Hipshops Interview: Madeleine Florescu of Madison
Our guest for the second hipshops interview is Madeleine Florescu, a perfumery store owner that couldn’t stay away from Bucharest. Madison has merged its two Bucharest shops into a new one and extended its line of products in June 2012. Starting October 2011, they’re delivering distinguished scents to the Hungarian market as well in their Budapest store.
HS: Madison is the first “haute perfumery” store in Bucharest. How did you take the decision to start this business?
MF: I had come back to Romania in 2004, after 15 years of living and working in New York. I really loved Europe and wanted to stay, but in order to justify my stay I had to figure out something to do. After trying different options for two years, the world of beauty was calling me back (I don’t think you can really leave this behind, actually). I missed the glamour, the excitement, the stories, the wonderful (and crazy!) people who mingle in this world. I knew that makeup was difficult, skincare even more difficult, so I picked the easy option: perfumes. Not any kind of perfumes, however, but the most special, hard to find, fragrance houses with personality, authenticity, and a great story to tell.
HS: When it comes to the perfume industry Romania is almost uncharted territory and you seem to be the pathfinder in this business here. Was it difficult for you to bring these brands over?
MF: “Beauty” as a segment is no secret to me. I worked long enough to know its ways, both on the vendor and on the retail side. Some brands were more difficult than others, but my experience was what convinced them. The hard part was to be able to offer these products a proper home, a proper environment, in order for them to speak to clients and charm them. It’s not easy to make a wonderful shop in Romania.
HS: While in NY, did you have any perfumery stores that inspired you?
MF: The Bergdorf Goodman beauty level, Barneys cosmetics floor, and Henri Bendel will always be the most exciting places for me. Not the hidden small shops, not the hidden gems, but the beauty meccas. Those are my inspiration.
HS: Besides an exquisite selection of merchandise you excel in selecting and training the staff. What is the process of forming this team?
MF: Again, is the Bergdorf Goodman client service standards and the many trainings and hours spent standing and helping clients who taught me what I know. For the 5 years I had MADISON, it was my turn to be able to train my staff, without the burden of having them do what they’re told, but rather to set an example which they would naturally want to follow. So setting an example for them by actually being involved in the selling process and touching the clients here, then counseling and police-ing them around to follow up and write their “thank-you” notes, as well as taking them around with me to fairs and other places that are emblems for stellar customer service.
HS: You’ve recently moved into a new, bigger space and expanded your range to beauty products as well. Given the actual economic situation this seems like a “counter-flow” decision. How would you explain this?
MF: Not at all. We’ve been blessed to operate in a segment which is protected by the crisis. The sales of lipstick always rose during crisis and war. The more affluent public will always have wealth, though it moves around, and… we also deal with “affordable luxury”, whereas you don’t need to mortgage your home to buy a perfume or an anti-aging serum. Last year we were up 42% to the year before. That was convincing.
HS: Who were your collaborators for the interior design of the new store?
MF: We worked with Lilian Driessen, who’s one of the most creative persons I know, unable to user Corel Draw, but able to “wow” by designing a blazer, a bottle of perfume, selecting loose flowers to put in a vase, or making old furniture from the late 1800’s blend in with the MADISON style lacquered MDF, like she did in Budapest. Lilian has an international network of suppliers who know her style and are able to produce what she envisions, and all that together gives an amazing result.
HS: We’re guessing you have quite a selection of perfumes yourself but we’d like to know three of your favourites.
MF: My all time favourite is Iris Poudre (Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle), Acajou (Mad et Len), and “C” for Women (Clive Christian).
HS: Serge Lutens was very much inspired by Marrakech, the city of which he became resident. Did you ever get inspired by the scent of some city?
MF: Bucharest smells like linden for me, despite its grey face and its hard-to-like quality. I like wearing Folavril by Annick Goutal to feel like I am cradled by my home town.