“The sky is the limit" - interview with Ruta Degutyte by Followzenose

“The sky is the limit!” said Ruta Degutyte – the founder of niche fragrance brand Art de Parfum – in this exclusive interview. New artistic perfumery brands keep popping up every year, yet in an already flooded market Ruta began Art de Parfum with a conviction to still manage to offer something new by creating perfumes that convey powerful emotions in a clean, environmentally friendly and ethical way. She has already created six wonderfully diverse and elegant fragrances and has accumulated several awards, the latest of which is for Encore Une Fois – won Pure Beauty Global Awards 2019 in Premium fragrance category. Ruta has serious plans for the future as she prepares to launch an exciting new fragrance in spring. Currently residing in London, a home she shares with her husband Paul Humphreys, a musician and founding member of the well-known British electronic music band OMD, Ruta travelled with Paul to see his first ever concert in Lithuania, and Followzenose had an opportunity to chat with Ruta during her visit to her hometown Vilnius. 

Ruta Degutyte, CEO and founder of French niche perfume brand Art de Parfum How did you start a fragrance brand? What was your occupation before?
I’m a marketer. I work on ideas and concepts and move things forward. Marketing is about building brands and making them thriving and successful. In Vilnius I was working for such blue-chip companies as Telia and Red Bull which were a stepping stone in my professional path. During the recession I moved to Australia and lived there for 2 years. My experiences working there eventually got me closer to my goal.

Did you work there?
Yes, I was consulting at the time. Then I started to question myself – why do I help other people but not myself? Not that I don’t like to help other people – but I had a feeling I wanted to start something of my own.

What did you dream to do as a kid?
I had dreams, but I never knew what I wanted to do – I mean after school. How can 18-year-olds know what they want? And also, I never was disciplined. So, I went to study law and my father was like “But why?” “Because it’s cool!” I said. Thank God, it didn’t work out… and I changed to economy and business. Eventually everything fell in the right place the right time for me… There is some history here – I couldn’t leave the country for a while because of family reasons, but when I was free, I went to Australia. I wanted to test myself.

And how did it turn out?
I proved to myself that I could do it. I mean, living in a totally different continent with no backup and still do things my way. When you arrive in London with this attitude, this is when things happen. Because in London you are in the cradle of all the madness – creative, finance, everything. Only the sky is the limit in London.

Why did you choose perfumery?
It will sound like a cliché, but perfumery was kind of a passion or expensive hobby for me. Somehow I have always been in the most competitive industries. I’m not particularly interested in all kinds of beauty – I always prefer perfumery to skincare. I don’t believe in marketing hype and expensive beauty products? I’m very down to earth. I believe in nature (laughs) and in science!

How did you find the name of the brand?
I was chatting with Paul one day, contemplating what we could name the brand, I mentioned Art of Noise and said I really wanted to do something like “Art of Perfume” but it sounded a bit clumsy. Then Paul suggested Art de Parfum – it sounded more sophisticated, you know. We registered the trademark immediately. It was May 2015, and I launched the line in May 2016.

How would you describe your brand?
I wanted to create an honest perfume – a perfume that’s not screaming “I’m f…ing fabulous!” but has something more to say. Art de Parfum is all about breaking the rules. There are no rules! And if there are rules – can we break them and see if it still works? Like my Signature Wild – it is a leather and orange blossom accord. It was totally impossible but it worked out. That was the exciting bit… the experimenting. Of course, you can pay for the experiment and it may not work out, but it’s the beauty of niche – you can still try to do it!

What was your greatest challenge?
It’s been years of hard work to get the brand to where it is today but I wouldn’t change anything. The perfume industry is strictly regulated – it is just as strict as pharmacy, especially in France. And Art de Parfum is French to its bone.

Your biggest achievement by now has been your fragrance Encore Une Fois that won Pure Beauty Awards 2019 as the Best Premium Fragrance…
I was nicely surprised to win this prize! I thought of Encore Une Fois as a very niche fragrance, for me it was almost esoteric. I was thinking nobody will understand it! Encore Une Fois was not made for winning 2 awards – it was just a reflection and celebration of my personal story. Also, it was nice to hear that it was called a trend-setter in aquatic gourmet category.

