written by Laurence Arrigo Klove | Interview in English |
A Geneva family clan intensely passionate about creating perfumes. Swiss Double Cream is the finest. Of course.
Mizensir Genève is fueled by a passion for making divine perfumes. Mizensir equals Morillas, a Geneva family with the swiss quality dear to their heart. Alberto, the acclaimed Firmenich master perfumer and his daughter Véronique are telling us their brand story and secrets. A very special duo performing magic tricks for us.
Question: dear Véronique, it feels so special to have the opportunity to exchange with you, let us kick off with how you decided to join the family business?
I graduated in Law and joined a lawyer’s company shortly thereafter. I was immersed in other people’s interests and problems. My task was to rigorously study rules and regulations, apply them and solve my client’s specific problems. Suddenly, I thought to myself why not dedicate my time to solve my family own business issues? I had done several internships at Firmenich either working for the legal department or in the lab and Alberto had kept me abreast all along of the business, so the move made sense to me. I joined in 2011 and never looked back. My roadmap has never been so happy.
Mr Morillas, do you have anything to add after your daughter - ladies first?
Absolutely! My wife and I were convinced that Véronique had the right skills and could immensely help growing a business that was too much for just one person. My wife had been magnificently managing our candle business on her own, but the time had come to enlarge the team to pave the way for the future. Facts proved me right. As soon as she joined, Véronique brought fresh ideas such as the one to launch perfumes. Thanks to her, we ventured into this new path.
Question: when and how did the Mizensir brand start?
Véronique: The brand started officially in 1999 when my mother Claudine and Father Alberto registered the company. Prior to that, my dad had been practising the production of candles at Firmenich since it was a ritual for perfumers to create a candle to offer to business clients or to employees. Friends pushed my parents to start their own brand and the first candles officially sold were in a boutique - held by a friend of theirs - just around the corner from their house, precisely in Vandoeuvres, Geneva. They quickly became extremely popular in Geneva beyond their friends’ network.
Alberto: I had become totally passionate about the complex science of crafting candles: the type of wax, the burning of the wax, the scent, its wax dilution… I did extensive research to try and master the magic of it. As a perfectionist, I thought I could not find the right candles in the market. I needed to go further, to do something better, finer in particular in the scent’s quality. This is how the brand started, stirred by research and passion.
Question: so the brand began with candles, how many of them at the launch?
Véronique: Mizensir started with a simple 3 candles selection and oddly enough they still belong to the most popular sales category today. There was Sapin de Noël – a mythical Xmas pine scent, Pomme d’Ambre – a delightful blend of vanilla & spices, and Cannelle Vanille – a heady cinnamon mixed with a soft vanilla. Other references were quickly developed such as Figuier de Sicile, Bois du Tibet, Jasmin and Ambre Oriental. Again, to this day, extremely popular scents.
Alberto: Loyalty of our clients is very special to me. It means what we do is not that bad after all. Our clients have their preferences, but they are also very fond of the diversity of our scents that can meet their interior variety, the different seasons, and evolving moods. One thing is taken for granted; the intensity of the scent is high. Fruity, woody, sweet, spicy, incense, flowery notes, I indulge into intense levels of perfumes. I think this is a major component of our success.
Question: who came up with the brand name ‘Mizensir’?
Véronique: My parents. They really had fun playing with words on different levels. In French, ‘Mizensir’ means ‘put into wax’, quite appropriate for a candle make. ‘M’ stands for Morillas our family name, you guessed that one. ‘Zen’ can also be read vice versa ‘Nez’. Last for not least, Alberto like the British ‘Sir’ referring to elegance. I admit I have nothing to do with this. All theirs. Isn’t it so Papa?
Alberto: You are quite right! There is so much of us in that name. The spirit, the humour, the family, the craftsmanship, the excellence. The brand name has a strong personality, I think.
Question: how did you come about choosing all the elements of the artistic design?
Véronique: This was again a family teamwork exercise. Let’s start with the logo. My father likes the classicism of the Greco-Roman times so he picked the two columns for Mizensir. My parents have always had a pair of Jack Russel Terrier dogs - for the last 35 years at least - so naturally we had to use them. Finally the box trees leaves illustrate our strong scents touch. The simplicity of our bottles stems from the choice of putting all the limelight into the scent, in the ingredients quality,. The choice of white for the packaging derives from my dad craving for white flowers in his home interior. White is timeless, chic, full of light. Finally, we add a dash of silver or gold or black depending on the scent. As for the names, in the main we like to use two words like in Musc Eternel or Golden Oud. In our opinion, whatever the language, it gives the right balance to a perfume name and it also makes sure that if one forgets the first word then one remembers the latter.
