Marc Chaya (Maison Francis Kurkdjian): "With LVMH, we've entered into a partnership that's more strategic than financial"
On Monday, the LVMH luxury goods group acquired a majority interest in exclusive fragrance house Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The French label, whose current revenue is in the region of €12 million, was created in 2009 by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian - the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier's Le Mâle fragrance - and Marc Chaya, a former partner at Ernst & Young, and soon made a name for itself in the world of ultra-sophisticated fragrances. Maison Francis Kurkdjian's President and co-founder Marc Chaya has told FashionNetwork how the label forged links with LVMH, and what its plans are.
FashionNetwork: What can you tell us about your brand's acquisition by LVMH?
Marc Chaya: For reasons of confidentiality, we can only confirm that LVMH has bought a majority stake in Maison Francis Kurkdjian, which was formerly controlled by Francis Kurkdjian and myself. There will be no break with the past however: we are still shareholders in the company and we maintain our operational roles, Francis Kurkdjian as Creative Director and myself as President. There will be no change in our team either, except that we will continue to add to and strengthen it.
FNW: Why has a label like yours, which made independence one of its assets, decided to join a major group?
MC: With LVMH, we've entered into a partnership that's more strategic than financial. We are an independent label, profitable and solid, with a 50% annual growth rate. The strategy that led to the partnership is neither defensive nor financial. Above all, we needed to adopt a long-term strategic vision. We are a niche brand, and we had to take into account the trend towards partnerships. Many of our competitors have joined forces with major groups in the last couple of years.
FNW: What sparked off this operation?
MC: LVMH got in touch with us, as many others did. But LVMH was the only partner that would do. We are a French house, a creator of fragrances and not simply a label, and Bernard Arnault's group is adept at managing the business of creation, as well as being already active in the perfumery industry. We share the same culture. It wasn't the financial side of things that motivated us, but the desire to join a group which has a specific expertise.
FNW: What can LVMH offer you?
MC: As I said, it will contribute its expertise. For example, know-how on markets in which we are not present, such as China, or others where we could do better, as in Russia, where we can rely on the group's local organisation. And also, they will support us with their know-how in other areas, such as digital operations.
FNW: Do you also envisage the possibility of synergies, for example in fragrances, in terms of suppliers and the like?
MC: Synergies will not be automatic. We will continue to work with our existing partners. When opportunities for synergy will arise, we will exploit them, for example, as I said earlier, in terms of local organisations in other countries, or in the case of specific know-how. It is not in the nature of our house to rush into things. For us, it is marketing which is at creativity's service, and not the other way round.
FNW: Which are your main markets?
MC: The USA is Maison Francis Kurkdjian's main market, accounting for nearly 40% of our revenue. We opened a subsidiary there when we set up the company in 2009, and we are well-established. Until now, we were exclusively distributed at Neiman Marcus, where we rank among the top 4 labels in fragrance sales. From 2017, we began to collaborate with Saks too. We are also present in more than 40 other countries, notably in the whole of South-East Asia. We are not present in China however, nor in Latin America.
FNW: How is your distribution network structured?
MC: We are distributed via 500 multibrand stores, all fragrance specialists, and we operate 10 monobrand stores, either directly or with partners: two in Paris, four in Taiwan, and one each in Dubai, Kuwait City, in Qatar and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
FNW: What are your short-term projects?
MC: We will continue to drive our expansion in the USA and the Middle East, and we will also debut in Thailand, where we signed a partnership last year.
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