The Forecast: John Demsey

SPOTLIGHT

Anyone who knows John Demsey—and isn’t that everyone?—would call him a visionary. As Estée Lauder Companies Executive Group President, Demsey is the man who built MAC from a cult makeup artist brand to the global colossus it is today, and who ushered a staggeringly successful roster of brands into the Lauder fold, including Tom Ford Beauty, By Kilian, Jo Malone, and Le Labo. We sat down with the legendary business bellwether in his bright, book-bestrewn office to see what’s in the air for fragrance in 2019.

How would you describe the state of fragrance today?
We have a resurgent fragrance business in the United States, with changing dynamics, new brands, new distribution, new challenges, new opportunities. We’re seeing a resurgence in designer fragrances. We’re seeing what started as niche perfumery becoming increasingly more important to the overall mix of business and actually to the point of tipping the market dynamics. The stakes are different these days. You don't see the frequency of the big media buy launches that you saw a few years ago. And a big launch today is a fraction of what a big launch was five or 10 years ago. There's more focus on methodical brand building, test and learn, and scaling up businesses once they get traction.

What do you think will keep the upswing going?
We have a lot of success in the fragrance business today treating brands as not just fragrances, but worlds or destinations. We're seeing a lot of brands that are based more on the craft or the luxury experiential components of the product, and less on the traditional promotion. Our fastest growing brand in North America is Le Labo, which has no visuals, no tester units, no advertising. We’re also going into our 11th year of Tom Ford, with unbelievable success. Unparalleled growth at very high price points with amazing juice and amazing digital storytelling and an amazing point of sale experience—and a decade’s worth of consistent Fifi awards. I like to think that we've had something to do with actually shaping the way that the industry is going. Because it feels to me that we’re returning to the most important things—the product, the package, and the emotional connection. I see a trading up, a focus on olfactive disruptions, and less a sea of sameness.

How has social media changed the way that fragrance is marketed and consumed?
It’s a bit of a pain point. The traditional fragrance business was about strategic sampling, getting the scent out, getting people in store, and telling a story. I'm not sure that the how-to-video influencer sensation that's been the big driver of a huge acceleration of the makeup business lends itself to the same sort of multiplier effect for fragrance. Social media is very good in terms of amplifying brand stories, distributing films or publicity or ingredient or harvesting stories. But I haven’t seen the tipping point where it can replace some of the other techniques that are used to market and launch fragrances.

What’s your personal Instagram strategy?
I do it as therapy for myself. I don't do it for anybody to follow me. People are always surprised that I actually have that subversive sense of humor, or that my impossible mashup of high low and culture even exists. They think I hire someone to fabricate it. But it’s truly authentic to me. I don't show my daughter. I don't go too far in. But I show what I like, which is part of who I am.

You’re a voracious consumer of pop culture and social media. How do you stay on top of everything?
I still try to buy every magazine on the newsstand, though there aren’t as many, which is sad. But the good news is, in the virtual world, there's always a YouTube post. There's always a new Instagram. And whenever I get together with friends, they always tell me about new people to follow. I find it incredibly exciting and fun. I like discovering, I'm curious. And I think my insurance policy for being in this business is I have a 10-year-old daughter and I'm experiencing the world through her eyes and her aspirations and her media habits.

The fragrance brands you’ve brought into Lauder aren’t just successful, or even merely cool, they have something more. What’s the secret sauce?
They're all subject matter experts, artistic and creative at the core, and have an olfactive arc and a concept. Frederic Malle is the publisher of the greatest perfumers in the world. By Kilian is the master of perfume as art and perfume as seduction. Le Labo is the ultimate artisanal fragrance. Tom Ford is the new luxury and the new aspiration. They're all rooted in something very authentic and very real. And they all have amazing products behind their successes, not just stories.

What qualities are you looking for in acquisitions now?
I'm looking for something that we'll be talking about 20 years from now. We're not in the business of just selling products, we're in the business of selling and creating brands for the long term. Something that has the germ of an idea that can live generations past that idea—that's what I ultimately look for.

