces "The End of Civilization as We Know it", when news of a reformulation of one of the house's masterpieces leak: the perfume community sounds its barbaric yawp through the rooftops of the world and Isabelle Rousseau's mail gets spammed. Then that someone changes their mind about a year and a half later pronouncing the pneuma of the original living on in the current juice (sorry, I don't want to go there). In the meantime, industrious Guerlain launches juice after juice, flanker after flanker and name change after name change like the equivalent of Japanese labor on strike: working a 64-hour week. Do they even have time to smell the roses?
And when outsourcing is proving too incoherent, when Jean Paul is petering out after years of faithful service, they hire one of their Givaudan protegés, their own resident nose.
Last but not least, they issue out their take on erotic tittilation that reads like Régine Deforges on crack for Carnal Elixirs ~a MUA reader succinctly described it as "some Paris Hilton Goes to Versailles nightmare script": if you haven't yet read it, do so on Perfume Posse and don't miss the comments. I admit I didn't make the "charnel house" connection right away but the prose was such a deepest shade of purple I didn't have available grey cells left to proceed the data.
And of course prices are skyrocketing all the while: on everything, up till now cheap and cheaper, as if some strange magnetic force is making them all stick together like iron particles .

What exactly is happening to Guerlain? That's not me asking; that's the whole perfume buying public who lowers their brow in awe and respect when entering the Abode; an abode which will become a mausoleum if they lose that respect.

Let's take things from the top. Lutens was on the vanguard of the conceptual fragrance line. When the Salons du Palais Royal opened its doors in 1992, there was no one doing "niche". Apart from those who had small artisanal businesses at the back yard of their homes and they were lovingly preparing batches for themselves and their friends, of course. Or the special commissions by rich people to specific perfume houses. But these are not general exempla, emulated by many.
Lutens went where no one had dared set foot before: art-directing a whole series of scents that were inspired by specific visions of a very individual culture, made with traditional care yet modern flair ~in essence, a pioneering act of defiance to current trends (I am reminding you these were the ozonic/marine 90s). He must have lost quite a bit of money at first, as both the formulae were expensive (too many costly natural ingredients) and the packaging, decor and scenario were fine-tuned like a fine specimen by Stradivari.

Success comes to those who wait and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: A few years later almost everyone was doing their own Lutenesque vision.
The exclusivity factor caught on and everyone started realising that the lack of "marketing" on Lutens's part on the Paris exclusives was indeed an admirable marketing tool: the oldest one, actually ~deny this which could be had and you create desire!
Consequently, this avalanche of exclusive lines within big brands who cater for two different clienteles, it seems: The hoi polloi and the connoisseurs. [The latter term can be thought to be an euphemism for those who are willing to spend a lot of money and energy hunting down what is elusive yet not always worthwhile, but I will return on this at some other time].
One house followed another in this "game". Hermès was the first to launch an exclusive line of haughty-mighty sparse fragrances (like eating raw artichokes is the pinacle of savoir-faire) for their "boutiques only" just when they hired a resident nose in a move that was crucial: the Hermessences.
I am pretty sure Chanel saw the desirability factor of the Hermessences and launched Les Exclusifs in turn: appearing like elegant sketches rather than finished oil on canvases, they utilised modern interpretations of older spermatic ideas in previous fragrances of the house. Even Lancôme re-issued some of their past successes in La Collection, including Cuir, and Givenchy did Les Mythiques.

What was Guerlain to do? The above houses were not primarily perfume houses. Hermès is a glorified saddlery. Chanel an iconic fashion house who had their own cornering on chic that needed modernising in the 80s to get out of the moth-balls of inertia. Givenchy is a designer house relying on the designer's quixotic pursue of elegance, not for some time now. Lancome was skincare and cosmetics and try to convince me otherwise.
Guerlain had a legend in their hands: Shalimar (amidst myriads, assuredly, but I'm willing to accept it's their calling card) as well as an arch-snob that demands an acquired taste much like a Trapeze-monk-produced-beer fermented in the bottle (ie.Mitsouko). With the craziness about gourmands in recent years surely they could have tapped that potential and produced something sophisticated and rich in that vein. After all their exquisite treatment of vanillin has consolidated their mythos. Would it be enough?
I think they were terribly late with their Spirituese Double Vanille (which admitedly sounds much worse than it actually smells; fist faux pas). Their Shalimar Light was brilliant and they should have pursued in that course stylistically (not in the onomatopoieia part though, because it evokes sugar-free sodas to mind and that wouldn't help; second faux pas).

