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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Claude Marchal, the creator of Parfums MDCI, talks about his line

Last Friday, on Aromascope and Perfume-Smellin’ Things, we had a lively discussion of Parfums MDCI. We wondered about prices and guessed about whom the company considered to be their target audience and I think we were all intrigued. Claude Marchal, the creator of MDCI wrote me an email, addressing the questions we had. With his kind permission, I am posting it below practically in its entirety. I must say that it made me look at the line with completely different eyes, and above all, it is always nice to know that some companies (usually, understandably, smaller companies) are concerned about the opinions of their potential clients and care enough to actually initiate a dialogue…that exclusivity does not exclude charm and willingness to communicate.

“Reading the comments posted on your blogs, it became obvious to me that some of your visitors like our designs, and others don't, which is perfectly natural. We have chosen a narrow road, trying to add value to fragrance with artsy presentations, exposing ourselves to critics (or praise!).

But our company seems to be perceived as elitist and overpriced; which is not our intent nor our philosophy, even if definitely MDCI intends to position itself somewhere near the top: there is no other way for a small brand which invests a lot in design and quality ingredients and components.

We also produce on a very small scale, not because of snobbism but because these crystal bottles are extremely difficult to make, a hundred a year is a realistic maximum! To compare with Lalique (good friends of mine, by the way), Lalique produces limited editions of 2500 to 4000 units a year. Industrial. Molded. Glass. Plastic seals. Ours are crystal, cast from manually-made individual wax models; each stopper is manually adapted and paired to its particular bottle, hand-finished, then numbered etc., etc...

Another comparison is with Clive Christian's top of the line perfumes, available for $2500.00 at select department stores...

In fact, I do not know exactly for how much our fragrances go for in Russia, prices which seem to annoy your readers.

I think that the problem originates in Moscow, where prices may have gotten out of control. By the time they get there, prices have more than doubled, thanks to retailer's margins, duties, etc., etc. (pretty much the same way caviar prices increase when it reaches fine stores in Paris). Add the weakness of the US dollar versus the Euro (1 euro= 1,30 US$), and our fragrances start to be out of reach, which we do not want!

In fact, we try to remain affordable: 1,5 fl oz of EDP can be ordered from us, in Paris, for Euros 120.00, and 2,5 fl oz for Euros 150.00 in the aluminum spray bottles used as refills for the pricey crystal flacons. This until our new presentations are ready next year. (Our website has to be quickly updated on this point: there is a real demand for the fragrances, and it would be foolish to stick to the idea of limiting refills to the happy few capable of buying the expensive crystal flacons).

Also, prices are not available on our website, for several reasons, none linked to any desire to fleece innocent customers:

1- Our merchant site is not ready, we are sort of overwhelmed by our workload: give us a little more time to improve on it!
2- We are still trying to figure out how to protect our direct sales business model, and make it compatible with a more normal distribution ( i.e. Neiman Marcus or some other high-end dept. stores).
3- We are working hard on new, more affordable presentations, which should be ready by the end of February 07: high quality glass spray bottle with what I think is a lovely and quite unique Limoges bisque stopper…

Expect retail prices in the neighborhood of Euros 300.00 to 400.00 for 2,5 fl oz of EDP, and glass spray refills available for around Euros 120.00 to 150.00.

OK, this is not cheap, but this is not only within the reach of successful suburban Mafiosi!

We want to stick to our low-key, small volume model, not by crass elitism, but to keep things manageable, creativity high, and customers happy. And yes, small volumes mean higher prices...and exclusivity! (…)

Thank you for reading this loooong message till the end…

Yours truly,

Claude at Parfums MDCI “

For more information about MDCI, please visit

The image is from


Anonymous Anonymous said...

M. Marchal is a true gentleman. 'Nuff said.

11:12 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

My sentiments exactly :-)

11:13 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

How nice of him to respond! I must admit I was put off about the whole "Refills are also available to order, however you would have to be a registered holder of at least one crystal flacon or a 'legitimate person expressly designated by one' to buy a refill."

Well, gnashing my teeth with jealousy would be a bit more like it. But I do wish them every success.

1:26 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a charming guy. And a sense of humour to boot.

And I'm now booting myself up the jacksy in humiliation....

3:53 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

Well, well.
He is a truly good human being, very sincere and responsive.

This is good, because now I think I can wait, hopefully, for the day [next year] when I'll be able to afford 'refill', as those samples [particularly the FK ones]were wonderful, quality, wearable scents.

Kudos, Marinochka... Really fine work !

7:11 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

What an incredibly nice man. I really admire someone who is passionate enough about his product that he takes the time to respond like this - especially w/ an excellent sense of humor (the "successful suburban mafiosi" part). And, frankly, the prices of the ones that will be released in Feb. are comparable to many niche brands and not that unreasonable given the size. I shall be buying a FK#3 piggy bank today.

7:39 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

He is very charming, indeed! My only regret is that now I will have to find some way of trying (and probably buying) these--particularly that enticing #3.

7:42 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Okay, if I read that right, those prices (sans Lalique bottle) aren't so high. Hmmm.... maybe ...

8:21 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Yeah, but now they abandoning that idea, it seems: "it would be foolish to stick to the idea of limiting refills to the happy few capable of buying the expensive crystal flacons". Good thing for me, bad thing for my wallet :-)

8:29 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Because there was virtually no info about prices and such on the site (and now I understand the reason why) our imaginations inflated them to some strange proportions. Now it all sounds...reasonable :-)

8:31 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am waiting too. One day K3 will be mine.

8:31 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That's what I thought too. The prices are no worse than thatof Indult scents, for example. Actually, not worse than Parfumerie Generale's (talking about refills here).

8:32 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Trying is an easy part (moo)...buying I guess will have to wait till next year.

8:33 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would really really like to encourage you to email Claude and talk to him about those bottles. They might well be within your reach, it is a great point about Baccarat Guerlains. That is how most clients do get in touch with him, through email.

8:35 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

No, they aren't...just your average to high NICHE prices. :-)

8:36 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must admit, having been one of those that were put off by their seeming elitism, I am charmed by this response. It makes me want to take a closer look at the "juice"!

9:55 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am charmed too :-) And I want a crystal lady-bottle with K3. Or just K3 without the bottle. :-)

9:58 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with all comments. Thank you for sharing with us.

11:04 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!

11:08 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

LOL I think so too. :-)

12:04 PM EST  
Blogger katiedid said...

Just a quick note to you first, M: I think it took some guts to post this, and good on you for doing it. Second, Mr. Marchal was very classy in his response, and good on him for writing to you so sincerely.

2:02 PM EST  
Blogger carmencanada said...

Bravo to M. Marchal for responding so courteously and thoroughly. Which, by the way, demonstrates the evolving role of the major perfume blogs: your voice, Marina, and our voices may be taken into account.

4:42 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! :-)

4:49 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

that, of course, is very nice to know :-)

4:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this lovely letter. Without the crystal bottles, the scents are not priced so far out of line in comparison with those from other high-end small parfumeries. His well reasoned explanations and gentlemanly tone make me want to rush off to buy those frangrances. (And, being the minimalist that I am, I would *much* prefer them in nondescript aluminum bottles.) I'll leave the crystal bottles to the Jersey City crowd.

6:51 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I too thought the prices were comparable to other niche scents out there.

6:52 PM EST  

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