Ruta Degutyte is a Lithuanian-born marketing professional with over fifteen years experience in B2B and B2C marketing, business development and brand management roles all over the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and her native Lithuania. She is fluent in five world languages and holds both an MBA and a degree in international business.
Her willingness to take risks and to go into new areas of business fearlessly is down to her unusual family background. Born into a family of philosophers in Lithuania, Ruta was encouraged to follow her dreams no matter what.
Working as business consultant in Sydney in 2012, Ruta decided to leave and pursue her dream of making perfumes. Following three years of research, collecting the best raw materials, choosing a perfumer, and setting up production – most of which happened in France, the country that inspires Ruta the most – she finally incorporated Art de Parfum in London on 1st May, 2015.
All perfumes are available through www.artdeparfum.com
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I’m originally from Lithuania, and grew up in a family of academics. My upbringing taught me two things – never be afraid of pursing a dream, and that beauty and intellect can be two sides of the same coin.
Art de Parfum is a result of me taking a chance on pursuing a passion rather than following the rather straight forward business consulting path I had been on before. I kind of threw caution to the wind! I’d had over fifteen years experience in B2B and B2C marketing, business development and brand management roles all over the world, including Australia, the United Kingdom, and back home. But in 2012, I left it all to go set up my own fragrance company. That’s my passion.
I’ve always been passionate about France, and in particular about the relaxed, Bohemian lifestyle of the South of France. So I wanted to offer men and women beautiful perfumes that embody that relaxed, tousled French chic that I see all the time on the Riviera. When people put on my perfumes, they are putting on a new, more elegant skin, like throwing on that perfect black leather jacket or that perfect shade of red lipstick.
Our fragrances are all made in Grasse, the capital of perfumery, in the South of France. Check them out in our online boutique, here: www.artdeparfum.com (free shipping to all UK mainland addresses!). And if you’re in Covent Garden, call into Bloom Perfumery, our stockist in London. You can see and test all our fragrances there.
Is there a defining aesthetic for your brand, some style inspiration?
Yes, Art de Parfum is guided by a French aesthetic and more specifically, the aesthetic of the relaxed, crazy-sexy Boho lifestyle down on the Riviera. To me, the South of France is probably the most liberating place in the world. It breathes sensuality, love, passion, boldness, a particularly refined sense of taste, a relaxed manner – all things that trigger my creativity.
French people care about having only the very best – the perfect jacket, the chicest boots, and yes, the right scent. Not too much stuff – just one will do, but it must be perfect and fiercely stylish. Each perfume in the Art de Parfum line fits perfectly with this idea of effortless French chic.
I have taken this almost indefinable essence of French sophistication and distilled it into a line of perfumes that will lend the wearer that same air of joie de vivre. The French are never gaudy or flamboyant. In fact, their style relies on simplicity. Coco Chanel said that every woman must stand in front of the mirror and take one thing off. The idea is that only the essence of that woman’s style remains. And it is exactly this principle that my fragrances reflects.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not really! I always knew I wanted to create beautiful perfumes that would make people feel and smell amazing. That was always at the back of my mind. But I was on an international business track, and when I left it to risk everything on a small start-up in a country with which I was unfamiliar, I was moving on pure instinct. There was no plan – just an idea. Passion.
I was more disciplined back at school and university. Now I believe in following my heart. That said, I’m not foolhardy. I do plan my resources and assess the risks. Of course, doing anything with instinct and passion taking the lead role over meticulous planning is both a luxury and a risk. It maybe took me longer than others to put my ideas into action. But once I started, there was no looking back!
Is Art de Parfum an ethical beauty brand?
Absolutely. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at this, but I take ethics very seriously. I believe that everyone has the right to a small, portable piece of beauty in their lives, be it a bottle of my perfume, the perfect silk scarf, or an exquisite painting. But I also don’t believe that animal cruelty should be part of the price tag.
