Tradition isn’t everything when it comes to beauty and skincare, but when that tradition encompasses a commitment to excellence, it gives the customer reassurance that she’ll always be in good hands. Founded in 1828, Guerlain is a company with a rich history. We spoke recently with Marie Line Patry, the company’s national director of beauty and fragrance.
LN: Why do you think Guerlain has managed to thrive for this long?
MP:We are very focused on research, and also have great respect for the brand. Pierre François Pascal Guerlain is considered the father of the cosmetic and fragrance worlds, and Guerlain created Jicky, which is considered the first modern perfume, and also created the first lipstick on a stick, and the first cream for the face. That is why the brand is so solid.
LN: So there’s a conscious effort to stay true to the heritage of the founders?
MP:Yes, the ‘nose’ of the brand is Thierry Wasser, who works closely with Jean Paul Guerlain, and meeting those norms and standards is very important to us. If you go see us in the Champs Elysées—and even our boutiques in the U.S.A.—you will see the heritage, we are always on the same path that Guerlain was. His heritage is still there.
LN: When a new fragrance is created, where does the inspiration come from?
MP: Thierry Wasser was approached by his goddaughter, who told him, I love Shalimar, but why isn’t there a fragrance like it that is younger for me? And he created Shalimar Initial with her as the inspiration. Another fragrance, L’Heure Bleue, came from when Thierry Wasser was out walking and saw the sky, and it was the perfect hour when the sky was a beautiful dark blue. The inspiration can be anything. From there you go and smell ingredients. Creating fragrance is like creating music. With the right notes you have the right chord, and with the right chord you create a symphony. We use the best of the best ingredients, and the extracts can be $2,000 a pound, but this means that Guerlain fragrances are very ‘vertical,’ not horizontal fragrances. They will surprise you all day with notes that dance on the skin, changing so that you have different results throughout the day.
LN: Why do the fragrances change like that?
MP: Part of it is the temperature of your skin. If the body is warm it will warm the fragrance. One of the things I do is to pick fragrance for people, and I analyze their skin. You perfume the perfume; it doesn’t perfume you. Your own chemistry takes over the notes. If five women all put on the same fragrance, they will all smell differently.
LN: It seems like special care goes into each of Guerlain’s products—including the packaging. Is that something that’s thought of from the beginning?
MP: The packaging is very luxurious, but it’s not just about that; it’s to save the ingredients in it. From the moment you open a jar of crème to the end of it, it will have the same strength; if we didn’t give care to their packaging, they would lose some of their strength.
LN: What do you hope customers will experience when they use Guerlain products?
MP: The moment the customer comes to the counter, it becomes a very special experience. Making sure the customer understands how to use the products is very important. She also receives a call from us two or three days later to see if she has questions. Guerlain treats every customer like a VIP, even if they are just there to buy lip gloss.