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Interview to Mr Laurent Boillot, President and CEO of Guerlain

Laurent Boillot joined Guerlain in 2002 as Deputy Managing Director in charge of Marketing, in October 2007 Boillot was appointed President and CEO of Guerlain. Since January 2014 he also took on the role of Executive VP of Make Up For Ever and President, CEO of a new LVMH cosmetics venture, Cha Ling.

(Image credits: Guerlain Press Office)

Guerlain is a Maison that is deeply rooted in its French heritage. What advice would you give to students of Luxury & Fashion marketing, that are facing the complex task of preserving the identity of historical brands, yet developing new products and transmitting them into a more globalised and multicultural market.

L.B.: Guerlain is almost a school case. It was founded in 1828, and we celebrate this year its 190 years, a rare event that deserves to be mentioned. Few Houses in the luxury world have this durability. Transmission and innovation are the key points, that have allowed Guerlain to go through time. Transmission requires time and patience, whether we mean with it know-how, values, or a state of mind. To last for a long time is at the core of the subject, and one must know how to tame it. When someone has an important patrimony like Guerlain, he must have at heart, to preserve it, to transmit it but also to develop it. Being a heritage company is not an achievement of any tranquility. We must avoid the risk of sinking into a dusty vision of patrimony. It is important to stay connected to the world and heritage becomes a source of creativity.

In 2017 Guerlain hosted an exhibition in China, named “In the name of love”, that created an emotional link between people, bringing the heritage and scent of French culture to the Asian world. Do you believe, given your valuable experience, that art could be an important tool, working as a bridge between cultures, to help establish connections, deliver content and shape new business strategy?

L.B.: I deeply believe that culture is the background where every exchange between people must take place, because it adds human values, and a sharing of emotions. I associate this with excellence, quality and innovation. I created a Guerlain salon in a contemporary art center in Beijing. We tell our story, we present old and contemporary pieces some of which have been created by artists. The reception of Chinese visitors is exceptional, this lounge has become a shelter from the “noise and fury”, a cocoon where it is pleasant to travel according to the scents presented.

At Guerlain, you have a motto in the name of beauty, which is to create desire and a connection of meaning to your customers. Valentino Garavani, answering the question “what do women want?” once said: “They want to be beautiful”. What would your answer be?

L.B.: I would answer the beauty but a beauty full of meaning for oneself, for others and for the world. Our perfumes and cosmetics are designed around rare and precious natural raw materials. To ensure consistent quality of our products we develop long-lasting bounds with producers, and develop new sustainable spinnerets such as vetiver in southern India.

Would it be correct to assume, that the present exhibition “Futurs Anterieur” is very much connected to the Guerlain’s mission of preserving, developing and transmitting, being related to the artistic research in terms of the passing time, and the notion of transmission?

L.B.: You’re absolutely right transmission is a key word at Guerlain. To celebrate our 190 years we wanted an exhibition that would deal with Time. “Future Futures” addresses the theme of long and short memory, and each artist treats it according to his emotion, which can only be subjective.

– Elena Arzani


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