Follow us

The Interview: D'ORSAY CEO Amélie Huynh on reviving a heritage fragrance brand

Kelle Salle
13 June 2023

Amélie Huynh is the CEO of D’ORSAY. D’ORSAY is a luxury French fragrance brand that has been around for almost 200 years. The brand was acquired by Huynh and her father in 2015 and relaunched by Huynh in 2019. Huynh comes from an entrepreneurial family. After leaving business school, she worked for a big jewellery brand for eight years before joining her father’s company, helping him set up various businesses and overseeing their development. 

The brand’s heritage remains at the heart of its fragrances and Huynh tells us that storytelling is its most precious asset. The founder of the brand, Alfred D’Orsay, created it to honour an affair he was having with the Irish novelist Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington. He wanted to create a fragrance that both of them could wear. To ensure the brand was ready to re-enter the market, Huynh had a lot of difficult decisions to make. “D’ORSAY is an almost archival brand with such a rich history, so many product categories, such incredible imagery and astonishing crystal bottles that have stood the test of time. I wasn’t sure how to make the brand relevant without compromising its past,” she says. Looking back, Huynh believes she made the right choices for the brand. While she acknowledges that it couldn’t be restored to its previous glory by clinging to its past, the past does serve as tremendous inspiration for a new future.

Huynh was looking to acquire a perfume brand and D’ORSAY was searching for a new owner, so she wasn’t really identifying a gap in the market, but was rather looking for a brand in an area she was passionate about. “I wanted to express a love story through a fragrance. We worked a lot on the concept of D’ORSAY’s relaunch and we came up with fragrances expressing what we call “states of love”.


D'ORSAY's Paris store

Passionate, tender and even self-love. Each of our fragrances represents a certain type of love,” she says. When the brand relaunched, they didn’t have a specific target market in mind. D’ORSAY was for perfume connoisseurs, but Huynh and her team also really wanted to appeal to potential consumers. “We wanted to reach out to new consumers who already knew about niche perfumes but were looking for something new and fresh,” she says.

The brand was relaunched with a store opening in 2019. Huynh is a firm believer in the brick-and-mortar retail model, even in a time when almost everything is digital. “It’s very important to have a physical presence, especially when it comes to fragrances. We gave D’ORSAY a whole new identity, which was very bold considering the ‘XIXth century’ image of the brand - the bottles were completely redesigned; we came up with a new colour chart, new materials and we told new stories,” she says. Huynh and her team invested a lot of time and energy on the design of the store and were proud of what was achieved, but the store was the first step in the brand’s new adventure. A year later, the world stopped, which naturally proved to be a setback for the brand. “We had to find an alternative which meant developing our e-shop and overall online presence. Given the circumstances, we were quite successful in that endeavour, but I was happy when we could finally reopen our store!,” she says.

D’ORSAY’s bestsellers vary from market to market. When they relaunched, they had five body fragrances and five home scents in their range. The only original fragrance they kept is called Tilleul (Linden), which was formulated in 1915. It was reformulated by Olivia Giacobetti in 2008 and has become a brand staple. “Every region has its own D’ORSAY bestseller. In Japan, it’s Je Suis Le Plus Grand M.A and in the Middle East, Te Dire Oui V.H performs amazingly well due to its spicy, saffron-based notes,” Huynh says. The brand’s latest launch is Sur Tes Lèvres E.Q, an iris and jasmine-based fragrance with pink pepper and amber notes. “For me, it stands for infinite love. It’s the essence of a velvet kiss - the emotion we feel when our lips touch the lips of the person we love,” Huynh says. The fragrance was created by Dominique Ropion, a legend in the industry who is behind some of the most iconic fragrances on the market. “Sur Tes Lèvres E.Q adds something very new to our woody fragrances and it has been praised by the professionals so far, so I’m sure it will become a staple scent in no time,” she says.


D'ORSAY's Summer collection

D’ORSAY’s main focus is to make an aesthetically pleasing product and create a visual story that would appeal to one’s senses. Their stories are based on love, which they believe to be a universal emotion. To add value to consumers’ experiences, the brand is taking all the necessary steps to ensure they elevate their offering as niche perfumery is a highly competitive field. “When we relaunched, the path we wanted to take was quite clear - we wanted to make something simple, beautiful and of high quality. What really counts is what’s inside the bottle and of course, we have Alfred’s story, which is one of a kind. If you visit our stores in Paris and Tokyo, not only will you come out with a delightful product but also with a history lesson. Our sales team are very committed and could probably give university lectures on the 19th century!,” she says.

Ensuring they remain committed to providing consumers with high-quality products is a top priority for D’ORSAY. All of their products are manufactured in France. While Huynh tells us that it does come at a cost, it is a cost that the brand doesn't plan to cut anytime soon. “You can’t cut corners when it comes to quality. We’re lucky to have this “savoir-faire” in this country and we need to preserve it. We owe it to ourselves and to our customers,” Huynh says.

With years of experience setting up and overseeing the development of beauty brands, Huynh understands how competitive the industry is at the moment. “There are so many beauty brands out there - from industrial giants to small independent companies, everybody is fighting for an inch of our skin. As someone who works in the industry, I find it mentally exhausting but as a customer, I find it exciting,” she says. However, Huynh does believe the persistence of beauty loving consumers will help the industry evolve over time. “It never ceases to amaze me how beauty standards have changed throughout human history. What I find really interesting at the moment is public opinion being a top priority for brands, especially through social media. The industry has a bright future ahead of it,” she says.

Huynh’s advice to anyone who wants to get into the beauty industry is to know their “why” and understand what they’re bringing to the table. She also believes being prepared for adversity while exploring new ideas and concepts is key. “I have to be honest and say that I wouldn’t have created a fragrance brand from scratch. Reviving D’ORSAY was challenging, even though it used to be a very successful brand,” she says. Huynh launched a jewellery brand called Statement in 2018, so she has first-hand experience of what being an entrepreneur entails. “With D’ORSAY, it’s different. I don’t create the perfumes myself. I just know what direction I want to take. I come up with a brief with my team and we choose the right perfumer for each project - it’s a collaboration,” she says.

So what’s next for D’ORSAY? They have a couple of exciting projects up their sleeves, a fragrance diffuser created in collaboration with the designer Sophie Dries is one of them. They are also planning to capitalise on their market presence by opening more stores. To quote Huynh, “D’ORSAY is back and is here to stay”.

For more information about D’ORSAY, visit their website.

Free NewsletterVISIT