Premium Beauty News – It has been just over six months since you took up your position. What image do you have of the cosmetics industry?
Patrick O’Quin - I am impressed by how well this sector can renew and reinvent itself. If the French industry occupies this position in the world today, it is because it has never been under the illusion it had won the game. It has always known how to renew itself despite difficulties and changes in the market. If we have a look at the number of patents registered, the cosmetics industry is the second most innovative sector in France after the motor industry! It is a sector that managed not to stick stubbornly to tradition. On the contrary, it capitalized on its long history to make it a driver for progress.
As a result, thanks to its image, its capacity to innovate, and the quality of its products, it is now a very competitive industry. We have extraordinary companies of all sizes!
Premium Beauty News - How do you think the market is going to evolve?
Patrick O’Quin - From a general standpoint, the current situation of the French cosmetics market is rather disappointing, just as it is for any other sector. Even though we do not have definite statistics yet, we are expecting a slight decline in 2014 in France, and a stable market at best in Europe. However, the industry should keep growing thanks to the dynamism of non-European markets. Of course, China and Brazil are no longer as powerful drivers as they used to be, and exports to Russia have been disrupted due to the geopolitical situation and the fall in the rouble. But other markets are emerging, in particular in Africa. It is true that the impressive growth rates they show are not always significant given their initial weakness, but several countries have experienced a real economic development. The sky has definitely not cleared up yet, but it is not altogether dark.
Premium Beauty News - How do you view discussions with the government?
Patrick O’Quin - I am convinced that as a sector, the cosmetics industry should be more visible, and prouder of what it represents for France. It is far from the triviality it is often reduced to, and it is the 3rd export sector of the French balance of trade. It represents 42,000 direct jobs, and at least three times more indirect jobs. National decision-makers and political representatives are not aware of the importance of this sector for growth! And we are deeply concerned about the numerous decisions that are taken hastily, without a real dialogue or impact assessment, sometimes without any scientific basis, and which directly threaten whole areas of our industry. We must speak up again.
My predecessor, Alain Grangé Cabane, had initiated a study on the image of the sector, its companies and products, and the results will be used as a basis to set up a strategy aiming to better highlight our industry’s assets.
Premium Beauty News - What will be the great challenges for 2015?
Patrick O’Quin - We have several issues of concern. First, all the themes related to health: allergens, endocrine disruptors. We want the safety of our products to be guaranteed, but rather on facts and scientific bases than emotional grounds.
The second group of issues has to do with the evolution of regulations in the world, especially in China.
Third concern: the denaturation of alcohol, and the questioning by the European Commission of the French system, which allows denaturation through the perfuming composition. To us, it is a key element in the quality and reputation of French perfumery.
We have already evoked another important challenge, the implementation of a communication strategy.
Lastly, I would add sectoral synergy to that list. The industry’s companies should form a united front. That is why we endeavour to strengthen our bonds and relationships with other entities, in particular the Cosmetic Valley, whose activities are really complementary of ours.
Premium Beauty News - What about the TTIP agreement?
Patrick O’Quin - Cosmetics represent an important part of the transatlantic partnership.  It is quite remarkable to see that in this sector, there are points on which manufacturers agree on both sides of the Atlantic, and we are supported by the European Commission. The objective is not to seek some kind of utopian harmonization, but to reach mutual recognition. Indeed, consumer safety is the main concern for regulations on both sides of the Atlantic, and it is well taken care of. Most operators in the cosmetics sector are present on both sides of the Atlantic, so this would make trade easier.