What’s your biggest 2019 prediction?
What's successful at this moment will continue to be successful. And what will be successful in 2029 is already out there, we just don't know it yet. The world goes in buckets of 10 years.
—April Long

Addiction According to Olivier Cresp

SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY

The Fragrance Foundation 2018 Lifetime Achievement Perfumer

Perfume is my life. Perfumers are addicted to this all-consuming work we love and to the rush of excitement we experience when we’ve created something truly new.

Every generation of the Cresp family loved sweets. My childhood memories are of cakes baking; as a child I had even had my own specialty: candied fruit cakes. So it’s not surprising that one of my creations was Angel by Thierry Mugler, which opened the door to a new olfactive family: the gourmand.

I decided to combine edible, sugary notes like licorice, honey, and special vanillas. This led to praline mixed with cocoa to add a chocolate inflection to patchouli. Something very addictive resulted!

Gourmand scents transport us through the power of olfactory memory. Easily recognizable and reassuring, their “edible” quality makes gourmand scents irresistible.

Another addictive fragrance I am proud to have created is Dolce Gabbana Light Blue, a surprising combination of sexy, warm woods and inviting citrus notes. One of the earliest woody fragrances for women, it continues to be successful.

I believe today’s consumers – especially millennials living in big cities like London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sao Paolo – want to live life intensely. They travel the world, which is more accessible now because of the internet, and enjoy extreme sports for the strong sensations they impart. Living life to the fullest, they have lots of energy, and seek immediate gratification, so the scents they wear must complement their complex lives. They must be both comforting and captivating to grab and hold their attention.

Addictive ingredients and fragrances, then, are more relevant today than ever and still resonate strongly with me. I’m proud that, in October, 2018, I launched my own niche brand with my daughter Anais, an architect, and her husband Jack. Called AKRO, which means “addicted” in French, it is a collection of daring and disruptive unisex fragrances inspired by uncontrollable, delicious dependencies – the simple pleasures of life that keep us coming back for more!
My work is figurative. I prefer working with something tangible rather than abstract. I enjoy reproducing the actual smells around me and then making them wearable, with wonderful diffusion. So this project suits my creative style very well.

Each AKRO fragrance relates to a different time of day –and the little daily personal indulgences. AWAKE is a delicious combination of coffee, cardamom and caffeine to start the day right, like our morning expresso. Next, we reach for the DARK – an intense chocolate note to finish our midday meal. We might follow that with SMOKE – naturally addictive notes of tobacco leaves with nicotine. Then we unwind after work with intoxicating MALT and its vapors of whiskey and rum. Now it’s NIGHT – and the animalic allure of “dirty rose,” agarwood and cumin notes evoke the nocturnal pleasures of sex. Finally, HAZE and the daze we’re in from cannabis and cardamom, letting go with a joint after a long, often stressful day at work.

Personally, I am addicted to dark chocolate with a good espresso, so DARK and AWAKE both fit my personality well. Maybe AKRO’s tagline should be “Wear without Moderation”!

— OLIVIER CRESP

Perfumers’ Q&A

What the Nose Knows

Carlos Benaim, IFF

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Carlos Benaim: It would be a Rothko painting. I would convey the simplicity and transparency of the superimposed colors through a combination of highest quality ingredients to represent each layer.

Favorite non-perfume smell?
C.B.: The smell of tobacco as it reminds me of my father. He would come home in the evening with his hands impregnated with the essence of pennyroyal mint, and yellowed by his cigarettes, “Craven A”, a British blend of blond tobacco. To me, this combination is more evocative of him than his real portrait.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
C.B.: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I was reminded of this quote by Ghandi during an incredible recent trip to India.

The three qualities that got you where you are today are:
C.B.: Curiosity, tenacity and humility.

What is one thing you learned at school that you still use today?
What I learned is a way of thinking, organizing your thoughts – a rational approach to problem-solving. This is something that has been useful throughout my life.

