Renaud Boisson of Interparfums Asia Pacific Has His Nose On Asia

By Karen Tee
Photography by Zulfadli bin Rahman, assisted by Tracey Nguyen
Styling by CK Koo
Grooming by Nikki Fu using Nars
03 May 2024

Renaud Boisson, CEO of Interparfums Asia Pacific, talks about how the scent company is well positioned to drive unprecedented growth in the regional fragrance market.

Once upon a time, the mere thought of purchasing perfume without a preliminary whiff was unimaginable. After all, as the elegantly coiffed sales assistants in the department store or airport duty free boutique would explain, it is necessary to test how a fragrance interacts with one’s unique body chemistry before making such a personal purchase.

But the pandemic has single-handedly disrupted conventional wisdom when it comes to shopping for scents. “During Covid-19, as people found themselves confined, they began buying perfume online and indulged in wearing scents at home. We discovered consumers were now just spritzing perfume on themselves to smell better but to feel better during this stressful pandemic period,” observes Renaud Boisson, Chief Executive Officer of Interparfums Asia Pacific.

“People will buy online without smelling a perfume because they heard of it, because they have been influenced, or because they are brand conscious and they love the brand,” he adds.

While the company name might not ring a bell immediately, its portfolio of perfume brands surely does. Interparfums develops, manufactures, and distributes prestige perfumes for designer brands including Moncler, Montblanc, Coach, Jimmy Choo, and Van Cleef & Arpels. It also owns Lanvin fragrances and the Rochas brand. Most recently, it signed a worldwide exclusive fragrance licence with Lacoste and the first new perfume line for the French brand is slated to launch later this year.

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The Frenchman, who has lived in Singapore for almost 14 years and spearheads Interparfums Asia Pacific’s growth in the region, says this discovery has cemented his long-held belief in the transformative power of a scent.

“It was an interesting learning experience for us because we did not really think we could sell perfume without it being tested,” he says.

“I have spent the last two decades convincing my team and clients that perfume possesses an almost magical ability to transport individuals to another realm. And indeed, scent holds this transformative power over our well-being."


Growth in Asia Pacific

This untapped potential within the fragrance market fuels his optimistic outlook for the region, despite widespread discussions of an economic slowdown. In 2023, Interparfum’s net sales surged to 798.5 million Euros, a 13 per cent increase from 2022. It has also had a stellar few years in the region and in 2023, achieved a turnover of 108 million Euros in Asia Pacific alone (excluding India), a 17 per cent increase from the previous year.

Boisson projects further growth, estimating sales to hit 122 million Euros this year, with China's fragrance market playing a pivotal role in propelling their business forward.

“Even in a slowdown, perfume is an affordable luxury. Even though it is not inexpensive, a fragrance at $150 is accessible and is an entry point into the world of luxury,” he observes.

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“When Asia sets its sights on something, passion ignites rapidly. We are witnessing a growing fascination with perfume, with individuals evolving into avid collectors with 20 to 25 different fragrances in their cabinets."

Additionally, the fragrance segment in Asia historically lags, representing a modest five to ten per cent of the beauty market, he adds. This is unlike mature markets in Europe and North America where fragrance comprises a substantial 40 per cent share.

“Since fragrance is a small category, there is a lot of potential for expansion,” he asserts. Case in point: The company has only just begun to introduce its top performing brand Jimmy Choo to the China market, indicating vast growth opportunities even for a single brand within their portfolio.

Concurrently, Boisson is bullish on Southeast Asia as a growth leader over the next five to ten years due to its rapidly growing middle class. This diverse and densely populated region is home to a wide range of populations including Indonesia and Malaysia who are already culturally attuned to the use of fragrance. He says, “The quality of retail is improving quickly in these markets as the middle class seeks a luxury lifestyle, so we believe Southeast Asia is a growth market.”

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The Rise of Niche Brands

A driving force behind this expansion in the fragrance market? The burgeoning popularity of niche brands such as Diptyque, Jo Malone, and Penhaligons, which are flourishing. He says, “This surge is significant as these brands offer an extensive array of perfumes, facilitating the swift education of new customers and ultimately benefiting the entire fragrance category,"

These days, gone are the sweeping generalizations of Asian scent preferences leaning towards “floral fruity” light perfumes. “Now, I would say pinpointing a specific perfume preference in a country is exceedingly challenging. It's become a matter of individual taste, and I see that as a positive shift," he remarks.

Simultaneously, the diversification of fragrance profiles has inspired a surge in perfume aficionados interested in diverse collections. "When Asia sets its sights on something, passion ignites rapidly. We are witnessing a growing fascination with perfume, with individuals evolving into avid collectors with 20 to 25 different fragrances in their cabinets," Boisson shares.

To capture this zeitgeist, he reveals that Interparfums has been working on a “top secret project” and will be launching an entirely new niche fragrance brand in 2025. There will be more details in due course, he hints.


Scent of Success

Looking into his crystal ball, he predicts that Asian fragrance lovers, like their European counterparts, will start to show a growing interest in sustainable perfumes.

The company has been continually improving its ESG performance and is working on various aspects in the production line, from sustainable packaging to conscious ingredients. For instance, its Rochas Girl scent features recycled packaging and its minimalist juice is vegan and made with predominantly responsibly sourced natural-origin ingredients. 

It is a matter of time that Asian demand catches up with the rest of the world. Speaking like a true market leader, he observes, “The environmentally friendly movement is more focused now in Europe and less in Asia. But we are doing it anyway because we believe Asia will move in that direction.”

What has caught on big time in the region is the popularity of gender-neutral fragrances. While unisex fragrances were once regarded as edgy and designer brands typically launched “his” and “hers” perfumes, the distinction has blurred in recent times.

Interparfums has been quick to pick up on this shift in consumer preferences and has since been releasing fragrance collections that are unisex for its luxury brands including Van Cleef & Arpels.

For example, Moncler’s popular Les Sommets range, which pays homage to the brand’s alpine heritage, features five unisex scents that explore different facets of woody notes. The range has been well received among both male and female customers and incidentally, also happens to be the fragrance Boisson wears during this interview and photoshoot.

He has previously professed a liking for Montblanc’s Legend range, but says he is always open to trying new fragrances.

“I have been exposed to different fragrances through my career and I do like to change perfumes as long as they stay within my preferences,” he says. “I like some character in my fragrance, but not for it to be so strong that it can be smelled by everyone in the room. I do not want it to bother anyone – I prefer someone to come close and then notice it.”

After all, as this fragrance maestro know, there is nothing more alluring than the scent of anticipation.