That means that all our fragrances are all cruelty-free, nano-free, and GMO-free. Our bottles are made from recyclable materials and our packaging is all biodegradable. Also, all the raw materials used in my perfumes are ethically sourced. I make sure that our perfumer doesn’t use any raw material that has a question mark of its sustainability, ethical harvesting, or impact on local hunting and farming communities. I don’t use any animal-derived products either. Our fragrances have no colorants – they are of a natural “juice” colour. If you want to see our full range of promises on ethics and animal cruelty, please go to our website, www.artdeparfum.com, and you’ll find all the information you need there.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
There are always challenges, but I accept them as part and parcel of the deal. Cash flow, finding and hiring the right talent for the right spots, motivating myself and my staff – all the regular challenges that any start-up faces. How do I deal with it? I take a deep breath and hope for the best. Oh and yes, wearing my favourite perfumes definitely helps! Perfume just makes life better in general. It’s like a soundtrack to life.
On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?
I’m not an early bird, and I tend to be more productive in the latter half of the day. You will often find me burning the midnight oil, coming up with new ideas and inspirations! Ideally, mornings would start with some tea and gentle yoga stretches, just to keep me limber and focused. Or, if the weather permits, a game of tennis or a swim in an outdoor pool. I love the fresh air. If I have time, over breakfast, I will read something useful to help focus and guide my mind. It helps to set me up for a productive day.
Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?
I’m both the CEO and the creative director of Art de Parfum. That means that it all rests on my shoulders, and I am responsible for whether my brand succeeds or fails. Being both the architect and the engineer of the brand is challenging, because I have to think big in terms of strategy and planning, but also small, because I have to take care of all the small details of the business, such as the website, fulfilling orders, following up with bloggers, and so on. I have a small team of talented people in UK and France working for me on the tasks I can’t do myself. But in general, I am pretty self-contained and do not avoid to get my hands dirty (sometimes even literally: unloading a pallet – smiles).
Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?
At the very beginning, I had a business mentor who kept telling me that I couldn’t give up, that I had to keep going, no matter how hard it got. I am so grateful to him for this intervention. But in terms of sustained business mentoring? No, not really. Of course, it would be lovely to have the ear of someone whom I could call up and tell all my woes and joys! Someone who cared about me and the business, and who genuinely wanted me to succeed. But I haven’t found that mentor yet. Maybe it will happen one day, and when it does, I will be grateful indeed. I’m a big believer in things falling naturally into place, though – it will happen if it’s destined to happen.
I don’t have any sponsors – just a group of close friends whom I consider my angels, and my support system! It’s good to talk to friends about how the business is going, as it helps to re-set my energy levels and boosts my positivity.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
I would give them equal pay! If employers can’t do that, then I would love to engineer some system whereby women would get time off in lieu – maybe a day a week, the way the gender gap now stands.
And on that one day off, I would make it so the women don’t rush about trying to do others things, but take some time out just to be by themselves. Even just spending the day thinking and dreaming in a cafe would work wonders. Women need some more space and time in which to generate new ideas and reassess old ones. We all get sucked into the daily routine of just getting through the day. Imagine if we could be forced to step outside of the whirlwind for a while?
If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?
I would see a woman who never gave up. Someone who threw in a comfortable job to take a risk on pursuing her dream. A person who enjoyed the ride all the way, and not just the final destination. That’s what I hope for myself, anyway. If I was mentoring a younger woman, I would point to that woman and say, “This is what passion and determination leads you to.”
Tell us about your plans for the future?
I’m really more of an instinctive person than a planner, but I would like to expand Art de Parfum’s presence in emerging markets such as Russia, the Middle East, and the Far East. That kind of growth would be very exciting for my brand. The Middle Eastern market is already expressing great interest in Art de Parfum, and I hope to see Art de Parfum fragrances represented very well in Arab countries over the coming year. A scent as opulent and exotic as Sensual Oud, available on our website, with its trail of smoky oud and deep red roses, is sure to prove a hit in that market! I love that people in the Middle East embrace such strong, crazy rich perfumes.
What would you recommend to a woman that is not sure if she should change her career or not?
Definitely not, if she is not sure! The risk of starting a new business is huge, so you have to be 110% sure that you want to do it, otherwise you are just wasting your time and money. But if there is a woman reading this who is almost there, I say – go for it! Push yourself, be true to your dream, and work as hard as you can to make it happen. Just be sure to keep your mind wide open to learning new lessons every day. Be humble, and enjoy the challenge. Life is not linear, and neither is success in business.