Guerlain realised they couldn't be left out of the "game" everyone was playing: Enter L'art et la Matière line ~at least visually, but also semantically, very much inspired by the Lutens portfolio. Guerlain fans are crazy about Guerlain anyway, but this allowed them to approach a segment of the niche audience who was after more conceptualised, modern series with lyrical and strange names ( à la Tubereuse Criminelle, which is surely behind the Rose Barbare or Angélique Noire moniker).

It seems to me that Guerlain is on an especially precarious balance: they need to respect their historical tradition (which after all, as an historian, can't help but respect) and to enrich it with some modernity (otherwise they will get obsolete and slowly die along with their old customers). But the practical problem is Guerlain afficionados are not interested in modernity: they want tradition! That die-hard core base is too small to sustain the house alone, however, so they need to corner the modern market (new parties interested in the "hard to get") as well as the mass market to get profits that would fuel the above two scenarios.
Therefore they neededed to proceed with segmentation, which they did on the antithetical poles of tradition and modernity:

1) the Il Etait une fois line for the serious traditionalists and collectors in Baccarat crystal bottles with special etchings and Jean Paul's boutonnière molded out of wax (über-tradition of the upper echelons with a price tag to reach the stars)
2) the classic stable of dependables, such as Shalimar, L'heure Bleue, Vétiver et al, with some lifting ~that never gets admitted~ for the old, loyal fans (conservative traditionalists)
3) Les Parisiennes for the younger fans with the desire to hop to Paris and get a memento from a great museum-store (tradition and modernity hand in hand: limited editions that scream "new" in old, royally embossed bottles; travel exclusives that created a following but now put on their party clothes and are unwilling to stay overnight unless you order Veuve Cliquot with those nachos)
4) L'art et la Matiere line (audience: the press people, the niche fans, the blogosphere, the marketing people at rival firms getting a heart attack ~modernity that shows we're alive and kicking, by Jove!).

These moves did revamp their profit margin and their "niche" appeal as well as the interest of collectors and perfume lovers of vintage.
And now they growl "for the animal in you" with their mojito-sounding Guerlain Homme and play light bondage games with their Elixir Charnels. It's like a temporary tattoo for kids, hidden in a bag of Cheetos: be a man and go the whole hog with it, damn it!

Will these moves see them through thick and thin in the future? I am very much afraid that they are not ready to see just how deep down the rabbit hole goes...

Photography by Maria Brink courtesy of What Up Thug blog. Guerlain garden at EPCOT courtesy of anelson823


  1. Dearest Helg

    My head is reeling at the breadth and depth of this post after skimming thi - I must print it out to read it, since the computer screen does not do it justice for gravitas.

    Love the comedy tucked in there, too!

  2. And such is the sad, sad tale of woe. It really is awful; and terribly typical...just before the tide starts turning, and a whole new crew of fans begins their approach, the marketing wizards "revamp" and take away that which was the best possible calling card.

    And worse, I know that my own complaining is futile, because the minute they profile me, they will see I will not be a dozen a year flacon purchase customer, and I become 1/10 a vote. Sigh.

  3. Anonymous14:06

    Such an interesting article, thanks E. I think you too are a Guerlain fan and it must have pained you a little to write it as it does for other die hard fans (I count myself one) to read and recognise. Having said all that I am remarkably adept at ignoring bits I don't like (Insolence, L'Instant or whatever it is) and focusing on the bits I do (Mitsouko, still, just about, Shalimar Eau Legere, Jicky, Attrape Coeur) and as you say, what an illustrious history! I also very much enjoyed your characterisation of the rival firms particularly Hermes "glorified saddlery" ! How true! Am I one of the few who think Hermes goods, apart from their perfumes, are incredibly vulgar? (Dona)nicola

  4. Thank you Anya,

    I appreciate your compliment. :-) Well, I gritted my teeth while writing it, they have perplexed me and confused me and I just wish they're get back on track.

