By Elisabeth King
Michael Marzano, the National Education Manager for Agence de Parfum, Australia’s leading niche perfume and home fragrance distribution company, believes that fragrance is the first layer of dressing. It’s what you wear closest to the body and everything follows after that. “Both women and men should absolutely have a fragrance wardrobe that reflects their style, changing moods and every occasion”.
Marzano’s first career choice was fashion. “I enrolled at the University of Technology when I left school. When I completed my BA in fashion and textile design, I worked for the fashion label Simona as a pattern maker and cutter. But, after two years, I started looking for a professional sea change. A friend worked for Lancôme but the brand didn’t have an opening at the time and I got a job at the James Richardson Group, who distributed Van Cleef & Arpels and Hermes fragrances at the time. I became a fragrance consultant for both brands at David Jones’ Market Street store”.
It quickly became clear that beauty and fragrance were areas that Marzano could sink his teeth into and his contact at Lancôme, then under the umbrella of Austrabelle, approached him about a position on the travelling team for the prestige French brand. “It was an exciting time. We launched Trésor fragrance, which is still a global bestseller. I also worked across brands as a promotional consultant and counter manager before being promoted to head promotional consultant and national eventing”.
Marzano’s next move further widened his resume. “I moved to Downtown Duty Free, part of the Nuance Group, firstly as Retail Development Coach at the domestic terminal and then as Retail Development Coach at the international terminal. It was a fast-paced job and I worked with a total of 900 staff”.
The guiding principle of Marzano’s career has always been to get as much experience as possible and to expand his skill set. “I realised that retail management offered great opportunities. Because of my background in fashion I became Retail Business Manager of the women’s business at Myer’s flagship Sydney store. A big responsibility because the ladies apparel business was worth $20 million”.
By the mid-2000s, L’Oréal’s Luxury Division had taken over from Austrabelle and after a brief stint as counter manager for Lancôme at David Jones Bondi Junction store, Marzano was appointed National Retail & Education Manager for Kiehl’s. “Skincare has always been a major interest and it was a very dynamic period for the brand. We opened seven new stores and enjoyed double digit growth”.
Because L’Oreal Luxury have so many brands, my next career move as National Retail Education Manager involved working with key international designer fragrance brands such as Giorgio Armani, Viktor & Rolf, Ralph Lauren and Cacharel, adds Marzano. “Growth was phenomenal in the six years I was in the role. One of the primary reasons for the successful outcomes was a training module 3P (Prepare, Perfect, Perfume), developed by Michael. The module was so successful in the Australian market, that it in turn catapulted the brand to the fastest growing makeup brand in the luxury category, and was recognised by L’Oréal International, and adopted globally. It was time for another change, though, and in 2014 I worked for Elizabeth Arden as National Education Manager across the three axes of skincare, cosmetics and fragrance”.
Nick Smart, a Fragrance Foundation board member and lawyer founded Agence de Parfum in 2008. Specialising in luxury niche fragrances, including Creed, Penhaligon’s and Amouage, the company operates speciality fragrance counters in Myer and David Jones, including the Galerie de Parfum in Myer’s flagship stores in Sydney and Melbourne. Select ranges are also retailed in Sephora, Harrolds and World, more than 85 other niche and lifestyle stores nationwide and in New Zealand and the company’s retail arm Libertine Parfumerie.
Marzano was approached in early 2016 to become Agence de Parfum’s National Training Manager. “Many people have become disenfranchised with mainstream prestige fragrance brands and if you look at the Australian fragrance market in general niche perfumes are the sector with the highest growth. I wanted to be part of more than the season’s bestsellers and really connected with the company’s amazing artisanal and niche luxury brands. Their history, tradition and storytelling can’t be matched”.
Agence de Parfum has built up a formidable reputation as experts in haute parfumerie, says Marzano. “We have to be. Our customers don’t want to smell like everyone else. They put our consultants through their paces with in-depth knowledge. Is a fragrance classified as vegan? What raw materials have been used? Does the perfume contain any known allergens? We have acquired such a level of expertise that other brands on the beauty floor perceive us as the acknowledged experts”.
One of Marzano’s core job specs is to write educational programs that are a cut above. “Consultants really need to know their stuff when they have to recommend fragrances costing up to $500. We do a lot of eventing, including perfume master classes. We have a close collaboration with international fragrance expert Michael Edwards of Fragrances of the World and also offer personalised perfume consultations and seminars. With over 25 years’ experience working for some of the biggest names in the global fragrance and beauty industries and now the cream of artisanal and niche fragrances, Marzano has clear cut opinions about the ground rules for long term success. “Firstly, you need to be passionate about what you do. If you are not a salesperson at heart then it might be a good idea to do something else. Even if you are, it pays to do a public speaking course to become more articulate and a better communicator”.
Acquiring as much experience as possible is crucial to building a successful career, says Marzano. “You need to understand every aspect of the industry. Ask for coaching and guidance from managers, the HR department and other knowledgeable people to be seen to be looking for the next step. And always understand and know as much as you can about your competitors’ brands. Whatever it takes to keep moving forward”.