Honorine Blanc, Firmenich

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Honorine Blanc: It would be one of Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings: a blend of purity, simplicity and technique. For my fragrance, I would choose natural ingredients and Firmenich’s Captive molecules to create a new abstract and addictive olfactive texture. The structure of this formula would maintain certain artistic qualities such as simplicity and purity.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
H.B.: Perfect happiness is being emotionally content – having the feeling of floating. It’s not about tension or full satisfaction; it’s about letting go.

Best advice you’ve been given?
H.B.: Follow your heart; trust your instincts; never give up.

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?
H.B.: My curiosity and hunger for learning, an ability to focus, and the quality of my relationships.

Favorite travel destination:
H.B.: Being on a sailboat anywhere.

Shyamala Maisondieu, Givaudan

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Shyamala Maisondieu: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It would smell of patchouli and vetiver with some green lentisque notes on top and a lot of black pepper.

Favorite non-perfume smell?
S.M.: The smell of home especially after I've been away for a while...a mixture of white flowers, my spicy Malaysian cooking and incense.

The three qualities that got you where you are today are:
S.M.: Patience, persistence, and curiosity.

If you could use one word to describe the power of fragrance, what would it be?
S.M.: Attraction.

If you could tell the world anything about fragrance, what would it be?
S.M.: Nature is precious and if we don't take care or respect nature, it would make our world a less fragrant place to live in.

The Inside Scoop

Welcome to The Fragrance Foundation’s premiere issue of our digital monthly magazine, Accords.

It is our ambition to provide exciting, exclusive content that is entertaining and valuable. Our features each month will include insights and personal perspectives from industry icons, perfumers, fragrance creative collaborators, and more.

In addition, we will keep you up to date on all the current happenings at The Fragrance Foundation, as well as share sneak peeks into our future initiatives. The Fragrance Foundation team welcomes input to grow our community and create a direct dialogue with consumers. While this new digital magazine debuts now to an audience with a majority of readers within the fragrance industry, we look to expand our reach to engage consumers in the world of fragrance.

All of us are dedicated to our mission to inspire the world to discover the artistry and passion of fragrance.

Please join us on our journey!

Don't miss a sniff,

@linda_g_levy

The Forecast: John Demsey

SPOTLIGHT

Anyone who knows John Demsey—and isn’t that everyone?—would call him a visionary. As Estée Lauder Companies Executive Group President, Demsey is the man who built MAC from a cult makeup artist brand to the global colossus it is today, and who ushered a staggeringly successful roster of brands into the Lauder fold, including Tom Ford Beauty, By Kilian, Jo Malone, and Le Labo. We sat down with the legendary business bellwether in his bright, book-bestrewn office to see what’s in the air for fragrance in 2019.

How would you describe the state of fragrance today?
We have a resurgent fragrance business in the United States, with changing dynamics, new brands, new distribution, new challenges, new opportunities. We’re seeing a resurgence in designer fragrances. We’re seeing what started as niche perfumery becoming increasingly more important to the overall mix of business and actually to the point of tipping the market dynamics. The stakes are different these days. You don't see the frequency of the big media buy launches that you saw a few years ago. And a big launch today is a fraction of what a big launch was five or 10 years ago. There's more focus on methodical brand building, test and learn, and scaling up businesses once they get traction.

What do you think will keep the upswing going?
We have a lot of success in the fragrance business today treating brands as not just fragrances, but worlds or destinations. We're seeing a lot of brands that are based more on the craft or the luxury experiential components of the product, and less on the traditional promotion. Our fastest growing brand in North America is Le Labo, which has no visuals, no tester units, no advertising. We’re also going into our 11th year of Tom Ford, with unbelievable success. Unparalleled growth at very high price points with amazing juice and amazing digital storytelling and an amazing point of sale experience—and a decade’s worth of consistent Fifi awards. I like to think that we've had something to do with actually shaping the way that the industry is going. Because it feels to me that we’re returning to the most important things—the product, the package, and the emotional connection. I see a trading up, a focus on olfactive disruptions, and less a sea of sameness.