…it is blended very well…
As Paul says – “it plays well!” Yes… Encore une Fois was inspired by South Pacific because it’s where my love story with Paul was evolving. It captivates all those positive emotions, the ocean, skin to skin…

What is the secret of your success?
I think it helps when you don’t have stereotypes and when you come from a different background. You have a different, fresher and more critical angle. You are acting more like an auditor. Of course, you still need to have some understanding of the perfume making and the industry itself. And you have to learn constantly – about ingredients, about what’s good, what’s not so good, what’s allergenic, what’s not. And also, you have to educate consumers and challenge all those myths – like “naturals are very good, and synthetics are very bad” while, actually, it’s quite opposite…

You seem a very confident person, that’s, probably, also is important.
You know, I was just a humble Lithuanian girl from a famous academic family. But my parents never told me: “No, you can’t do it!” Never. So, I grew up very open-minded. And I am very stubborn – that is just my character. You can’t stop me! (laughs) When I told my good friend from the industry in France what I was going to do, he said to me: “Are you crazy? The perfume industry is so competitive! You will just waste your money!” And I said: “You know what? I don’t like your energy!” (laughs) We were at lunch and the topic got really boiling. Finally he said: “Well, you, now… with your attitude, I think you can do it!” He has never raised the question again…

How much are you involved in the process of perfume creation?
Someone asked me yesterday: “Do you make perfumes yourself?” I never claimed I did! You don’t have to do it with your own hands. I come up with the concept of the fragrance as well as suggestion for the ingredients, but I never tell what the final composition will be. This is the most exciting part of the process.

Encore Une Fois - an award-winning fragrance for men and women by Art de Parfum

Is story important to you?
It is nice if fragrance has a story, but I also want to experience the product. We may be inspired by the same things, but our interpretations are very different. I want my followers to be able to relate to my scents. For example, if you take Sea Foam, it is quite a Nordic sea scent. It’s connected very much to my childhood memories.

So, you draw inspiration from your life experiences?
I would say so… But sometimes the fragrance is created by an accident. Like the Gin and Tonic Cologne – I wanted to make contemporary cologne for men that smelled different. But the first versions just smelled like everything else – like bergamot, like vetiver, and I said: “I want something sparkling and zesty – like gin and tonic!” And then we did it and it is a really big success. So, good accidents happen.

That’s the best thing in perfumery! Are you inspired by other brands?
Of course!

…by classic perfumery?
To be honest, no – because I’m very picky. I used to like prestigious houses like YSL, Guerlain, Nina Ricci or Dior, but I was not in love with them. I wanted to make different perfumes – less oily, more airy, ethereal.

Do you work yourself on the marketing campaigns of your brand?
Yes, I’m overseeing all marketing, the sales and part of the finance activities as it is my business, but I have a dedicated team that I am very grateful for. There are people from all over the world – that is the beauty of being in London.

Are there also Lithuanians?
You will be surprised! I’m launching a new product in spring and there will be a Lithuanian artist involved. But I can’t tell you anything more! I can just give you a sniff! There is one interesting ingredient you could never guess since it’s opening up totally different from what it is... You will hear about it when it’s launched.

I hope so! Aren’t six fragrances already quite a lot for a small brand?
It’s a bit like a wardrobe – you need to change it. And the things I liked five years ago and things I like now – they have changed. I must agree with Vivienne Westwood who I admire a lot when she says: “I would be happier if I was producing less.” That is what I say – if my business paid me with me producing less, I was very happy. Less is more – in production, in fashion, everywhere. At some moment you understand – you only need one jacket, or three jackets and you are also quite comfortable in your t-shirt. You don’t need much to be a happy person – you visit beautiful places, you enjoy the world, and you come up with new inspirations from the places you go.

What else is important for you now?
I feel very rich. Not because I am well off, but because I can go to places I want to go, I can take decisions that I think are right – although I did some wrong decisions, too… That freedom of movement is important for me. That is why I’m so pro-European. Freedom of movement and freedom of exchanging ideas – this is what makes your soul rich.

Thank you, Ruta! Good luck with the new launch! Looking forward to it!

Interview by Followzenoze.