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The brand that made of bespoke perfumes a must-have: PARFUMS HENRY JACQUES

Anne-Lise Crémona x Henry Jacques
It is quite a responsibility to carry on the legacy of a perfumery house that is half a century old, yet the challenge for Anne-Lise Cremona, CEO and daughter of master-perfumer Henry Jacques, was in her mission of remolding, renovating and rebirthing her family business to the success story it is has become today.

After more than a decade working at international perfume groups and making a name of her own, Anne-Lise returned to Parfums Henry Jacques and transformed her unique vision into a glorious reality.

At her new Paris flagship on Avenue Montaigne, and inside the premises of a room intended for made-to-measure orders, Anne-Lise spoke about what makes of Parfums Henry Jacques a pillar in the perfume sector today.

AM: Anne-Lise, how would you resume what Parfums Henry Jacques stands for?
We work with perfume like a haute couture creation, a trace you leave and that people will remember you for. It’s a simple analysis, we have always had ultra-luxury in so many fields like cuisine, clothes, jewelry, but not in perfumes, and I wanted Parfums Henry Jacques to bring that. The perfume market has missed out on the art of living, so we worked on becoming a brand of reference for people who want to discover the diverse world of fragrances, to visit our boutiques for our expertise, and create the perfume they have in mind.  

AM: You have been surrounded by perfumes since your upbringing and throughout your career, inside and outside of Parfums Henry Jacques. What was the pivotal moment that brought you back to the family company?
I grew up in this environment with my father Henry Jacques, and my mother who was involved in the laboratory. We are a very creative family and we have a passion for what we do. At the age of 22, I moved to Paris after working in the family company in the south of France, and branched out to perfume groups for more than 12 years while taking on international roles. In 2010, and while I was living in London, my parents were approaching retirement and were planning to close down the business. I was emotionally tied to Parfums Henry Jacques and it was impossible for me to let their passion and fruit of labor just disappear. So, I decided to take control of the company with a new vision.

AM: And how is this novel vision like?
I wanted to write a new page which was very clear to me, probably because I had an instinct that came from my experience and culture. I knew exactly what we should do for the Maison and I consider it a blessing to have such a solid idea. It was very adventurous though, as it was back in 2010 when niche perfumes were just starting and when the industry was controlled by department stores. All of the business model I had in mind couldn’t be applied and it was a challenge, yet I was focused on being exclusive and rare by opening and running our own boutiques. No too many, just at the right places. Hence, we launched our first boutique in 2014 inside of Harrods, which was a rare case as at the time. I declined the offer to be part of their general assortments because it was my way of preserving our bespoke DNA.

Henry Jacques

AM: It seems like Parfums Henry Jacques was like a startup for you…
Absolutely. The history of the house is a very important stone. I am attached to the tradition versus innovation, we can never invent something out of the blue, the know-how comes from years and centuries of experience. But it was really a project that I put my heart into, and it’s my own story which required a solid strategy to complete and revamp the brand. From the liquids, to the glass making, the leathers, the interior decoration of our boutiques, and so on.

AM: When you first started promoting bespoke it was quite a niche concept and now the competition is rising, why so?
In my point of view our industry is run by marketing. Most of the time they analyze the market opportunities, and when they see something gaining clients, they go for it. But saying that something is bespoke and doing bespoke is completely different. We have witnessed this when Oud become a trend in international fragrances. It is not the way I behave because in my case, I don’t look at what’s happening around me. I truly believed in my vision and had the courage to stick to it before it became a hype. Our clients loved this philosophy and now own perfumes for different periods like daytime, evening, summer, winter and so on.

AM: How would you explain this change in the client’s behavior?
The world is changing, and paradoxically, social media has spread awareness. The young generation knows what they want to buy, they are more independent and aren’t as fooled by advertisements as they were before. More and more people can afford valuable items and are willing to purchase quality rather than marketing efforts. 

Henry Jacques

AM: What is a typical journey of a client with Parfums Henry Jacques?
Mostly start off with our Les Classiques, which are 50 diverse fragrances that were all bespoke at a certain moment of time. They are presented in three forms Les Essences, Les Brumes and Solids. Les Essences is what we a call a “one drop and only one is enough” kind of perfume, Les Brumes allow you to spray it generously. We are not pushing for bespoke all the time because our collection of classics is rich. The only difference is that bespoke is the most personal of our offering, it is designed only for you and creates a sort of heritage that marks a moment in your life. It is something many clients request after they developed an affinity with us. It makes sense because once they test the flavors, they challenge themselves to learn and try new ingredients, then they start collecting and often become perfume connoisseurs who appreciate the uniqueness of Parfums Henry Jacques.

AM: And what is your take on the democratization of luxury?
I am quite strict about that. I don’t know how to sell high quality with low prices. The prices of the raw materials we use are publicly known. I refuse to compromise the ingredients or the quality. Our retail prices are a consequence of the premium components found in the bottle, and not just a market positioning strategy. Our clients are ready to invest in this and embark on the journey with us.

AM: Henry Jacques is all around the Middle East with boutiques in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. What is it that links the Maison to the region?
It’s a very long story that comes from the heart. My father traveled to the Middle East in the 1960s and I grew up listing to his stories. The love towards the region is shared in our family, we feel at home there for many reasons. We also have connections with the royal families that have trusted our brand. For example, we were one of the main perfume creators of Sultan Qaboos for almost 30 years, we have created more than 100 perfumes for Sheikh Zayed, and for many more esteemed personalities. On top of it, the Arab world is the best playground for a perfumer because people there are passionate about perfumes, it’s part of their everyday lives and special ceremonies. We learned a lot from them as well, like the mixing of the rose and Oud and discovered new ingredients. 

Henry Jacques

AM: As a female CEO do you feel that you had to put in more effort?  
I feel that women need to work twice as hard as men, it’s an ongoing challenge. But I decided when I took on Parfums Henry Jacques that I will never change my personality nor lose my femininity to gain respect. I was confronted with people who weren’t expecting me as a woman to have such a sharp vision. So, you learn to distance yourself and work with those who complement you. In the past 10 years I made very difficult decisions, I had to refuse certain offers because I was convinced it wasn’t for the better good of Parfums Henry Jacques. Men try to influence you but I try to listen less, and focus on what I need to do.

AM: Finally, what can we expect next from Parfums Henry Jacques?
We are creating bespoke fragrances that we can communicate about publicly, with people who have a certain notoriety, and are loyal clients of the house and want to share what they like. Having a real and genuine ambassador is the only way we can do. We call them our intimate friends. Sometimes their names will be revealed, and sometimes not, but it always has to start with a real story. The first two releases I can proudly present from the In All Intimacy collection is Maria Perello, Rafael Nadal N°1 and Rafael Nadal N°2, through the eyes of tennis player Rafael Nadal and his wife Maria Perello.