How has social media changed the way that fragrance is marketed and consumed?
It’s a bit of a pain point. The traditional fragrance business was about strategic sampling, getting the scent out, getting people in store, and telling a story. I'm not sure that the how-to-video influencer sensation that's been the big driver of a huge acceleration of the makeup business lends itself to the same sort of multiplier effect for fragrance. Social media is very good in terms of amplifying brand stories, distributing films or publicity or ingredient or harvesting stories. But I haven’t seen the tipping point where it can replace some of the other techniques that are used to market and launch fragrances.

What’s your personal Instagram strategy?
I do it as therapy for myself. I don't do it for anybody to follow me. People are always surprised that I actually have that subversive sense of humor, or that my impossible mashup of high low and culture even exists. They think I hire someone to fabricate it. But it’s truly authentic to me. I don't show my daughter. I don't go too far in. But I show what I like, which is part of who I am.

You’re a voracious consumer of pop culture and social media. How do you stay on top of everything?
I still try to buy every magazine on the newsstand, though there aren’t as many, which is sad. But the good news is, in the virtual world, there's always a YouTube post. There's always a new Instagram. And whenever I get together with friends, they always tell me about new people to follow. I find it incredibly exciting and fun. I like discovering, I'm curious. And I think my insurance policy for being in this business is I have a 10-year-old daughter and I'm experiencing the world through her eyes and her aspirations and her media habits.

The fragrance brands you’ve brought into Lauder aren’t just successful, or even merely cool, they have something more. What’s the secret sauce?
They're all subject matter experts, artistic and creative at the core, and have an olfactive arc and a concept. Frederic Malle is the publisher of the greatest perfumers in the world. By Kilian is the master of perfume as art and perfume as seduction. Le Labo is the ultimate artisanal fragrance. Tom Ford is the new luxury and the new aspiration. They're all rooted in something very authentic and very real. And they all have amazing products behind their successes, not just stories.

What qualities are you looking for in acquisitions now?
I'm looking for something that we'll be talking about 20 years from now. We're not in the business of just selling products, we're in the business of selling and creating brands for the long term. Something that has the germ of an idea that can live generations past that idea—that's what I ultimately look for.

What’s your biggest 2019 prediction?
What's successful at this moment will continue to be successful. And what will be successful in 2029 is already out there, we just don't know it yet. The world goes in buckets of 10 years.
—April Long

Addiction According to Olivier Cresp

SCENTS AND SENSIBILITY

The Fragrance Foundation 2018 Lifetime Achievement Perfumer

Perfume is my life. Perfumers are addicted to this all-consuming work we love and to the rush of excitement we experience when we’ve created something truly new.

Every generation of the Cresp family loved sweets. My childhood memories are of cakes baking; as a child I had even had my own specialty: candied fruit cakes. So it’s not surprising that one of my creations was Angel by Thierry Mugler, which opened the door to a new olfactive family: the gourmand.

I decided to combine edible, sugary notes like licorice, honey, and special vanillas. This led to praline mixed with cocoa to add a chocolate inflection to patchouli. Something very addictive resulted!

Gourmand scents transport us through the power of olfactory memory. Easily recognizable and reassuring, their “edible” quality makes gourmand scents irresistible.

Another addictive fragrance I am proud to have created is Dolce Gabbana Light Blue, a surprising combination of sexy, warm woods and inviting citrus notes. One of the earliest woody fragrances for women, it continues to be successful.

I believe today’s consumers – especially millennials living in big cities like London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sao Paolo – want to live life intensely. They travel the world, which is more accessible now because of the internet, and enjoy extreme sports for the strong sensations they impart. Living life to the fullest, they have lots of energy, and seek immediate gratification, so the scents they wear must complement their complex lives. They must be both comforting and captivating to grab and hold their attention.

Addictive ingredients and fragrances, then, are more relevant today than ever and still resonate strongly with me. I’m proud that, in October, 2018, I launched my own niche brand with my daughter Anais, an architect, and her husband Jack. Called AKRO, which means “addicted” in French, it is a collection of daring and disruptive unisex fragrances inspired by uncontrollable, delicious dependencies – the simple pleasures of life that keep us coming back for more!
My work is figurative. I prefer working with something tangible rather than abstract. I enjoy reproducing the actual smells around me and then making them wearable, with wonderful diffusion. So this project suits my creative style very well.

