This story first appeared in the December 14, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“There is a market for real perfumery,” Frédéric Malle declared in 2000, when he launched his company, Editions de Parfums. That prophecy proved correct—and seems almost modest in retrospect. Malle paved the way for the return of the art of the perfumer, catapulting a niche concept into beauty’s mainstream. Today, high-end fragrances costing $100 and up are the category’s fastest growing, according to NPD, and the number of brands based on classic per- fumery has grown exponentially, from companies big and small. Malle, though, isn’t one to rest on his laurels, instead introducing a steady stream of newness into the luxe fragrance universe. “Our mission is to become the specialist for perfume making in all of its forms,” he says, ticking off firsts like Perfume Guns, Rubber Incense and Hair Mist. “We are going to come up with more and more products. Perfume can be many things.” Malle’s distribution strategy was equally as prescient: He’s avoided the commoditization of the luxury market by limiting his brand’s points of sale globally. “The market is now a world market,” says Malle, “where the world is like one big country and you have a few cities with a very high degree of sophistication. Rather than concentrating on a country, we concentrate on the capitals of the world where luxury is happening.” If the past is any indication, it’s a place others are sure to follow.