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Taking Margiela Down Memory Lane

L'Oréal takes its “Smells Like Memories” exhibition on the road to Los Angeles.

In the Internet era, two years feels like eternity. For Maison Margiela, it was the right amount of time to build momentum for its 10-piece collection of Replica fragrances.

For the latest installment of its “Smells Like Memories” exhibition, which began in Paris in 2013 and moved to New York a year later, the French brand recruited pretty, young things from Hollywood, including Jaime King and Zendaya, to photograph beloved moments that spark a memory and awake the senses. Their contributions enhanced the concept behind Replica, which includes scents like “Beach Walk” (“sunkissed salty skin”) and “Jazz Club” (“heady cocktails and cigars”). They also rounded out the collection already assembled by retailer Carla Sozzani, photographer Rankin, stylist Keegan Singh and thousands of consumers who joined the conversation on social media.

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Simultaneously, L’Oréal, which holds the license for Maison Margiela’s fragrance business, expanded distribution from Barneys New York to Sephora and Nordstrom, reaching about 100 doors that sell the $125 eau de toilette and $60 candles. Sales are expected to reach $5 million this year, according to industry sources.

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Maison Margiela's wall of memories.
Maison Margiela’s wall of memories. Carly Otness/


The digital strategy worked so well that Alex Choueiri, president of international designer collections at L’Oréal, is taking what he learned from the experiment and developing ideas for other brands he oversees, including Giorgio Armani and Viktor & Rolf.

“Two years is a long time in the sense that customers are impatient and want everything right now,” he said. “At the same time, customers value the real story and real experience, versus the marketing experience.”

While the idea for Replica was hatched well before John Galliano took over the creative helm of Maison Margiela last year, Choueiri is now working with the designer’s new team to possibly create more products. “We’ll have more to tell in the next few months,” he said. And many more memories, too.