Each AKRO fragrance relates to a different time of day –and the little daily personal indulgences. AWAKE is a delicious combination of coffee, cardamom and caffeine to start the day right, like our morning expresso. Next, we reach for the DARK – an intense chocolate note to finish our midday meal. We might follow that with SMOKE – naturally addictive notes of tobacco leaves with nicotine. Then we unwind after work with intoxicating MALT and its vapors of whiskey and rum. Now it’s NIGHT – and the animalic allure of “dirty rose,” agarwood and cumin notes evoke the nocturnal pleasures of sex. Finally, HAZE and the daze we’re in from cannabis and cardamom, letting go with a joint after a long, often stressful day at work.

Personally, I am addicted to dark chocolate with a good espresso, so DARK and AWAKE both fit my personality well. Maybe AKRO’s tagline should be “Wear without Moderation”!

— OLIVIER CRESP

Perfumers’ Q&A

What the Nose Knows

Carlos Benaim, IFF

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Carlos Benaim: It would be a Rothko painting. I would convey the simplicity and transparency of the superimposed colors through a combination of highest quality ingredients to represent each layer.

Favorite non-perfume smell?
C.B.: The smell of tobacco as it reminds me of my father. He would come home in the evening with his hands impregnated with the essence of pennyroyal mint, and yellowed by his cigarettes, “Craven A”, a British blend of blond tobacco. To me, this combination is more evocative of him than his real portrait.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
C.B.: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” I was reminded of this quote by Ghandi during an incredible recent trip to India.

The three qualities that got you where you are today are:
C.B.: Curiosity, tenacity and humility.

What is one thing you learned at school that you still use today?
What I learned is a way of thinking, organizing your thoughts – a rational approach to problem-solving. This is something that has been useful throughout my life.

Honorine Blanc, Firmenich

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Honorine Blanc: It would be one of Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings: a blend of purity, simplicity and technique. For my fragrance, I would choose natural ingredients and Firmenich’s Captive molecules to create a new abstract and addictive olfactive texture. The structure of this formula would maintain certain artistic qualities such as simplicity and purity.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
H.B.: Perfect happiness is being emotionally content – having the feeling of floating. It’s not about tension or full satisfaction; it’s about letting go.

Best advice you’ve been given?
H.B.: Follow your heart; trust your instincts; never give up.

What are the three qualities that got you where you are today?
H.B.: My curiosity and hunger for learning, an ability to focus, and the quality of my relationships.

Favorite travel destination:
H.B.: Being on a sailboat anywhere.

Shyamala Maisondieu, Givaudan

If you could render a book, song, or work of art in fragrance, what would it be and what would it smell like?
Shyamala Maisondieu: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It would smell of patchouli and vetiver with some green lentisque notes on top and a lot of black pepper.

Favorite non-perfume smell?
S.M.: The smell of home especially after I've been away for a while...a mixture of white flowers, my spicy Malaysian cooking and incense.

The three qualities that got you where you are today are:
S.M.: Patience, persistence, and curiosity.

If you could use one word to describe the power of fragrance, what would it be?
S.M.: Attraction.

If you could tell the world anything about fragrance, what would it be?
S.M.: Nature is precious and if we don't take care or respect nature, it would make our world a less fragrant place to live in.

The Inside Scoop

Welcome to The Fragrance Foundation’s premiere issue of our digital monthly magazine, Accords.

It is our ambition to provide exciting, exclusive content that is entertaining and valuable. Our features each month will include insights and personal perspectives from industry icons, perfumers, fragrance creative collaborators, and more.

In addition, we will keep you up to date on all the current happenings at The Fragrance Foundation, as well as share sneak peeks into our future initiatives. The Fragrance Foundation team welcomes input to grow our community and create a direct dialogue with consumers. While this new digital magazine debuts now to an audience with a majority of readers within the fragrance industry, we look to expand our reach to engage consumers in the world of fragrance.

All of us are dedicated to our mission to inspire the world to discover the artistry and passion of fragrance.

Please join us on our journey!

Don't miss a sniff,

@linda_g_levy