Marc Jacobs Is a Fragrance Hitmaker—and He’s Just Done It Again

the marc jacobs perfect party
Marc Jacobs Is a Fragrance HitmakerDimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

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Marc Jacobs Fragrances are a cultural phenomenon. Though the iconic fashion designer had a few scents—like Marc Jacobs for women—launch in the early aughts, it was 2007's Daisy that changed the face of perfume. "I wish I did know the secret to a successful fragrance," Jacobs admits. "Some of them obviously are more successful than others. I think Daisy is, of course, the biggest success."

It's hard to overstate just how successful Daisy really is. It's been said to bring in around "$300 million in retail sales annually," according to industry sources. There are literally dozens of flankers, or remixes, of the scent—like Daisy Love, Daisy Dream, and Daisy Eau So Fresh. Fans collect the bottles and display them as "Daisy gardens." Though it launched when I was in high school, high schoolers today love the Daisy franchise so much that it's racked up more than 13.1 million views on TikTok.

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But Jacobs has other fragrances too. Lola, Dot, Decadence, each one with an equally iconic look and scent. But it was 2020's Perfect that ushered in a new era for his fragrance brand, one that looks beyond Daisy's chokehold. The name Perfect was inspired by a tattoo on the designer's wrist, and fans fell in love with the bottle's quirky charm-filled cap, smooth floral scent, and campaign focused on self-acceptance.

The Marc Jacobs Cinematic Universe is expanding yet again with Perfect Eau de Toilette, an entirely new scent with notes of pink peppercorn, white daffodil, and cedarwood. So what exactly goes into creating another viral perfume? We catch up with Jacobs ahead of the launch to debrief on all things scents and beauty trends.

On the creation of Daisy …

The way I remember the experience was very innocent. We sat with a group of people from Coty, we were just talking and they had some rough ideas, visuals to show me. We all gravitated towards this idea of a Daisy on a bottle. I don't know which came first: the name of the bottle or whatever. I had a dog named Daisy, and she got her name from Daisy Buchanan of The Great Gatsby. Daisy is one of my favorite characters in literature. Plus, I love the irony of a floral coming from a flower that had no scent. So all those things appealed to me.

It wasn't a very researched moment or calculated moment. The perfumer, you know, was inspired by the story I told, and all of a sudden, there was a juice and a bottle and a box. And then, it was very easy to kind of create the imagery or the communication, because I felt like Daisy was this spirit that existed in everybody. That naive spirit—it's been such a symbol in so many different places. We can just tell the story with, like, people—young women, in this case—on the beach, or in the grass, with that kind of freshness and the kind of youthful freedom.

It was very easy and instinctive to create the world of Daisy. We all always hope for a success, but I don't think anybody thought that was going to be such a success, you know?

marc jacobs perfect eau de toilette
Marc Jacobs

On capturing the cultural zeitgeist through scent …

I think it's kind of instinctive. It starts out as like a project, right? Coty comes to me and is like, "Okay, we want to do a new fragrance." I think like, "Oh, my God, what's it going to be?" Then through a process, which is, like, responding to visuals, listening to conversations, going away, digesting it, coming back, saying like, "I think it should be called Perfect." I mean, it's the same way we do a collection. It's just this process of thinking and talking, interacting, and then actually having, like, that physical creative moment where you start putting things together and making something that illustrates all those different thoughts.

The storytelling and the communication, which, for me, it's such a big part of it. Fragrance is a very personal thing. In terms of the actual fragrance—I mean, I like it, I think it's a beautiful fragrance, but it's not something I could be romantic or talk to you about in a way that I could if we were talking about the casting for the ads, or the bottle, or the box.

On how his perspective on beauty has changed in the last three years …

I continue to be excited by the changes I see in the beauty industry and the fragrance industry. I think something like Perfect in terms of what we've done and how we've communicated these ideas, or cast, or, you know, the whole spirit, like, it just couldn't have happened 10 years ago. There was no space; people wouldn't allow for it.

So what excites me now is seeing the change in the beauty industry, seeing this little crack in the window, or this little opening in the door, that just start spreading a little bit wider and allowing for a little bit more. I think that's the most exciting thing, you know, in my lifetime: seeing evidence of change.

the marc jacobs perfect party
Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

On designing Perfect's new bottle …

I feel like I'm demystifying the situation every time I explain these things. It was brought to my attention that Coty who wanted to do an eau de toilette. So I have these boxes and boxes filled with all of these charms from the first bottle, but I had asked for them in different colors, different shades, different finishes, levels of transparency, like milkiness.