  5. Scents,

    indeed now that some new fans get the chance to discover them, they embark on what could be an allieanating campaign.
    Let's hope for the best.

  6. Dear Nicola,

    indeed I am such a one and it was painful indeed.
    I had to grit my teeth thinking about how scattered this approach seems and how confusing to a perfume neophyte.

    Their rich history has to be preserved, yet they have a very difficult time preserving it. I feel for them, I really do.
    But what's to do? When they ask those high prices I can't cut much slack.

  7. Oh and I forgot:

    Hermes did a smashing move in hiring Jean Claude ~their fragrances are now positioned as ultra-chic, aka they don't try hard.
    Whereas all those Birkins and Kellys status symbols...I'm afraid they do.

  8. Anonymous15:31

    Good ol' market segmentation/product differentiation: the twin peaks of commerce. It appears that Guerlain is trying to enter the modern business world; figure out how your market-share pie is divided, and release products aimed squarely at each slice of the pie.

    But please, don't lie to us -- meaning the perfume fanatics -- the ones who know better. Yes, we reformulated, no, we didn't, yes, we did, well, we sort of did. C'mon, mousieurs, we're not idiots.

    And don't focus-group everything. This is the arch-enemy of genius, IMHO. As in, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. As in, all of the corporate restaurants in the US serving thoroughly focus-grouped food (bland, non-threatening, made in a factory in St. Louis, grrrr...don't get me started on THAT.)

    And the soft-porn ad copy for the new ones...what was the name of the product? I can't remember, something about peppercorns? Heh-heh. Hilarious.

  9. You have really summarized the history well, I was nodding my head and laughing through the entire first section (especially the part about Mrs. Rousseau is hilarious).
    I think the current marketing strategies of Guerlain is extremely well-planned, and sincerely hope that their smartness will not hit back on themselves in the future, after all there is only one Guerlain.

  10. Anonymous17:45

    Ha! THANK YOU FOR TELLING THE T-R-U-T-H!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I was at the Toronto Guerlain boutique (Canadian flagship) and the general manager SWORE FROM THE BOTTOM OF HER HEART that Mitsouko has never been reformulated. Apparently that was what the headquarter told her!

    I got a kick out of the fact that the Guerlain PR froze when Dr. Turin told them how the rectangular bottles reminded him of Lutens' creations. 'Nuf said.


  11. Anonymous17:49 the way...I've been dying to ask...maybe I've missed the info but who's the dashing young man featured in your Derby post? I would've guessed a very young Alain Delon.

  12. Hey Helg - you have just totally proved my ultimate point - there is NOBODY on the face of the earth that likes both Shalimar and Mitsouko. It's either one or the other. I'm still a Mitsouko girl, and you're so right - it just doesn't smell the way it used to. Am reading Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez's fabulous "Perfumes - the guide" at the mo (god I wish I was getting paid for raving about it but sadly I just AM that enthused), and he says that it narrowly avoided serious restructuring BUT somehow isn't the same as it was... hmmmm

  13. Dear A,

    so true!
    "Camel is a horse designed by a comittee!" Haha! :P
    I do resent the lies, true.
    Mrs.Rousseau didn't lie though, to her credit, she admited in emails that there has been some reformulation but that it is to observe the standards of EU regulations.

    The new ad copy is rather low. I wouldn't expect it from such a house, even though I hear the juice isn't bad.

  14. Dear L,

    did I? I was afraid I was being sarcastic to the point of missing the good stuff (surely there was some and I reaped the benefits).
    I'm a little skeptical on their current marketing: I'm sure they brainstormed and hired the very best, but I see it coming after them and haunting them.

    The Il etait une fois line hasn't been supplement for two years now. This is seriously vexxing. And foreboding.

  15. Dear A,

    you're welcome. It pains me to criticize Guerlain: they're probably my most favourite classic house, I have so many fragrances of theirs...

  16. The Derby pic: yup, Alain Delon. How exquisitely virile yet sensitive.
    (If you're a fan I will be using another pic of him -smashing one- later on)

  17. Lucy,

    thank you for commenting and glad I provided corroboration to the theory.
    Hmm, I do like both, but if pressed to choose, I'd say Mitsouko without a doubt. On the other hand I instantly liked >Shalimar Light, so does that make me schizo? ;P

    That kind of phrasing you mention on the changes: isn't it an oxymoron? I'm wary of such phrasing.

