Scent of a CEO: Marjorie Gubelmann’s Vie Luxe

 It’s not just about the perfumes and having the correct formula in place, we consider the look, box, make sure it burns beautifully, and most importantly it’s gotta pop on the shelf!”

Picture yourself yachting in the French Riviera on a warm January afternoon, breathing in the crisp sea air while the sun’s brilliant rays reflect onto the teal still waters, causing a glistening effect that diamond retailers could only dream of recreating with the best of the 4 C’s. Now what if you could bottle up the scents tickling your olfactory nerves and revisit this scene every day in the comfort of your boudoir? Well NYC-based entrepreneur and perennial society fixture Marjorie Gubelmann managed to achieve just that with her Vie Luxe line of luxury candles and home fragrances. Each candle in the Voyage Collection is inspired by various cities, and their nostalgic aromas have the power to magically whisk you away to that blissful state you get in while on holiday, whether it be in Côte D’Azur or elsewhere. Marjorie explains, “You’re reminded of the experience of being in those locales just by lighting a candle. We can literally take you to a new destination with each breath.” Much like Istanbul’s rich blend of East meets West, its eponymous candle is an amalgam of Turkish tea, amber, blue iris, and black orchid. The Buenos Aires candle seductively encapsulates the vibe of “Paris of the Americas” with notes of wild jasmine, ceibo petals, lush ombu leaves, and white pepper.

It was Marjorie’s excursions to exotic hotspots around the globe and fond childhood memories summering with her grandparents, world class yachtsman Walter Gubelmann and “first lady” of Palm Beach Baron Gubelmann, that inspired her to come up with the concept. Having recently celebrated VL’s 5-year anniversary, Marjorie is most pleased that her candles weren’t blown out by the whirlwind of obstacles along the way. “Anyone in retail can empathize with having to work hard to survive the grim economy, so we congratulate ourselves on still being here and continuing to expand operations.” Launched in 2004 by Saks Fifth Avenue, Vie Luxe has grown to incorporate 1,500 retailers worldwide including Harrods in London, Lane Crawford in Hong Kong, Harvey Nichols in Dubai, and 10 Corso Como in Milan. “We also do corporate gifting for our high profile clientele so a great deal of time and staff is dedicated to facilitating those orders.”

Backed with encouragement and well wishes from hoteliers and ace designers from the fashion fraternity, Marjorie began tailor-making signature fragrances for Starwood Hotels & Resorts including the W and St. Regis, Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera. “I feel proud to be working with them since they bring a whole different layer of integrity and taste to my product.” Adhering to each one’s vision and personal aesthetic (“One client asked me to make a candle that smells like a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon by the fire. And we can do that!”), it takes about 6-12 months for the entire process to come to fruition. “We go through at least 30 meetings to finalize everything. It’s not just about the perfumes and having the correct formula in place, we consider the look, box, make sure it burns beautifully, and most importantly it’s gotta pop on the shelf!”

Über conscious of her carbon footprint, Marjorie recently introduced the Eco-Luxe line, which is made from all natural biodegradable elements like soy wax, cotton wicks, and recyclable glass and cardboard packaging. Having age old ties to numerous philanthropies, she decided to go a step further by donating a portion of the proceeds from this environmentally friendly collection to charity. “Ten percent of the proceeds of each Verte candle benefits the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an NGO aiming to protect Earth’s wildlife and ten percent of each Blanc candle goes toward Women In Need, Inc., an organization that provides housing, help, and hope to homeless women and their families in New York City.”

Marjorie and her skilled creative team spend countless hours updating the company website, which aptly illustrates the simplicity and elegance behind the brand. “It’s our home base—it’s where we tell our story.” Each season the online portal features a Guest Editor who shares his/her favorite travel getaways, charitable organization, and of course Vie Luxe candle of choice. According to Marjorie, reigning Guest Editor Carolina Herrera (who graced the cover of Haute Living’s September/October 2010 issue and was profiled by our very own Jilian Lourdes Sanz) is “a glamorous woman and mother who’s running a business—what a great example of balance.”

Earnestly unaware that she’s following in her footsteps, Marjorie, too, effortlessly dons the role of CEO, socialite, philanthropist, and mom. She often has her 6-year-old son Cyrus accompany her while she’s globetrotting, but they have the most fun at their home in Southampton. “We’ve shared some great memories there. That’s where he learned to swim and ride a bike.” After an endless week jam-packed with appointments and social ‘dos, Marjorie likes to unwind with a good book (currently on her nightstand, The World of Gloria Vanderbilt and Cyrus’ recommendations, Harold and the Purple Crayon), go to the gym (“I feel so energized when I hear N.E.R.D.’s “Hot N’ Fun” on my iPod”), or indulge in her guilty pleasure—reality shows. “I’m kind of a reality TV junkie. I love Bravo and admit I’ll occasionally watch “Housewives” and “Jersey Shore.” Hearing all this, I couldn’t help but ask her, “How do you manage to juggle everything?! What’s your mantra?” Nonchalantly, she told me, “Oh, there’s no mantra. You just look straight ahead and go. I love being a mother, a business woman, and just waking up every day. I wish I had more time, but the time I have right now is wonderful and I couldn’t ask for more.” Now that’s spoken like a true candle in the wind.

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