BY Leah Genuario
Harnessing the power of iconic design.
Laurice Rahme is many things: an entrepreneur, a successful beauty executive, a world traveler. She has enthusiastically taken on leadership roles at major beauty brands, increasing sales in territories worldwide. She has also established niche brands in the United States. And most recently, in 2001, she founded Bond No.9, a successful fragrance brand that earned her the title of Business Woman of the Year by The Fragrance Foundation’s Business Advisory Council in New York.
To be sure, her business prowess, cross-cultural experience and drive are elements that ensure her continued success. But what really makes her stand out in the beauty business world is another distinction: Rahme is an artist.
As a young woman, her passions led her to study art at The Louvre and then kick off a career as an antiques dealer before being recruited by Lancôme-Paris in 1973 to serve as an international training director.
“I studied business at Lancôme,” Rahme admits. But she was a quick study. In three years, she tripled the company’s Middle East skin care business before receiving a promotion to director of the Lancôme Institut de Beaute and relocating to New York City.
Rahme’s art background was not lost during her time with Lancôme. “They sent me all over the world,” she says. “When you are 24, you are very impressionable. The cross-cultural experience enriched me tremendously.”
In fact, she says there is a Middle Eastern influence, reflective of that period, in some of her packaging designs today.
When Rahme ultimately left Lancôme, she partnered with the French fragrance designer Annick Goutal to establish New York operations. From there, she worked to introduce a niche Parisian brand called Creed to the U.S. market.
Branding New York
Then came the fall of 2001. The stench in New York City hung heavy, a reminder of the recent tragedy that had shocked the city, nation and world. It was then that Rahme, a Parisian-turned-New Yorker, decided to take a chance.
“I decided to make New York smell good again,” she says. Working with several French perfumers, she birthed Bond No.9, a fragrance company with eclectic packaging designed to capture the cultural essence of New York.
Each fragrance features an intricately shaped, five-point bottle, a subway token-shaped logo and decoration reminiscent of the New York neighborhood it represents.
One of her biggest challenges was finding a bottle manufacturer that could create the design she wanted. An exhaustive search took her to Italy where she partnered with a proprietary glass supplier to manufacture the thick-walled glass bottles for the line.
After that, things came together nicely. “The branding was simple because I was branding New York City,” Rahme says.
Bond No.9 currently markets 28 fragrances named for Big Apple neighborhoods, with three new launches every year. Rahme is the exclusive packaging designer.
“People love the bottle design. They don’t know why—but I do. There’s a very strong, subconscious message. It looks like a person,” says Rahme. Although the bottle shape remains the same, each neighborhood boasts its own, unique “outfit”.
Rahme is most proud of her Chinatown fragrance, a pink and white bottle featuring a plum blossom pattern that was inspired by the 16th century Ming Dynasty style of art.
Believing “art and fragrance go hand-in-hand”, Rahme continues to push the limits of package manufacturing to design bottles that New Yorkers—and New York-lovers—will embrace.
“Now, the challenge is to decorate those bottles,” she says. “Decoration on this shape of bottle is very difficult.”
But her packaging efforts have paid off. Rahme’s business is robust and her package design has become an instant, almost iconic, identifier of the brand.
Just how important is the packaging to the overall marketing plan? According to Rahme, it is the marketing plan.
“If you have a strong packaging identity and are connecting with customers, then I don’t believe you need marketing,” she says. “If you have packaging telling the story, then your job is done. It’s the first impression and it’s a lasting impression.”
FOUNDER, BOND NO. 9
Name: Laurice Rahme
Years in current job: Founded in 2001
Ultimate branded package: Jewelry—Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels
What’s on your nightstand: Twenty books at the same time. Many books in French, a few books in English.