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The Interview: Arkesh Shah, Co-Managing Director, Designer Parfums

Sadiyah Ismailjee
22 October 2020

Based in the UK, Designer Parfums started its journey in 2002, on the back of entrepreneur Dilesh Mehta. With a strong portfolio of fragrance and beauty products in the fashion, lifestyle and celebrity segments, the combination of innovative marketing solutions, the speed to market, the flexibility to tackle challenges and embrace partners, have been the foundation for its global success.

Brands within the group's fragrances portfolio include, Playboy, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Ariana Grande, Ghost, Aigner Parfums, Porsche Design, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Cerutti 1881, and F1.

Designer Parfums’ portfolio of brands is distributed in over 60 countries and recognised when Designer Parfums was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade 2020. Joint Managing Director at Designer Parfums, Arkesh Shah tells's The Beauty Edit more: 

Could you tell us a little bit about your background?

I don’t come from a traditional fragrance background. In fact I started my career in Investment Banking and then moved to Private Equity. After 15 years in this industry I then tried to start a healthy gluten free snacking business and was consulting to other businesses on the side to earn some money.

It was actually when advising Designer Parfums on the acquisition of a US Hair Care brand called Frederic Fekkai from P&G I was asked by the ownership of Designer Parfums to help them on the integration of the brand within their US business. I loved the company, people and the role and then one thing led to another and now here I am as part of the management team. I am currently heading up Playboy and Cerruti within our portfolio .

You launched back in 2002, what was the response like and what has changed since?

The license was acquired in 2008 by Coty Inc from IMG and became in 2012 the 3rd largest fragrance brand globally.

Since we took over in 2018 we felt the need to reposition the brand and follow and align on the direction where the mother brand is going. We are moving towards communications that are relevant for a younger audience and is not alienating the female audience.

Designer Parfums’ portfolio of brands is distributed in over 60 countries, how does the fragrance market differ in the regions you are available in?

Yes, different regions can indeed have very different perception of fragrances. In markets such as India and China fragrance is still very small, the largest business in beauty products are deodorants.

The Middle East region is traditionally focusing on strong and intense eau de parfum scents like oud. On the contrary, warm countries in South America and South East Asia prefer lighter, fresher fragrances, so these markets are more interested into body mists offerings.

Europe and US tend to be more pioneering / trendsetting regions and curious for new news in the traditional fragrance market.

Playboy - Make The Cover perfumes

You recently collaborated with Playboy on the launch of their new Make The Cover perfume for him and her. Tell us more?’ 

Playboy Make the Cover is the first global launch of Playboy fragrances since the acquisition of the license by Designer Parfums. Make The Cover wants to break conventions and challenge perceptions. You don’t need to look like a model to Make The Cover. We developed 2 powerful fragrances that can make you feel empowered and stand out.

Do what you want, say what you want, act how you want – be true to yourself. Appearance, gender, and sexuality no longer restrict how you choose to express yourself and who can make it to the top. The fragrance campaign playfully challenges outdated notions of how society defines beauty.

What kind of promotional partnerships or collaborations are you open to?

In many markets we work with retailers exclusively for new launches. For Playboy Fragrances in particular, we started collaborating with non-traditional beauty retailers and apparel brands where there is an already existing collaboration with Playboy.

Do you have any new exciting projects or collaborations in the pipeline?

For Playboy we are also excited to be launching our new range of 5 vibrant and fun Bodymists in summer 2021 called under the umbrella of Playboy “Squad”. In terms of the rest of our company we just launched R.E.M. (Ariana Grande’s latest fragrance) and are about to launch Formula One Fragrances globally in March 2021.

What do you look for when seeking a new fragrance brand to add your portfolio?

We look for strong brands in the masstige and lifestyle space, and tend to not go for uber niche high end fragrances. For us we also consider fragrance brands that enhance our geographic footprint.

What have been the most important fragrance trends of 2020 so far?

Covid-19 has indeed impacted on defining these trends, setting new habits and new needs. Fragrances have to adapt stepping up with their proposition. Sustainability is a key trend, highlighting the opportunity for refillable packaging, natural fragrances and ethically sourced ingredients.

Personalisation is for sure another trend that we have observed, creating buildable products to develop at home. Also how consumers spend time has changed open opportunities in different industries such as gaming and entertainment, where also fragrances can play a role.

Where is the fragrance market heading?

It is heading into a more responsible position as well as more purposeful one. Consumers won’t just judge a fragrance, but also the story and the message around it.

Consumers still remain apprehensive about visiting physical retail stores due to COVID-19, and a number of fragrance and beauty brands no longer offering testers in-store. Has this made perfume brands re-think fragrance sampling?

Sampling is more than ever key for any new launch. And how sampling is done is changing too. We are activating eSampling projects to get samples into people’s homes without the need to physically visit a store and they can then easily buy online the full size fragrance.

Is the Coronavirus pandemic one of the biggest challenges facing the beauty and fragrance industry today?

Covid has impacted massively the fragrance market leading to the rise of new trends such as a new perception of beauty and fragrances which become products to improve everyday wellbeing for empowerment, mood, and inspiration.

Consumers now have more time at home to take care of themselves and they want to still feel good about themselves and ‘pamper themselves’. But it also offers an opportunity for the industry to set new trends and pioneer new ways of thinking

How have your fragrance brands from your portfolio been performing throughout this uncertain time?

We have obviously been hit by travel retail and the closure high end selective department stores, but the distribution of our brands in Drug Stores has remained strong as they have remained opened during the pandemic.

How has Designer Parfums adapted during this challenging time?

We put in a stronger focus on eCommerce and delayed some launches to when the market will be more stable.

What’s next for Designer Parfums?

New launches for Playboy and geographical expansion into China as well as new fragrance brands to be added to the portfolio.

What advice would you give to anyone starting a perfume?

First and foremost look at trends and what consumers want. Create a proposition that is different vs the competition by looking at what your consumers are asking! Even if the budget is not as big as the one of competitors, make sure you have a targeted communication and media plan to talk to your potential consumers. All digital launches as becoming more and more popular, make sure you have talk to the right audience with the right product at right time (and price!).


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