  18. Hi Helg, I agree with the other comments this is a really good post.

    I couldn't agree more about Shalimar Light, it's a lovely scent but one that I also would have thought would have been a real winner for them if marketed more- I also am not keen on the name.

    In terms of the future I am very concerned.

    I feel like Guerlain is a beautiful, intelligent and stylish French lady in her middle years- but whose still got it, a Juliette Binoche type. Now a real French lady looking to keep up with modern times would work with what she had, make subtle improvements, buy a few more modern items (introduce a few modern perfumes)but not change her style altogether. A really stylish French lady wouldn't change her whole look or attitude overnight because she wouldn't need to and I don't think Guerlain needs to!

    I think they're advertising is a bit dated though and maybe the news about Natalie below is a move to recognise that and while she isn't what I imagine for this scent I hope that when the pictures come out I will be pleasantly surprised.

  19. This was such a great read, thank you perfumeshrine!

    How hard is it for Guerlain to modernize their image while preserving their heritage and identity. It just seems it 's mission impossible!

    Back in the 1990's everybody from the perfume industry thought Serge Lutens was a little whacky (according to his own words). But when he launched his export fragrance line and that he and Shiseido started to make profits and this was no joke anymore, only then they all started to look at the whole thing more seriously.
    It 's one thing to copy Lutens 's concept but he is a visionnary and they are not and that 's why the people at Guerlain have a clue, no vision and no coherance which looks like they 're lost into oblivion.

    Although not a masterpiece I thought Insolence was going in the right direction; young, fun, carefree, modern yet reminiscent of the Guerlain tradition. Then came those niche lines, the lamentable launchig of poorly executed expensive fragrances with lutensean names but lately the dioresque Guerlain Homme. Clearly something 's terribly wrong at Guerlain. They 're unable to position themselves on the market with confidence and establish a new Guerlain era. Instead all they 're doing is picking up a few things here and there and make it their own for the time being.

  20. Perfect recap of the situation, dear! Alas.

    I don't know what's going on with Guerlain. At first they seemed to have some consistency, with the parallel development of mass market scents and niche scents, but now they seem to be going all over the place, with a gazillion niche lines and all... (by the way, I believe they do make a distinction between the Il était une fois line, with currently just Vega and Sous le Vent, and a "vintage" line being those insanely-priced reeditions with Voilette and Mouchoir, and, one is to assume, Candide Effluve and the upcoming, original Champs-Elysées)
    And this ultra-violet prose, now? That's absolutely ludicrous, and unworthy of them. I don't know what they're thinking, or who they're targeting. Maybe the post-modern cocottes? ;)

    While I fully recognize the definitive impact Serge Lutens had on the birth of the niche market, I still think Diptyque and L'Artisan both played their part, too, and they've been around for quite some time as well... still, lines like L'Art et la Matière are so blatantly "inspired" by Lutens, it's not even funny.

    Also, I LOLled at the trapeze-monk-beer comparison - love the stuff, love Mitsouko... and can't get into Shalimar ;)

  21. You know, while I think of it... what is Liu doing in the Parisiennes line, instead of the Il Etait Une Fois? Not that I'm complaining, considering the prices, but still, it's bizarre....

  22. Don't forget the confusing Acqua Allegoria line (and even aromatherapy, now discontinued). With few exceptions it was like they were bottling all the Fanta versions in the world. Not to mention that their microwave system is not working since ages! They don't give a cent on their Ode / Kadine / Cachet Jaune that were able to be smelled once. Now I open every month the door hoping that they will refill it. No chance! Their "tradition" today is a big lie and paid articles in French press. Nobody said a word in (official print feminine press) on the quality of their fragrances, the reformulation of Mitsouko and so on. What about Shalimar extract (with its original castoreum and birch tar) and Chant d'arômes. It should be interesting to recheck the drydown of Shalimar (extract).
    Another big mistake is the continuous change of names from No25 to Voile d'Ete, the 4 seasons now....That's not creation, nor marketing. That's recycling in the worst way. If you have already a 1 may perfume sold one day.... you don't release it again and cheaper. You destroy the exclusive concept.
    Today Guerlain is just confusion - in their mind and in their nose.

