CEO of InterParfums Jean Madar Discovered His Love of Scent Through Plants

Plus, the surprising reason why he doesn't wear fragrance.

BEAUTY BOSS: InterParfums CEO Jean Madar

Courtesy of InterParfums

Being in the world of fragrance is serious business. Just ask Jean Madar, CEO and Co-Founder of InterParfums, the company behind many of your favorite scents from brands such as Anna Sui, Kate Spade, and Oscar de la Renta, just to name a few.

In fact, Madar, who has been working in the industry since the '80s, is so committed to creating beautiful scents for the rest of the world that he often forgoes using it himself.

"As the CEO of a fragrance company, people always ask me what fragrance I personally wear — and they are rather surprised to hear that I don’t," he shares with InStyle. "Because I am constantly developing and smelling fragrances, it would interfere too much with my work."

And with the fragrance industry booming, so is Madar's business.

InterParfums recently opened its new headquarters in Paris, located in the seventh arrondissement — one of the most prestigious districts in the French capital.

But with all of his recent success, InStyle spoke with Madar about the journey. Here, the French perfumer tells us all about his first memories of fragrance, his thoughts on the ever-expanding industry, what he would tell any indie brand looking to sell, and more.

InStyle: What was your first introduction to fragrance?

Jean Madar: It is an interesting question – I would say my introduction to fragrance began not with one scent, rather through my passion for gardens and plants. Years ago, I began collecting rare plants for my garden in St. Tropez, which continues to serve as a source of endless inspiration for me.

You've been working in the industry since the early '80s, how has the fragrance business evolved over the years?

First, today’s fragrance consumer is extremely sophisticated and well-educated when it comes to what goes into creating their favorite fragrance. Second, the consumer profile is much more global. Finally, the evolution of men’s fragrances has undergone a huge shift. Male fragrance users grew by 4.6 million from 2020 to 2021, with increases across all demographics. We noticed men have begun to make multiple fragrance purchases for themselves. Consumers don’t want to smell like anyone else and buying more than one fragrance at a time allows them to create their own signature.

Tell us more about your own journey. How did you create such a large fragrance business?

In the fragrance business, you must create excitement, desire, and emotion. We are storytellers with a bottle. I believe any new fragrance project starts from the gut because we first must feel something there. Then, that feeling travels to the heart. Once we love the project from a gut and heart level, then it goes to the head.

When I was attending business school in Paris, I met Philippe Benacin who became my business partner and close friend. Very early on, we decided to create InterParfums and split the company so that I would develop the American side by opening an office in NYC, while he would focus on France and form a team in Paris. This “divide and conquer” approach proved to be successful: About three years later, we completed our initial public offering, which was in fact one of the first IPOs after the October 1987 stock market crash.

When you're a public company, you don't talk about your failures, you only talk about the success. Some years ago, we lost one of our major licenses, Burberry. This meant we lost 50% of our business in one year. We were able to bounce back and rebuild with new brands. Today, we have built a beautiful, diverse, and dynamic portfolio that includes some of the world’s most iconic fragrance brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Anna Sui, Coach, DKNY, Donna Karan, Ferragamo, Graff, GUESS, Hollister, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, MCM, Moncler, Montblanc, Oscar de la Renta, and Van Cleef & Arpels. That diversity of brands is a key strength because it allows all of our customers in over 120 countries around the world to find an affordable luxury that they love.

We just went through a two-year pandemic. Did you think people would lose interest in fragrance during that time?

Of course, initially during the pandemic the entire industry suffered from great uncertainty. However, after some time we noticed that consumers really had fallen deeply in love with fragrance. They turned to fragrance as a source of comfort during a very difficult time. Once they realized the positive impact fragrance could have on their emotions, they spent a lot of time researching about all aspects of the fragrance creation process, the sourcing of ingredients, who the perfumers behind their favorite creations are. We continue to see growth driven from diverse groups of consumers.

We are seeing home fragrances becoming increasingly popular. Did you notice an uptick in the pandemic?

Yes – for the same reasons consumers turned to personal fragrance during the pandemic, they began seeking other fragrance extensions to boost their mood. We noticed that as consumers were confined to their homes, it ignited a renewed interest in home improvement and creating a comfortable sanctuary of which home fragrance played a key role.

We're seeing a lot of indie brands on the market these days. What is your advice for a line that is trying to join a larger parent company?

I would mention two points. First, no matter who you partner with, you will need to maintain your unique brand story to keep your existing customers loyal to the brand.

Second, you must have very high level of trust in your partner. They must be fully aligned with your overall goals and objectives and deeply committed to maintaining the authenticity and integrity of your brand.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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