Lea Vignal-Kenedi, Managing Director of Cartier Fragrance

DUBAI – This week, Cartier Fragrances is launching an exclusive new variation of its La Panthère fragrance called In Noir Absolu, available only in the Middle East and featuring the inclusion of natural oud resin. This follows an exclusive global launch event for its men’s fragrance L’Envol de Cartier in Dubai earlier this fall.
Léa Vignal-Kenedi, managing director of Cartier Fragrance, spoke to WWD about the importance of the Middle Eastern market in the fragrance world, and the evolution of the company.

WWD: How is the Middle East different from other regions?
LV: From a perfume point of view, this is a true perfume lovers region. And that’s fantastic for a maison like us with an in-house perfumer to address to clients that are experts and lovers of perfume. This is not the case in the rest of the world. That’s very specific to the Middle East. Our clients here really know perfumes. We can see clearly the difference. It’s a region of connoisseurs.

WWD: What are the greatest strengths of this market?
LV: Of course this a market with fantastic retailing. There are many opportunities to express the universe of the perfume because the points of sale are beautiful and the partners get very involved. These are critical factors that make the Middle East great for the development of business here.

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WWD: What percentage of your business comes from the Middle East?
LV: The Middle East is really doing well. Right now the region is about 15-20 percent and it’s growing. It’s on the way to being bigger than the U.S., which is a big deal because that’s a huge market in terms of volume.

WWD: You had a big launch with L’Envol de Cartier this summer, your first men’s fragrance in 8 years. What took so long?
LV: When I joined the company we were losing market share on the feminine side. We had Declaration which was really strong as a masculine pillar, but as a perfumer of a jewelry house we really needed to focus on seducing women again. We had two very successful women’s launches, and when that was done we started to innovate on the men’s side again.

WWD: What led to the development of L’Envol?
LV: It was obvious that we needed to come up with a surprising new project. We needed to innovate both in terms of bottle design concept and of course, fragrance. As a company, we are on our way to building a very strong identity in the perfume world. We are following a path and vision and working on the creative side. When you smell L’Envol, you wont detect any particular trend of today.

WWD: What’s next in the fragrance pipeline for Cartier?
LV: We do hundreds of thousands of trials to get each new launch project right. L’Envol took us three years to develop. But we know now the customers do demand new things quickly. We don’t want to rush to market, but we have to propose real new things to our clients. Overall the luxury market has evolved, so it’s about novelty and newness. We have to be honest and see this as an opportunity. There is no need to rush, but we need to constantly invent. The idea is to propose real and new things. We are always working on that.

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