Making Guerlain’s Designs Come True | Interview with Guillaume Renard

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After obtaining a degree in Interior Design & Architecture in Middlesbrough, UK, the French-born Guillaume Renard, started working as International Store Design Manager for Make Up For Ever in Paris and then moved to Guerlain as its Interior Store Designer.

MiND met Guillaume in the Parisian quarter, Le Marais, and discussed with him about his role between the creative part of the company and the relationship with their markets.

Given your experience, what is your vision for Guerlain as its Interior Store Designer?

Guerlain is a brand part of the French history. It’s a great pleasure to work in this company where a strong heritage and a modern business structure coexist. In the company, the Artistic Direction, guided by Joseph Abed, is linked to the marketing department, while the merchandising is linked to the Business. I am responsible for the roll out of the retail concepts that are designed by the creative team. My job is to make sure that the ideas are technically feasible and meet the expectations of the operational needs of our markets worldwide

"I am the link between the artistic director and all the markets."

We are in a situation where we really have to think about the purpose of design. In my opinion, the retail reality should only take the design, it’s not the contrary. That’s why a new department has been created in Guerlain, and merchandising is part of it. Everything we propose for retail is linked to the customer’s expectations, and what we want them to experience. So merchandising is linked to that, it’s not linked to design anymore. This is why the retail experience links to the business. It’s a big change, now the perception of merchandising is very different.

Guerlain Boutique Vendôme, Paris.

How would you describe your role at Guerlain?

My role is more technical than creative. The technical part for Guerlain is the way we build things; it’s the bridge between creativity and the markets. My job is to make what the architects design visible and real in the stores. It is to provide all the technical tools and information to the markets in order to make them more independent.

I developed a “big bible” with an external agency which is very efficient. You can find everything you are looking for concerning merchandising in “the bible”. It’s interactive and everything is linked with technical drawings, etc. Before it was very complicated, because you had to consult different folders for different things, so I developed this interactive catalogue to make it easier. It was a big project to do, we finished it this year and now I’m improving it every day.

“Things are evolving all the time and so are the people and their way of buying.”

In the retail bubble, and in Guerlain, it’s never static. The message we give to our customers must evolve. Everything works together. I’ve done many projects with different ambitions, and the one of the catalogue was completely different from what I used to do before. When you are a leader or a manager, you have to make sure the team that follows you has all the tools to make it work.

In addition, my job is also to propose to Guerlain merchandisers what is possible to do in architecture with different materials. When I have information about a good thing to do that could help save the planet a bit, I share it. I created a Microsoft Teams account for the merchandisers, so any time someone has something interesting to say, they can communicate it to the other merchandisers. The objective is to make people think in the same direction and feel part of a team.

You also mentioned that you’re working on sustainability in architecture.

Yes. I am one of the correspondents for sustainability at LVMH group. I work a lot with them especially with lighting, because it’s evolving. Lighting is very important, not only in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of physicality. I always tell my architects that you can’t have the most beautiful boutiques or points of sale if you don’t take care of the lighting, nobody will stop by. Even if you don’t have a big budget to use luxury products, but you know how to use light well, then people will remember you.

It’s also a sustainability topic because lighting consumes so much energy, so our challenge is to reduce the consumption – and we have found some solutions. Last year, for example, LVMH organized a project with the St Martins School in London, and the topic was to design a sustainable boutique. I was part of the consulting team and I worked with students, which was very interesting because there were many fresh ideas that may not have come from experienced people. My team is made up of young people – I love to work with young people because they are fresh and full of energy and want to prove what they have. Moreover, two years ago, during the last LVMH store awards, we won an award for our Vendôme boutique because we reused materials and pieces of art that were part of the previous boutique.

“Sustainability is more about sensitivity, it’s a question of conscience.”

Retail means consumption, and consumption means waste. In architecture there are so many things to do to make it greener and my goal is to find these levers and include them in the way we work.

LVMH Store Awards 2018.

Which cities do you consider avant-garde in terms of retail?

In terms of retail, the Asian market is moving so fast now, it’s very innovative. In Japan and China, you see different things, and that’s what can make you go faster. France might be behind other countries in terms of retail experiences and, above all, in terms of digital experiences. We can see that there is a big potential of evolution with digital, but we need to find the right balance between this new way of buying and the relation we need to keep with our customers.

Everyone is talking about retail’s major shift to online stores. What is your opinion on this topic?

The digital experience has to go beyond the in-store experience – it’s a mentality. I think it’s the future of retail, but now that we know we have to go there, we don’t really know the direction to take. In retail, the most important thing is how you can surprise people and what they will remember of the experience. If people go for something that is new, it doesn’t mean they will come back. It has to be something unusual and not disconnected with their purchasing routine. That’s where you have to be strong.

By: Lisa Zanon