“Cost does not define a good perfume”

Jacques Lions is very very French. Not just in his style and appearance but in a lot of ways that’s obvious when you meet him. A professional rally driver who didn’t let the petroleum crisis of 1973 deter him but instead allowed it to guide him to his other passion, perfumery and ultimately make perfumery his career path. We talk to him and discover what makes his company Expressions Parfumees so special

ParfumPlus Magazine: Grasse is considered to be the capital of the perfume world. What’s so special about Grasse?

Jacques Lions: I wouldn’t call Grasse as just the capital but I would say it’s the cradle of perfumery. Grasse has a lot of history and it’s where everything that has anything to do with perfumery was born. It all began some centuries ago when the then king ordered for a job of ‘Maîtres Gantiers Parfumeurs’ The purpose of this was to remove the bad odour caused by the leather gloves used during that time. Perfumery was born more as a solution for this rather than what it is considered today. Also nature has blessed Grasse with the perfect climate for the production of scented flowers that play a big role in perfumery like jasmine, tuberose and neroli. So I would say that history and the climate have played a big role in today’s perception of Grasse as the cradle of perfumery.

Jacques Lions, President, Expressions Perfumees

PP: If you were not a perfumer what would you be?

JL:I have always led a double life. I used to be a professional rally driver for Ford during my youth. In 1973 there was the petroleum crisis which affected the industry and I was forced to let go of my passion during this crisis. It was then that I chose perfumery, my other passion which transformed into a career. So it’s been a great journey as a perfumer. If not a perfumer, I would have definitely been a professional rally driver. I still pursue this hobby. Even my son has taken on this passion and is pursuing it as a career.

PP: What is your opinion on the universal debate about synthetics versus naturals?

JL: There is no debate. Nature created plants and odour which could be extracted but nature had its limits. In favour of synthetics, I can say that chemistry invented the new fragrant molecules to complement and provide an alternative and an easier way to create perfumes. For example, a painter can always create a better painting if he has more colours in his palette. Also without synthetics the world would never have experienced the magic of perfumes like Chanel No 5 and so many others. Synthetics are an important aspect of perfumery and without this, the industry just cannot exist the way we know it.

PP: What does Expressions Parfumees stand for? And what does it want to achieve?

JL: The company’s motto is to have a good smile on every face, good humour and always work together as a team. Expressions Parfumees  may seem like a company like many others but what is different is our dedication to customer service. Before anything, everyone in the company has been trained to listen to the client. The client needs a service and a product and it’s our job to give it to him in the best possible way. Also unlike other perfume manufacturing companies, Expressions has been created by perfumers and so we are able to understand the creative aspect in a better way. Our dedicated team of over 10 perfumers , is an asset to our company and an indication of our dedication to provide only the best to our clients. The strong point about Expressions Parfumees is the customer service, manufacturing, creativity and punctuality. When I started the company around 30 years ago it was definitely a challenge but it was a strong initiative from my side as I wanted to make a difference.

Jacques Lions and Claude Broggi examining perfume lenses

PP: Do you consider yourself a perfumer or a businessperson?

JL: I consider myself as a perfumer as well as the CEO of my company. However for the past 30 years I have played the role of managing the company, taking care of the day to day issues and leading my team towards achieving their business requirements. To be a good perfumer, one needs to be consistent and always be in touch with the profession. I feel that in this regards, my team of young perfumers are better placed than me to handle the responsibility.

PP: What’s your favourite perfume ever?

JL: I can assess a good perfume as a perfumer and as a businessperson. A good perfume has to smell good as well as sell well. My favourite in this sense is Angel. This perfume was a revelation. The perfume launched several notes that didn’t exist during that time. It was revolutionary. The usage of ingredients in this perfume was very creative in the sense that inspite of the exaggeration in the proportions it was something that appealed nonetheless. A good perfume is a package of good ingredients, good creativity and also a marketing charm that makes it appealing to everyone.

PP: Do good perfumes have to be expensive?

JL: No, not at all. Chanel No 19 was an expensive perfume. The raw material was iris and it was perfectly done. And of course it was expensive. However there were products that succeeded at a much cheaper price like Charlie from Revlon. It’s a debate where most people would have different opinions. However according to me cost does not define a good perfume.

PP: Do you as perfumers dream of an ‘ultimate’ creation?

JL : In my career as a perfumer I have definitely created some perfumes only for my satisfaction even if I didn’t manage to sell them. During my days, I loved the accord of fruity notes and I experimented a lot with them. However these pursuits are from a creative perspective and not necessarily for success as a business. So to answer your question, yes, as perfumers we do dream of an ‘ultimate’ creation.

PP : Thanks Jacques. It was lovely talking to you and we wish you success in both your passions, perfumery and driving.


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