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How I Got To The Top

How I Got To The Top: Marc Rosen, fragrance packaging designer

By Simon Pitman+

27-May-2014
Last updated on 28-May-2014 at 13:20 GMT

How I Got To The Top: Marc Rosen, fragrance packaging designer

Marc Rosen’s career trajectory has been remarkable. Not only has he made a name for himself as one of the world’s leading fragrance packaging designers, he has also managed to stay at the top for 35 years – a rare feat in this fast-changing arena.

Last month Marc hosted the 25th annual Pratt Institute Art of Packaging Award Gala. The event not only served to highlight his work and contribution to packaging design, but also helped raise $3.5 million to fund packaging design students at the Pratt Institute, where Marc is a professor.

Following on from the success of the evening, Cosmetics Design caught up with Marc in New York to discuss his career path, asking him about how he started out, what have been the highlights, how he managed to get to the top, and in his case, how he has managed to maintain the momentum.

Q: So, how did your career start out?

A: “My first job started back in 1974 with Revlon, where I was working under the famously difficult-to-please Charles Revson. He really was an unpleasant personality to work for and when I started there I thought I was going to get fired on a daily basis. He would look at a packaging design and dismiss it with the words, ‘just do it again’.

“My break came when I created the fragrance packaging for a skin care line called Moon Drops. It was based on a design from a Royal Crown Derby piece that I had picked up in an antiques store and I was very nervous about showing it as I had been told that the first Charles meeting was often the last.

“But to my great surprise, Charles uttered the words “I like it”, which I was told were three words that he never used. I knew this was the good start I needed to get my career off the ground and following on from that I stayed at Revlon another three years, after which I was made head of design at Elizabeth Arden, where I stayed for 12 years.”

Q: What has been your career highlight?

A: “There have been numerous highs in my career, but one of the biggest was the first time I won the FiFi packaging designer award with the Karl Lagerfeld fragrance design. I was 32 at the time and desperately wanted to win this award and was absolutely thrilled when I did so.

“Another significant highlight was when I published my book ‘Glamor Icons’, back in 2012. It is a beautiful book that highlights some of the most important contributions to fragrance packaging design over the years.”

Q: What do you think you really got right about your career path?

A: “I am not sure if the path I have taken has all been quite accidental, to tell the truth. One of my favorite expressions is ‘in the mix’, which neatly sums it all up. However, one thing I have never done is say no to any kind of opportunity. I was asked to write a column for Beauty Packaging Magazine and I actually did not really know I could write until I started.”

Q: What are the most valuable lessons you have learnt on the job?

A: “To be a good designer you have to also be a good marketer and to do this properly you need to assess the market, the competition and then be the creative force. Building on this, I have incorporated my interests, which include architecture and antiques, into my designs. This involves all my passions and I think that is reflected in what I do.”

Q: What advice would you give to anyone starting off a career in packaging design?

A: “Be observant and constantly absorb anything of aesthetic value, and in doing this look at the past, not just the present. Also having a passion for your work is vital. I am passionate about the industry. I truly love it, which means I am constantly thinking of new design ideas and how to sell them.”

Q: Would you consider a second career in another area?

A: “I was always very interested in becoming a Hollywood producer. My wife is the former Broadway and Hollywood star Arlene Dahl, and she carved out her career during a highly glamorous and sophisticated era in the entertainment industry, one that I simply love. Right now I really admire Bas Luhrmann’s style because his films tend to provide a combination of glamour and escape, which is how I like my entertainment.”

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