Alberto: Véronique told me, ‘dad please don’t restrain your creativity worrying about costs of ingredients; with Mizensir, you are totally free’. I got the message loud and clear. I indulge in the very best materials both natural and synthetic. I cherry pick in the fantastic Firmenich molecule portfolio such as ambrox, paradisone (jasmin), vulcanolide (musk). I am always looking for new ideas, being modern, looking forward to the future. This is my approach. As for the colour white, Chanel was a big inspiration for me. White or Black. The definition of simple elegance. I chose white for Mizensir. For the perfume’s names, I am particularly focused in choosing the right personality as the name itself tells the story of the perfume. For our upcoming perfume based on the gin ingredient, instinctively I chose the name ‘Blue Gin’ as per the colour of the Bombay Sapphire bottle.
Question: how are the scents developed in this family teamwork process?
Véronique: Sometimes, the team comes up with a scent inspiration and dad goes about developing it. Most times, his creative mind has a bounty of new ideas to be translated into perfumes. For 2021, we have three new perfumes scents, but Alberto has always more in the making and he refers to those scents as ‘unfinished’. What he means by that is that he feels they are not perfect; he still needs to work on them. However, in some instances, I must firmly tell him that the scent is ‘finished’... It is also important to note that all the team gets to test the perfumes. All our skins are used as research so that we can provide feedback and necessary adjustments can be made if needs be. Finally, we also use our two shops as our labs. Day in day out, our clients tell us what they like or what they do not like, what they wish for, we listen to them and can work on it.
Alberto: Usually, it takes me up to 2 years with 60 fine-tunements to finish a perfume. I am a perfectionist; I do not give up until I think this is it. I am still working on Ambre Magique, as I need to crack the code: what does ‘Orient’ mean nowadays. Is it India, or the Middle East, is it a scent along the lines of Shalimar? The beginning, the original idea and the first development samples are the most powerful ones. I am also very keen on following the sales as it provides me with the relevant feedback: what do people say and think when they smell my perfumes? In London, our brand is referred to as the one with the ‘Boomerang’ effect as its conversion from smell into sales is so immediate.
Question: can you elaborate on the art of perfume creation seen by Mizensir, or by the ‘magician of scents’?
Véronique: For us, a fine fragrance is achieved when 4 elements are combined. First, raw materials must be top quality. Second, the emotion triggered by the scent needs to be there. Third, perfection must come to mind since our scents have had a long development process. Fourth, seduction is key as our clients have the final say.
Alberto: I always say each perfume must have a soul. In my mind, that soul comes from a melody like a song tune. This inner-core element is the intimate personality of the perfume. In addition to this piece of harmony, I want my perfumes to surprise, to intrigue. Finally, my goal is to please people to bring them a piece of ‘light’, of joy always with a high standard of quality.
Question: can you tell us the story of Mizensir ‘Edition de Véronique’ as well as ‘Little Bianca’ and ‘Lovely Alba’, dedicated to your 2 daughters?
Véronique: Obviously, Edition the Véronique was made for me. Alberto created a composition for me, and I simply loved it. He then deftly added some rose to make it more feminine, only to find out, that I did not like it anymore. Sorry dad. No offense. I prefer other ones; I cannot start my day without Luxury or Elixir de Musc and my nights must be spent with Musc Eternel or Ideal Oud. As for the perfumes for my daughters they were made above all for me or for any woman who has a new-born baby. It such a pleasure to wear a soft yet beautiful perfume who gives the happy feeling of a new life. Now, our daughters love their own perfume. Everybody is happy.
Alberto: Edition the Véronique was the first perfume of the Mizensir collection. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that she did not like it after all as much as before. Well, I forgave her. Laugh! The girls are also very much a source of inspiration. I enjoy their company so much. I feel I am still a kid, I love to play, I live in a magic world where everything is possible.
Question: can you explain the family clan composition?
Véronique: Alright, in total we are 12 people: 2 salespeople in our retail shop in Geneva, 5 production lab resources, 2 back office people - I am one of them - 1 digital & brand image resource - my husband, and my parents. All our staff has been working for us for a very long time Our main office is in Meinier, Canton of Geneva. It sits in the countryside with a stunning view over the Alps. By any standard, it is a small office, we all share one common open space, I guess it adds to the casual family business atmosphere.
Alberto: I must start by saying that I am so proud of the clan. I am so happy with the craftsmanship team, the new projects underway, the new perfumes images, the shop windows…We are a small company, full of ideas and swift at making them happen. Our flexibility makes us strong and we only look forward to the future. We are also totally dedicated to the business, we work a lot, 7 out of 7! My workdays typically start around 5 am, in my home office, as this quiet time is my best creation window. I kick off the day by ‘sniffing’ the smelling strips from the day before. It provides me immediately with the solution I am looking for, like a flash of truth. When I am travelling, I am always carrying my ’tool’ box, full of development samples and smelling strips. I am in a state of panic if I do not have it!
Question: as your brand started with candles to then develop perfumes, can you tell us what are the challenges of each segment?
