OHLALA had the opportunity to meet Guerlain’s Director of Art, Culture and Heritage, Ann-Caroline Prazan, who talked about the brand’s success and why women should be daring in business.
The French heritage perfume powerhouse Guerlain is renowned globally for its fragrances, skincare and cosmetics. The luxury brand dates back to 1828, when it started life as a small perfume business in Paris under Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, who created scents for the rich and famous. Since its inception 194 years ago, Guerlain has created over 1,000 fragrances and still holds its own, despite fierce competition, in the luxury perfume market.
“I think perfume is like a piece of art, it doesn’t use colours, but instead, a beautiful fragrance is ‘painted’ with the essence of roses, wood or jasmine.”– Ann-Caroline Prazan
OHLALA – After beginning your career in finance, you moved to the luxury sector and joined the Bogart Group, an independent fragrance and cosmetic company. How did that transition take place?
Ann-Caroline Prazan – It’s a beautiful story. It started with an encounter with a man who was the CEO of a luxury fashion and perfume house, including Balenciaga. I met him during an art exhibition and we discussed our passion for art and we just clicked; he hired me immediately. That’s how I started my career in the luxury sector. I worked with him for 10 years. Among other roles, I headed the marketing operational development for Balenciaga Perfumes from 1990 to 2000. It became a huge passion of mine. I discovered fragrances and the beauty industry; it was so amazing. Especially when you have a strong connection with your CEO, it’s not the same if you work in a big company and you are just a number. I had so many ideas all the time. It was fantastic because it was a creative playground for me. I was given carte blanche, complete freedom as we say in French, to create fragrances, to be inspired by the brands we had and especially Balenciaga House, with their fantastic archives.
OHLALA – You’ve just launched the biggest Guerlain boutique in the GCC, in Qatar, at Place Vendôme. Why did you specifically open it here as opposed to any other country in the region?
Ann-Caroline – We are very proud about that and to be here – we absolutely love the region. I’ve travelled here so many times and I go back to France with a huge smile. People in Qatar really like their perfumes and fragrances and they are so educated. It’s a passion for them and I love to share this passion with them. It is always a pleasure being here. I think Qatar is a jewel and so many people here love Guerlain, perhaps because they love the roots of the company. It’s so amazing to see that they know our perfumes so well. For me, it’s one of my favourite countries because we share the same passion. They also love art! It’s a small country but at the same time, they are so knowledgeable and proud of art. I always come here and visit the museums and exhibitions. It is a beautiful country.
OHLALA – What makes Guerlain unique from other perfume, skincare and cosmetic houses?
Ann-Caroline – Guerlain is almost 200 years old. It is the only brand that does what it advertises: beauty and perfume. We don’t try to do fashion, bags or shoes. We stick with what we know and focus on excellence and I think that is important because no other brand does that. We have been the pioneers when it comes to memorable scents. We have revolutionised the industry. We have had so many firsts from the very beginning. We created the first ‘modern’ perfume in 1889. Our well-known fragrances are timeless such as L’Heure Bleue, created in 1912, and Shalimar, the first Oriental perfume for women, in 1925. Forty years later, in 1965, we launched the first Oriental perfume for men: Habit Rouge. This scent was a scandal because it was unusual to put sugary notes, vanilla and floral notes in a fragrance for men. But the brand believed that it was important to mix genders because, within each man, there is an element of femininity. That’s why Guerlain is so famous; we have always been daring!
OHLALA – What are your personal must-have Guerlain products?
Ann-Caroline – For me personally, the first one has to be L’Heure Bleue; it is my second skin. I feel stronger when I have it on – I immediately feel the difference! I think it has captured all my memories. The fragrance is amazing and L’Heure Bleue is more than just a perfume. My other favourite Guerlain product is our famous Terracotta Bronzing Powder, I never leave my home without it. The Guerlain family created it in 1984. In terms of skincare, I am in love with the Double R Renew & Repair Serum in our Abeille Royale range and also the Orchidée Impériale Light Cream.
OHLALA – You’ve had an incredible 22-year career with Guerlain and held numerous high-ranking positions, including Head of the Perfume Group and International Fragrance Marketing Director, to name but a few. What advice would you give to someone wanting to go into this profession?
Ann-Caroline – Work with passion and pleasure. Be curious. Please dare! Because I think today, for a long time now, the beauty industry isn’t daring and people tend to follow trends. I would advise anyone joining the industry to be creative. Be linked with art because I think back to when the founder, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, decided to collaborate in the beginning with the most impressive sculptors, painters, and artists; it was because art gives inspiration. I think perfume is like a piece of art, it doesn’t use colours, but instead, a beautiful fragrance is ‘painted’ with the essence of roses, wood or jasmine. Forget what you have learned in school and put more emotion into your creations. Put sincerity and truth into your work if you want to leave history and a legacy behind. Keep your sensitivity; it is our force as women. Men don’t have that. We must be militant. Are we too emotional? I don’t care!