In 1954, Jacques Courtin-Clarins opened his first beauty institute on rue Tronchet in Paris. The philosophy behind his company was to develop a dialogue with women that would satisfy their desires for well-being and offer them a range of the best plant-based skincare products.
Fast forward almost six decades, and the company continues to be a family business. The founder’s sons – Olivier and Christian – are now at the helm of Clarins. The company has become a giant in luxury skincare, and a parent to many other fragrance brands, including Thierry Mugler, Azzaro, David Yurman and Swarovski. It currently has a presence in 150 countries.
Running an empire like this means constant business travels around the globe, but we caught up with Dr. Olivier Courtin-Clarins during a rare moment when he was at home in Paris. He shares an exclusive insight into the beauty industry, the secret behind his company’s success and special beauty advice for FAJO‘s readers.
HANNAH YAKOBI: Your company has been continuously expanding in the last couple of years. What are some of the projects you have been focused on?
DR. OLIVIER COURTIN-CLARINS: We are working on a lot of products right now, including a new body serum and a new body lift. We also have many ongoing projects in our spas – at both hotels and stand-alone locations. In addition, we are working on a digital strategy and have decided to invest specifically in China, Russia and Brazil. We think that the digital aspect is the future.
You were in Canada this summer. How often do you visit?
This wasn’t my first trip, but I would like to come more often. I like Canada because it’s great for our business and we have a very good position in the beauty industry there. And also some people speak French and that’s helpful for me! [laughs]
I like to ski, so I also really like Calgary and Vancouver.
What would you say is the most interesting part of your job?
I like to meet people: consumers, journalists. People are different in all countries and if you want to get to know the country, the best way to do so is to speak with its people.
A modern woman has a lot of options when buying skincare or cosmetics-related products. What are some of the key things she should be looking for when she arrives at a beauty store and has to decide what to buy?
It’s true – the choice is difficult. There are a lot of brands, and many of them are good. For me, the good brand is the one that has a laboratory. I advise women to choose brands that make the products themselves. So that each woman knows what is in the box she purchases.
If you had to select one generic beauty product that every woman must have, what would it be and why?
I would advise to have a moisturizer and also a product for sun protection, to preserve the skin. Moisturizer is definitely a minimum.
Clarins is very focused on using natural ingredients and plants for its skincare lines: you use hundreds of plant species from all over the world to create your products. Can you tell us a bit more about how you have maintained this approach over the years?
We have a network with a lot of laboratories worldwide that do research with plants. We also have special research laboratories that work on plant extracts, as well as phytotherapy.
How do you think the skin of women and their needs in North America compare to the women in Europe or Asia? Do you see any specific trends that vary across continents?
Yes, of course. Some of our products are only launched in Asia, U.S. or Europe. There are a lot of cultures in North America, so the skincare needs are different. For example, we sell more moisturizer products in Canada than in the U.S. where the buyer is more interested in anti-aging products.
Beauty and fashion industries are closely intertwined. Can you tell us more about your personal sense of style?
One of our brands is Thierry Mugler, so I buy a lot of suits from Mugler. I like Hugo Boss and Prada as well; and also really like StefanoBi shoes – they have the best shoes for men. And for cars – it’s Aston Martin.
Your company is very much a family business at its core. What is it like to be working closely with your family members?
I think it’s good to work with your family, although it might not always be easy.
We have the same long-term goals. My brother and I have a meeting every week, when we discuss our plans, actions, strategy and so on. I think it’s very important that if you make a decision, you tell your family about it.
In 2007, you wrote and published a book titled The Courtin Concept: Six Keys to Great Skin at Any Age. Based on that in-depth publication, what key advice would you give to our readers?
The concept of my book is not only about products – I speak mainly about life. I give advice related to food, sports and water choices, but I also speak about pleasure.
For example, when you put on a cream in the morning, you may enjoy doing so because it smells and feels good. But it’s important to have pleasure in your life in other areas too. There is a connection between the brain and the skin. In French, we say: bien dans sa tête, bien dans sa peau [comfortable in your head, comfortable in your skin]!