EVIAN, France — Creativity and innovation were watchwords in the keynote address given by Patrick Choël, president of the Perfumes and Cosmetics Division at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
“Creativity is what makes our business so fantastic,” he said. “We are at a crossroads between beauty, art and business. This is the best of what life can offer.”
He said beauty is a resilient sector, and that in a time of crisis — like the Gulf War — it grows by 4 percent, whereas in a good year it could spike 6 to 7 percent.
“Nothing to complain about when you compare it to other industries,” he said, adding the beauty industry’s main driver is perpetual innovation.
“I know that it might be a bit provocative to make this statement at a time when a flood of new products is announced especially with the aim of revitalizing the rather sleepy and important U.S. market,” he continued. “There is no doubt that this flood of new products will generate some ‘pollution,’ some degree of wastage that will make the life of producers and retailers even more challenging. However, overall, it is a major stimulus for our industry, and those who make the less legitimate product will eventually pay a high price for it.”
Choël then posed the pointed question: “Is there a recipe for creativity — and, more importantly, successful innovation?
“Believe it or not, my answer is ‘yes,’” he answered, though stressed it is not a simple “yes.”
Key to the formula for innovation is thinking out of the box and working in an environment that caters to such thought processes. “However, this chaotic process of creativity has, in my opinion, to be blended with a minimum of discipline,” he said.
Other ingredients include five elements, which are — in the order of how they should be added to the mix — a product’s concept, name, advertising, bottle and juice. Together, they are meant to produce “emotion.”
Choël gave the example of J’Adore, the blockbuster scent launched by Parfums Christian Dior — one of LVMH’s beauty holdings — in 1999.
J’Adore came at the time when the best-selling fragrances were minimalist, such as CK and CKOne. Choël said: “We felt it was time to reinvent femininity in all of its splendor,” and based on Dior’s fashion roots. So J’Adore’s concept was born.
Choël and his team came up with the name J’Adore because, among other attributes, it encapsulated “Dior.” The fragrance’s ad showing a young woman wading in a golden liquid sprung to mind in part because of artist Jean Cocteau’s saying that the name “Dior” is a cross between the French word for God (Dieu) and for gold (or). “What is better than a sea goddess swimming in a sea of gold?” asked Choël.
Dior also went back to the roots of Dior for the J’Adore bottle. Its amphora shape is similar to that of the house’s first scent, Miss Dior, launched in 1947. But, for an added contemporary touch, a Masaï-like collar was added around the neck. That was also a nod to the house’s designer John Galliano, who featured such necklaces in his first Dior collection.
“I know that it is a shocking proposition to talk about the [juice] as being the fifth and the last element,” said Choël. “It is last, but not least. If it is not good, women won’t repeat their purchase, and it can be a recipe for disaster.”
Choël said the juice must come last, so the perfumer can use all the preceding elements in creating the actual scent.
“So, again, when these five ingredients fit perfectly together, then we have a chance for success — as was the case for J’Adore,” he said.
“You will ask me: Why don’t you succeed every time, since you know what works?” added Choël.
As an answer, he put on the overhead projector a Wall Street Journal cartoon, whose caption read: “Life is unfair.”