Véronique: We have by now 33 perfumes and 115 candles. It is correct to state that challenges are totally different from our experience. On the candle front, we will have the scientific test ultimate outcome: does the candle burn like it is supposed to and is the scent exactly like it should be. Occasionally, our tests drag on for months until we finally crack the code. On the perfume front, the main question is willing the magic perform so that our clients will love the scent over time. The seduction must last otherwise we will run into profitability issues.
Alberto: I like all my candles and perfumes equally, like a father likes all his children evenly. The only thing I must confess is that my memory is weak. My mind is too much concentrated on the future, on the new scents so I tend to forget the past ones. With Firmenich as our exclusive provider, I must point out how incredibly lucky we are, and we will never run into a raw materials supply issue. In terms of challenges, Véronique is incredibly gifted at tackling them, she never cracks under pressure, whereas I tend to panic. Therefore, I am so happy to let her run the show.
Question: What are the most important milestones summing up the brand story?
Véronique: Sure, we have been busy as you will see from the launch in 1999:
2008 Mizensir Candles at Colette Paris
July 2013 Mizensir 1st shop opens in Geneva
April 2015 Launch of our perfumes exclusively at Colette
2016 Mizensir perfumes at Harrods
2016 2nd Mizensir shop opens in Megève, exclusive ski resort in France
2019 For Your Love, new perfume celebrating our 20 year brand anniversary
2021 Opening new markets, the US and Turkey
Question: how important is the ‘made in Switzerland’ for Mizensir?
Véronique: It is particularly important. We have even placed a small swiss flag on each leaflet inside our perfume bottles. Our production is in Switzerland for our candles in our own offices and for our perfumes in Geneva. Most of our suppliers are in Switzerland, and if not in Europe.
Alberto: I am very proud of the ‘made in Switzerland’, it is a sign of quality. We have had many offers from suppliers outside of Switzerland, even outside of the European Union They try to lure us with lower costs. What we know is that higher costs come with not only higher quality but also more flexibility such as delivery times or production times. We have decided to stick to our sustainable model. Vive la Suisse!
Question: what are you most proud of?
Véronique: There are three things I am proud of. First, my family clan, no surprise with this one. Second, our independence as we are totally self-financed. Third, the fact that we were able to introduce oud to people who traditionally did not like it before. I am happy having contributed to this ingredient democratisation. Mizensir has many ouds in his collection who achieved this objective.
Alberto: I am very proud of the recognition the brand has gained. I am also proud of our total freedom and the team as I said before. I am also going to agree with Véronique, I am super proud to have understood the magical ‘oud’. Everybody talks about it but like a unicorn, nobody has ever seen it. Well, I did! Oud has become very familiar to me; I know the different kind of ouds inside out and my clients now do too.
Question: what is your vision of luxury?
Véronique: in my mind, luxury is about having the freedom to choose what one wants to do and to feel confident with oneself.
Alberto: as for me, luxury is simple, one has a piece of luxury in every simple detail of craftsmanship in a ribbon, a nice box, a perfumed wrapping paper Luxury must be accessible and true. So, quality must be there, one cannot cheat. Well, I do not. In the end, our hands unfold a piece of beauty.
Question: if Mizensir was a color, a music, a time in history, a piece of art?
Véronique: white, Julien Doré French Pop, today, Thai sculpture, minimalistic interior design .
Alberto: blue for its energy, red for passion, Mozart and Beethoven for their creative strength and weakness. For style, I have none! Laugh, for I have too much of it. I keep all souvenirs from my travels, my house is like an Alibaba cave, I simply do not manage to get rid of stuff. After all, if I liked it, it meant something, it struck me with something valuable I do not want to give away.
Question: it is about time to ask the two of you a fencing question, how different is your demeanour?
Véronique: happy with compromise, under her watch complex files rules and procedures are all taken care of, one step at a time, zen approach.
Alberto: perfectionist, easily falling in a state of tragedy – I am Spanish after all - laugh, impatient as any time spent away from perfume creation is lost, so always in a rush.
Question: At last, one question to bring peace and common ground, what are your similar personality features?
Véronique: curious, social, hardworking, passion for perfumes- naturally
Alberto: absolutely spot on! No further comment.
The outcome of Mizensir x Morillas, is an Unbeatable Magic Duo
Mizensir is a ‘pas de deux’, mastered with brio by a father and daughter, perfectly balancing their strengths and weaknesses. Véronique a lawyer, is anything but quixotic, she grounds her father impetuous strides and waits for the dust to settle. Alice in Wonderland comes to mind with Alberto as the rabbit saying "I'm late! I am late! For a very important date! Her ‘magician’ dad, is here one instant, gone the second after. Véronique has patience and resilience galore while Alberto performs superbly in ‘to Catch a magician of perfumes’. We have two generations bonding together and sharing one common soul creating with a magic trick magnificent perfumes.