  23. six.... don't say a word on Liu :) I still want to buy it at this price.
    Helg, Just forgot to thank you for this analysis. You pointed so well the "disaster".
    What about the airport perfumes? :)
    You should have seen their packaging. That's not Guerlain. And now, whoever had the idea of changing the Mitsouko packaging (the new beige-cream one) has no taste and no notion of design.
    Their incoherence is also visualy (but that's less my concern). If you look at their paper (in France, international, airport) they have different qualities and some of them look indeed the contrary of their brand image.

  24. I wish I lived where I could smell some of these new creations. The only one I bought unsniffed was Iris Ganache, and on me, I'm sorry I did. I haven't yet figured out how to make it work, what I could layer it with.

    After a while, it's just overkill (pun intended!)

    And this ad copy is drivel. How about something short and sweet: "What is your fantasy?" Then, "We deliver." LOL!

  25. Anonymous01:09

    Octavian you pointed out a great issue! I was going to buy the 30mL Mitsouko parfum when I was on holiday at Neiman Marcus and TOTALLY STOPPED doing so when I saw the TACKY packaging! Looking back I'm so glad I got the 30mL L'Heure Bleue parfum a few months's not the same but it's better than nothing.

  26. Great post, E--it's like a brilliant summary of an epic tragedy. The other comments are wonderful too. I have nothing to add but my shared sorrow. I am not even the greatest Guerlain fan, but I always feel a little pang when I look at my bottle of Mitsouko.

  27. Six, I disagree with you on L 'Artisan and Diptyque having played their part too by inspiring the Guerlain, Chanel exclusives and fragrance lines such as Tom Ford, Armani Prive, Jar, By Kilian etc. L 'Artisan and Diptyque actually have been around long before Serge Lutens, but they were artisanal and never took it to the next level. The only reason all those lutensean niche fragrance lines are around today is because Lutens turned the artisanal into profitable prestigious and exclusive with his export line. Then they thought "Hey wait a minute, this whacky guy 's making money with his concept and it 's working?
    The present perfume industry is all about profits. Edmond Roudnitska was desperate already in the 60's, thanks goodness he 's not around to see how things are going downhill.

  28. Octavian, me too I find the new Mitsouko packaging so tasteless and cheap. Seriously, who are those incompetant marketing executives at Guerlain?

  29. Emmannuella, that's not quite what I was saying - just that Lutens isn't alone in doing what was later to become niche stricto sensu, i.e. scents that were drastically different from what was sold in the traditional outlets, and that appealed only to a small fringe of consumers.
    Lines like the ones you mentioned, with each scent centered around a specific material, are indeed completely inspired by Lutens. As Helg pointed out, the L'Art et La Matière line borrows from Lutens not only in concept, but also in packaging (albeit "guerlinized"), and up to their names...

    Octavian, sorrrryyyy! I was thinking out loud and should have been more careful - better not to give that kind of profit-maximizing ideas to anyone ;))

  30. Rose,

    thank you, I'm honoured.

    Shalimar Light has had a very ...mysterious treatment: I will focus on that on my full review on it next week. ;-)

    Love your analogy: there is indeed a need to not veer too much further from their true identity in this effort of modernisation. Otherwise the integrity of the brand gets lost.

    BTW, I have added a pic of the new Shalimar campaign with Natalia below (scroll a bit), link provided by a kind reader.

  31. You're welcome, Emmanuella and thanks for the compliment.

    I believe they have the hardest time of all houses in that regard: exactly because of their iconic status, as I pointed out.

    Insolence was a nice enough effort I always thought: I found it true to Guerlain spirit in smell (if one closes their eyes and ears and just focus on smell they see the lineage hidden in there). But it managed to allienate many of the "old fans" and I am not so sure it created new admirers. Pity, if so.

    Now, with all this segmentation, I think they know full well what they're doing, only it appears confusing to us because we're judging (yet again) with only aesthetic criteria. It's a bet they're placing and are hoping it turns out profitable.
    We'll see...

    I should really get a whiff of that Guerlain Homme, if you pan it so much ;-) Got me curious.

