While economic headwinds are impacting the beauty industry, one area that’s still going strong is fragrance. Take InterParfums, for example. It’s the fragrance company that holds the licenses for over 20 fashion and luxury goods labels including Montblanc and Jimmy Choo. According to its most recent earnings report, the first quarter of 2023 was the best in its 40-year history as it reported 24% sales growth and surpassed $1 billion in sales.
InterParfums CEO and co-founder Jean Madar shared what’s driving that growth on this week’s podcast. He talked about the surge in sales that the category has seen globally since the pandemic began, and the way fragrance is a means for a luxury brand to bring in new customers. And at a time when a new celebrity beauty brand is hitting the market virtually every week, he made it clear that InterParfums’ licensing business is still all about fashion partners. Madar broke down why the company has no interest in getting in on the fickle celebrity fragrance licensing business.
Below are additional highlights from the episode, lightly edited for clarity.
Fragrance’s ‘crazy’ growth
“Let’s be honest, we are in a crazy world [and] in a crazy moment for fragrance. In the last two years, there has been a lot of attention on the fragrance business. For 20-30 years, the growth of our segment was always very small, [at about] 2% or 3%. … In the last two years, things have changed. During Covid-19, people started to buy fragrances on e-commerce. Buying fragrance on e-commerce is a complicated road, because you cannot smell it. You have to trust people who tell you, ‘This smells good,’ or ‘It smells like this.’ You have to create emotion with words, not with smell.”
No interest in celebrity fragrances
“When I see the results, you have one successful [launch] for every 10 or 20 launches. It’s a cycle. I remember the fragrance from Justin Bieber. Where is it today? Nowhere. Maybe the one that lasted the longest was Elizabeth Taylor when she launched White Diamonds. … When we analyze the rate of the rise and fall of a celebrity fragrance, the more you sell, the less you’re going to sell after. You start at Bloomingdale’s, you finish at Walmart. This is not the model of the [InterParfums] company. We prefer to go slow. I’m sure we have lost plenty of opportunities [with this strategy]. I remember many, many celebrities came to us to pitch, and we said no because it was our policy at the time — and still now — not to do it.”
Fragrance as an accessible luxury
“Fragrance is the best tool for a fashion house to communicate a new message and get new customers. We are, for instance, the partner for a fragrance for [jewelry brand] Graff. They sell diamonds for millions. … They [don’t sell anything] really for less than $20,000. Here, the idea was that, for $500, which is a lot for a fragrance, you can enter a world of exclusivity.”