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CEW Beauty Insider Series: Delving Into Fragrance

Though the fragrance industry has been filled with doom and gloom of late, Thursday night at the Harmonie Club, it was decidedly more positive.

Though the fragrance industry has been filled with doom and gloom of late, Thursday night at the Harmonie Club, it was decidedly more positive.

As part of the Cosmetic Executive Women Beauty Insider Series, Raymond Cloosterman, founder and chief executive officer of Rituals Cosmetics; Camille McDonald, president of brand development and merchandising for Bath & Body Works, and Adriana Medina Baez, perfumer for Givaudan, discussed how they remain competitive in the ever-changing fragrance landscape. The short answer? Give the scents a story.

The sold-out panel, moderated by WWD Beauty Inc editor Jenny B. Fine, certainly addressed the struggling market, but all three speakers remain convinced that the category is — or can be — on the upswing. “I think sometimes we forget how to give identities to the products we develop,” said McDonald. “In the historical fragrance industry, there have been many launches that increase fragrance consumption and interest in the category [such as Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Thierry Mugler Angel and Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb.]”

McDonald added, “Love them or hate them, they share a very specific identity olfactively, designwise and emotionally. This is what makes it have tangible benefit. If we could get a couple of those every couple of years, we would grow the market organically.”

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Medina Baez agreed. “We have to make the message clear and we have to make it tangible,” she said.
To that end, the foundation of Cloosterman’s Rituals brand is based on ancient stories from Eastern cultures. “We look for beautiful stories that are worth sharing with people,” said Cloosterman. “For inspiration, we don’t dive into a laboratory — we first dive into history. From there, we start discovering ancient natural ingredients to start creating the fragrances.” Each scent has a specific story, such as the Samurai warriors who were groomed to perfection before heading into battle.

“We build a whole world around the story,” he said, adding that the narrative creates an experiential shopping atmosphere.

The next challenge is turning these new fragrances into must-haves, which, according to the panel, is possible only by taking risks. “[When Angel launched], it was a disruptive fragrance in the market. It was relevant, but it was memorable,” said Medina Baez. “That was key for the success.”

“There must be those incremental, take-a-chance type fragrances,” noted McDonald. “Otherwise, how boring is it to shop? You’ll be bored to tears if everything smells alike and looks alike.”