  32. Six,

    indeed it's rather confusing, isn't it? Glad you liked the comparisons! :-))

    Yes, good point, they do make the distinction between Vega and Sous le Vent and the others (Violette de Madame & Mouchoir de Monsieur in those snail bottles). But the punchline is the same: "here is tradition, pay for it!" (it shouldn't be "stated" thus, IMO)

    I think that Diptyque and L'artisan (and on a less obvious level Annick Goutal) were the first "niche" lines, without touting their niche signature, however: That made them lack the self-placement and in a way cost them some cachet.
    They were the first lines of niche I approached myself and the results made me curious to explore more.

  33. Six,

    another mysterious move... Probably because Liu is not coming from the old-old Jacques Guerlain golden era? I don't know.

  34. Octavian,

    thank you for chimming in.

    The Aqua Allegorias started perfectly: I recall loving at least 3 out of the first line-up. Then something weird happened: they issued Winter Delice (very nice!) as a Limited Edition. Now why was that?
    The AA line had been slowly ditching the non-sellers (some of my favourites, alas) and along with it, WD, which they re-issued recently in those Baccarat bottles for Les Quatres Saisons coffret: ridiculous!! (it's 10fold the price). And of course vice versa, as you say (although the default trend is to go UP pricewise)

    All the flavours of Fanta: not a bad simile!! LOL

    I also recall the Aromaparfum line: it also had one that was very good (the spicy woody one). It vanished without a trace. Why? Probably because it didn't sell.

    Indeed there is nary a world on the change in many of their perfumes and those who have fond memories of older versions are left hanging there. Chant d'Aromes is thankfully still good, probably because it has been bottled in the bee lines and is scarcer. But Shalimar whoich is destined for grande consomation, it has changed a lot; I agree.

  35. Octavian,

    those airport things are so confusing.
    Vetiver pour elle was exclusive and it's good. Now Colours of Love was packed in a Barbie-doll cartoons box. Huh???
    Vol de Nuit Evasion I hear is re-interpreting another existing fragrance in lighter dilution. (and what a silly name: sounds like a night attack on Iraq, doesn't it?)

    I haven't paid too much attention to the changes in packaging these last few months (apart from the boxes on the boutique scents) and have stayed far away from the new Mitsouko, so I should devote a little time to fixing that. I'm sure you're right.

  36. Karin,

    I think lots of the hype is just that: hype to drive sales and sales of samples.
    Iris Ganache not working, huh? It's fluffy and rather pleasant for what it is, but I agree it's not the most elegant iris out there. Too patisserie for that, rather bourgeois. Fragrance shouldn't be layered to work, they should work on their own.
    On the other hand, perhaps you might be able to swap it.

    Love your ad copy comeback! If only.

  37. A,

    so there's one person's testimony of being turned off by the new packaging! I hope our voice gets heard.

  38. M,

    thank you for your compliment; it has generated quite an intelligent and insightful discussion, hasn't it? I like that my readers are discerning.

  39. Emmanuella,

    I think maybe Six was saying that those brands named were on the pioneering front of niche, not necessarily that they influenced directly those "private lines within big brands" of today.

    Roudnitska was adamant about establishing perfumery as an art vs a business and perhaps the commercial flop of Dior Dior was painful to him when it resulted in discontinuation. He would surely feel for today's state.

    I am wondering though: was Lutens as profitable as all that, so as to make those bigger houses sit down and pay attention? Or was it in-between-them rivalrly (like mentioned in Burr's latest book, between Hermes and Chanel) and an idea rose by glimspsing what Lutens was doing? If so, the focus and aim is different and the inspiration is only circumstancial. It might have been Lutens or it might have been someone else (whoever had an original idea).
    What do you think on that?

  40. Six,

    yeah, not a murmur more, because they read everything and take into account everything.
    I am CERTAIN that they have seen all this crazy, mad rush to get the newest "lemming" published on popular fora and think we're gullible enough to swallow down anything they have to offer us at any price point.
    At least the practices seem to indicate that they do.

  41. Hi, E --

    just wanted to say, I'm late to the party, but I love your fabulous analysis and all of the discussion that has ensued here.

