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Envy, Insolence and Beyond: a Talk with Maurice Roucel

Posted: January 23, 2007

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“You need somebody else [involved in the process], because you are not working for yourself. I would say a perfume is like a ‘baby.’ A baby has a father and a mother. It is much more interesting to share with somebody than to work alone. The most interesting thing is to share. Because we are working for the client, to share.”

Roucel says the feedback he receives from colleagues is very welcome (“I am surrounded by good people”), but admits, “I can be a little bit stubborn.”

Launch Fatigue

There appears to be general agreement within the fine fragrance world that there are simply too many launches. And for every launch comes consumer tests which are a serious financial burden, especially considering the limited amount of truly successful scents. This fragrance by committee approach, said Roucel, has turned fragrance into a commodity. “Every year you have 300-400 new perfume challenges,” said Roucel. “That’s a huge cemetery.” In the end, Roucel noted, a very small percentage of successful scents are financing the many unsuccessful launches each year, a system that is simply not working. As he put it, “It is possible we are going nowhere.” 

But the true art of perfumery and its demand for constant innovation and improvement appears to be what keeps Roucel in the game. And though his career is well-established, he continues to seek out new challenges. “The question is,” he says, “I’m 56—what do I do?” The answer? “If I want to compete, I train and train. I’m always making my best [work].”