So over a vacation—I don't know whether it was, like, a summer vacation, or it was a Christmas vacation two years ago, whenever it was, I don't know, I lose all track of time—but I got down these boxes and I said, "Okay, let me try to put these charms together in a way that says eau de toilette." For me, that means it has a kind of freshness to it, a transparency and brightness. These are the stories I told myself.

I started putting these different textures and colors together, and came up with what I thought told that story, which was, like, this milky, glassy sort of transparency, blues and greens, silvers, and something that felt like it had a cleaner, brighter spirit.

Remember, what came before was Perfect Intense—which was, like, black, gold, silver, and bright yellow. I took home two bottles of the new the EDT, and I put them on my shelf next to the other ones and I was like, "Wow, you know, it really does look very, very different than the one before, and the one before that." And it's funny, because when I'm in it, you know, when I'm doing this thing, I'm very focused.

On fashion designers becoming more involved in beauty …

I always think like, "Oh, my God, everybody is just as involved in everything." Like, I don't think I'm more involved or less, you know? I think maybe this is my own insecurity. I think like, "Oh, I bet [the other designers] are there with the nose." I've got visions of, like, this fictitious designer who's literally making fragrance. My shrink tells me this all the time. He's like, "You have this image, this fictitious idea of this imaginary person who does everything perfectly without any stress?" That's what I imagine. I fall short when I compare myself to that imaginary person.

There are days where I feel like being involved and days where it's just like, "Leave me alone. I don't want to do this." But Coty has been a really great partner. Flankers are always a tricky thing. Because I'm like, "How can you possibly make so many different things?" It's almost like knitting—when it comes to putting the colors and the shapes together—even if it's driving me a little bit crazy while I'm doing it, it is therapeutic.

I do like it. I like the creative part of it. And I do love working, you know, with Katie [Grand] and Juergen [Teller] on the ads, and Peter [Miles] on the art direction. I do love telling the story. I like the visuals, and I like the things you see.

marc jacobs perfect, perfect intense, and perfect eau de toilette
Marc Jacobs

On how his public face-lift changed how he thinks about beauty …

I've learned that if I take care of myself—whatever that means, there was a period where it meant going to the gym six times a week and doing two hours of partner yoga four times a week—but whatever I need to do, so that I feel good, and I can be of service to others, participate in my day, and I can feel good about getting dressed, I have to do.

I wanted to do this plastic surgery, and I kind of went on and off about it. And then, I was just like, 'No, I'm gonna do it.' And then afterwards, I really loved the results. I felt like I needed to do this—not needed, actually—this is what I wanted to do. And it's no different than wearing perfume, high heels to work, or, you know, other things I want to do or wear that help me feel good about myself.

On the public's reaction to his face-lift …

I loved it. I didn't realize it would be such a big deal. I've become very, very friendly with my doctor who did the surgery. People have so much shame around Botox, surgery, dyeing their hair, you name it. I've learned that when I'm very open about those things, the shame disappears. There's nothing to hide. So it serves me well. But it's still funny how there are people who, I think, feel like they're embarrassed that they're doing this or that. They don't want people to know.

On what Gen Z gets right and wrong about the '90s and Y2K aesthetic …

I don't know that they're getting anything wrong. I never thought I'd be the person who says like, "Back in the day, this is the way it was." But, you know, for all those Gen Z people out there—I didn't always have a smartphone, or know how to use a computer. Like, it wasn't part of my education. So things like social media and other techy things that they're so adept at, I'm not.

When we were doing what we were doing in the year 2004, or just before, I think there was this false sense that things would always be that way, that my generation was the generation that would define the rest of time. You know what I mean? I never sat down and actually thought that. But in the past, like, there was the '20s, and the '60s, but for me, I just felt like, well, we're not going to experience that shift that happened historically. So, of course, thinking about that now makes no sense at all; of course, we're going to experience it.

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But when I see young people who say that they're inspired by those times, and when I look at what the product of that inspiration is, I don't see the parallel, you know? But, of course, it's their interpretation of what they've looked at, so I can't look at things through the lens or the eyes of anybody but my generation. I'm just not that generation.

It makes perfect sense that a person under the age of 30 would look back, just like I was looking back to a period way before me, and I'm inspired by that period. And I'm sure anyone from that period would have looked at what my take on that inspiration was and say that had nothing to do with it, you know? So I think this is just all a question of everything is exactly the way it always was. History repeats itself in certain ways. The landscape, you know, of life and physical landscape, and people's way of being just continues to change. Change is constant.

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On the best-smelling person he's ever met …

My husband. That sounds like a very Donna Karan thing. When she was developing her fragrance, they said, "What do you want it to smell like?" And she said, "The back of Stephan's neck," who was, I guess, her husband? Or, you know what? There's another answer: Lady [my dog]. I would say Neville [another of my dogs], but Lady smells much better than Neville. Puppies smell really good.

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