  42. perfumeshrine,

    Actually back in the late 90's Annick Goutal was succesful in america at dept stores like Bloomingdales and you could even find her fragrances at Sephora in Soho, but then in the 2000's it started to decline little by little. I went to Bloomies the other day, they used to have Caron and Goutal but they are nomore.

    I found a few articles online, how Serge Lutens positioned and established Shiseido in France as a major cosmetic brand back in the 80's and early 90's and other articles on his profitable fragrance and make-up lines. In america his makeup line is very successful and #1 at Barney 's in the high end category and that it was developping worldwide. Miguel from Aedes told me Lutens has been their best seller for many years. They go to Paris at les Salons du Palais Royal every year in the spring for updates. Last spring, they saw people from Taiwan and Russia.

  43. Emmanuella,

    yes, I have heard about Goutal. I wonder why the decline though. Is it because of Annick's death and a shift into soliflores? I found Les Orientalistes a wonderful addition to the line recently.
    And we all know about Caron...

    I do believe that Lutens does well in the niche market. I was merely questioning if big, much bigger brands such as Guerlain were worried about this success.

    If you would care to mail me with links on the articles, I would appreciate it a lot. If not, that's all right as well :-)

  44. perfumeshrine, for the links I used to have everything on my comp, about 60 articles on Lutens until it crashed and lost them all. I didn 't save them on a disk. I once emailed these links to Bvlgari from POL, if you know him maybe he still has them otherwise if I have time this weekend or this afternoon I 'll search for them online, it must somewhere...

  45. This comment has been removed by the author.


    the original WWD article not available on their site but I found it on amabilia:

    Serge Lutens steps up makeup presence
    Shiseido’s high-end beauty brand Serge Lutens is expecting to expand the distribution of its exclusive makeup collection Nécessaire de Beauté. Introduced into a limited 15 points-of-sales (pos) worldwide during the course of last year, the brand reported exceptional sales for the makeup in the US where the collection is retailed exclusively in five Barney’s department-store outlets, Serge Lutens brand director Hassan Saad tells us.

    The makeup alone has produced average monthly sales of $35,000 at Barney’s New York and $30,000 per month at the Chicago store, compared with average monthly sales of €5,000 in the Taizo perfumery in Cannes, France, says Saad. In addition, the Serge Lutens fragrance brand, which launched in the US in mid-2004 in 30 pos has also seen a good reception, he says. The US represents Serge Lutens’ first market for makeup (80% of the brand’s sales) and its second market for fragrances (13%).

    For 2007, the brand plans to increase the presence of the makeup range to 20-25 doors worldwide. Negotiations are currently underway to put the collection in one additional outlet in France and two additional Barney’s stores in the US. The brand will also launch in the Middle East at Saks department store in Dubai and in one pos in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

    Globally, France is the top market in terms of Serge Lutens’ sales, followed by the US, then Italy. Makeup represents 8% of Serge Lutens’ turnover.

    This spring, the brand is also expanding the eight-product color offering with a new makeup base product (€65), which will be followed by two new lipstick colors (€70) later in the year.

    In March, Serge Lutens is to launch a 17th fragrance to its core range. Rousse EdP is a spicy wooden concoction formulated around the cinnamon wood note. The EdP 50ml is priced €75 and launches worldwide in 1,600 doors.

  47. Sorry about that, Emmanuella.
    Whatever you find is appreciated, but don't let me force you :-)

  48. Oh, you're quick!
    Thanks to you and the Amabilia fora! :-))

  49. perfumeshrine, my feeling is that Guerlain but also Chanel, Patou and Caron realised that a segment of perfume lovers turned to Serge Lutens or Frederic Malle, that 's why they 've launched their own exclusives as an ultimate attempt to get their own share of the niche market.

  50. That's a valid point. I think you have something there.

  51. Thank you for this scented education, interesting and informative.

  52. Cynthia,

    thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I appreciate it.

  53. Vetiver pour elle is now in Paris (Champs Elysées, Lafayette and even Sephora Rivoli ... so no more an exclusive :)

  54. Thanks for the info Octavian!

    So, a mixed decision: good for us that it's easier to get now, rather confusing on losing its previous exclusivity.
    Is there a difference in packaging (being in the previous duty-free flacon) and price (per ml) I wonder? ;-)


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