Translated by
Nicola Mira
Jun 7, 2023
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Podcast: Joël Palix of Palix Unlimited on the future of the beauty industry

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Jun 7, 2023

For four decades, Joël Palix has built a professional career in the world of luxury, retail distribution and, above all, beauty. In the new LuxurynsightXFashionNetwork podcast (in French), the boss of Palix Unlimited, a consulting and service agency for companies operating in the beauty, fashion and e-tail sectors, talks to Olivier Guyot, editor-in-chief France of FashionNetwork.com, about his career, and the beauty industry’s most significant transformations.

A meeting with Pierre Bergé

After working in the USA in the early 1980s, when he convinced American companies to do business in France, Palix made his first foray in the world of luxury and beauty. He joined Saint Laurent in 1985, when the label was still a subsidiary of US group Squibb. When industry giant Pierre Bergé bought Saint Laurent and put YSL’s fashion and beauty businesses under a single banner, Palix became head of exports in charge of duty-free retail, and met “his first mentor,” Chantal Roos, the designer who created YSL’s Opium perfume. Palix then left the label to resume his studies, obtaining an MBA and training in international business management, only to return to Saint Laurent almost by chance.

The French label was looking for a marketing director, but instead hired him as managing director Spain. A posting that allowed Palix to meet Bergé, and familiarise himself with the latter's management style.

In symbiosis with technology

Palix’s business career bears the hallmark of his close connection with avant-garde technology. When he returned to France in 1992, he forged ties with ground-breaking digital artists, witnessing the advent of the web and digital tech. “I’ve always loved beauty in the classical sense, but also the promise held by the future,” he says. After stints as managing director France and later Europe, Palix left Yves Saint Laurent Beauté in 1995, when he changed tack to join French mail-order company 3Suisses.

“At 3Suisses, I learned about customer relationship management (CRM), data and technology,” says Palix. They would be his assets in the years to come, as he accelerated the group’s deployment of efficient e-tail operations within a highly competitive context, with names such as Zara and H&M coming to the fore.

Relaunching and perpetuating Mugler

In 2002, Palix joined Mugler’s fragrance division, then owned by the Clarins group. He says that “the brand had been built not through advertising but through word-of-mouth and customer referrals.” Palix’s CRM skills, a rarity in the beauty sector, made him an ideal candidate. In the “matriarchal” atmosphere fostered by Vera Strubi (Palix’s third mentor), the division enjoyed the dazzling success of its Angel perfume, followed by that of Alien. When Mugler pulled the plug on its fashion business in 2003, Palix worried that, if the Mugler name disappeared, people would stop buying Mugler perfumes. He decided to introduce a new strategy to revitalise the brand.

Joël Palix with Olivier Guyot - Luxurynsight

At an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Mugler garments on show struck a chord with Beyoncé. Palix put the pop music queen in touch with Thierry Mugler. Their collaboration spawned 50 outfits which Beyoncé wore for her ‘I Am…’ World Tour in 2009. It was a huge hit, which put the label back on the fashion world's map. After several other collaborations, and thanks to the work of Nicola Formichetti and his successors, Mugler is now a recognised label, and far from forgotten. “Boldness is synonymous with safety,” says Palix.

“Holistic beauty is the future”

After a stint in beauty retail with FeelUnique, Palix knows the ins and outs of the sector. He now heads Palix Unlimited, and also sits on the board of several companies in an advisory role. According to him, the beauty industry is edging closer to well-being: “Holistic beauty is the future. The physical activity we do, what we eat, our stress level, the quality of our microbiome: all of this contributes to beauty. There is also a lot of talk about mental health, I think it will become a major issue in beauty.”

The beauty industry is doing very well, but Palix thinks there is an elephant in the room: waste. To achieve its sustainability goals, “beauty will have to make forward progress on this issue.” He says that “products are asleep in bathroom cabinets, and are not consumed. This is a sustainability issue that brands will have to manage. The only way to solve this is to use statistics and AI to advise consumers on the right product for them.

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