We would like to tell you that as a child, Maxime Garcia-Janin wanted to be a master perfumer. Not at all: he dreamed of becoming an airplane pilot.
Young as he was, it helped him develop a taste for effort and hard work. But despite his determination, his results in mathematics got the better of his first ambitions.
As he came from a family much involved in politics, he decided to study at Sciences-Po Lille, in the north of France – the most logical way to commit, he thought. Once he got there, he quickly became disillusioned and realized commitment could be experienced a thousand different ways, in other fields than politics.
As he was studious, he went on with his Master’s degree, but decided to take a different direction. He focused on what he actually wanted and realized he had always been attracted to a form of aestheticism. He liked what was beautiful and products with a high added value. But he was also interested in the whole business and strategy behind this.
Bingo! The Master’s Degree in luxury marketing offered by the HEC business school was meant for him. ‘When I got there, it was like an epiphany. First, this school provides excellent training as regards commitment. You are invited to think about your projects by measuring the impact they will have on society. Then, something was triggered off in my mind when I attended the first classes and presentations. I knew it was meant for me,’ he reveals.
The internship period started: Maxime Garcia-Janin began his career at Dior’s. To him, it was ‘the experience of a lifetime.’
He joined the J’Adore marketing teams in the Perfume Division: a mammoth in the industry. This time, it was love at first sight. ‘I realized how fantastic a perfume is. It is a luxury product, it is not visual, but it has this crazy evocative power. And the manufacturing processes are just as fascinating,’ he tells.
After another Dior experience in skincare, he knew for sure he wanted to work in perfumery. At 22, he joined L’Oréal and became a product manager for different brands. This precious experience made him get more familiar with the different aspects of the sector.
He recalls how he understood ‘why the world of perfumery is dying. I have visited stores. It all works according to promotional offers. These areas have become supermarkets: advisors are not trained enough to properly guide customers and just encourage them to benefit from the current offer. As a result, consumers buy products that do not suit them and get frustrated. It is no surprise selective perfume shops have lost 2.5 million buyers in five years. Brands and retailers have forgotten that the buyer should be placed at the centre.’
One mission after another, Maxime Garcia-Janin perfected his market analysis. He came to the conclusion that he wanted to build his career around perfumery and that a real digital wave was flooding on society – a real opportunity for small brands to emerge.
It was time for him to pack his bags and set off on an entrepreneurial adventure where he would be the only pilot: ‘I have always known I wanted my own company, but I took my time: I needed to work and develop the skills needed to make it,’ he explains.
Sillages: an olfactory revolution
When he left L’Oréal, Maxime Garcia-Janin knew what he wanted to do: give a boost to this oh-so fascinating world of perfumery.
Convinced that consumers’ noses were fed up with all these fragrances that all smelt the same and did not last, he felt it was high time to offer something innovative. After all, is perfume not a self-extension? There is no way we should smell the same as everyone else!
His project? Give the general public the possibility to create their own perfume with the notes they like. Is it too risky to leave the creation process in the hands of non-specialists? Not at all: depending on the basic ingredient you choose, the website only suggests compatible raw materials, so it is impossible to end up with a sock juice!
To this aim, he recruited young noses to whom he gave carte blanche as regards creation. ‘I based everything on the principle that you need to trust the new generation. Who else than them to renew perfumery? They are young, highly talented, and full of ambitions. You need division in creation; I should not tell them what to do. Perfumery is their favourite field,’ he comments.
Contrary to conventional perfumery, there is no consumer test carried out, so that juices do not all smell the same.
According to Maxime Garcia-Janin, ‘customers should not be made to meddle with the creative process. They expect a brand to be able to make suggestions and offer quality. On the contrary, they should be involved in the whole buying process. We need to listen to them, because that is how you create a brand image.’
To seduce his customers, Maxime Garcia-Janin does not hesitate to adopt an irreverent tone, and it works! At Sillages Paris, people prefer to say a juice smells like a baby’s bottom and avoid too familiar clichés.
But beware: if the wording is light and off-beat, quality is there and perfumes last all day long – as our own arms show.
The Sillages team has not forgotten anything: the order comes with a sample for you to test the perfume beforehand and make sure the fragrance suits you. What if it does not? Just send it back to get reimbursed. ‘Only 10% of our orders are sent back, and ¾ of these customers only want an exchange,’ reveals the brand founder.
It only took a few months for Maxime Garcia-Janin to revamp the codes of perfumery. Supported by perfumery heavyweights Givaudan Et Mann and Robertet, the young man is full of ideas to develop his brand.
One thing is for sure: he will keep seducing the masses and take them on a journey in his fragrant wake.