Portraits in Leadership
After running his own design studio for just three years, Chad Lavigne is helping to transform the fragrance industry. “During the 1990s, I watched minimalism command package design, including fragrance bottle design. I set out on a mission to bring back opulence, interesting textures, and luxuriousness to packaging,” says Lavigne. The projects he has taken on show his attention to detail and commitment to furthering design standards. His recent fragrance collections include Lovely by Sarah Jessica Parker, Island by Michael Kors, Be Delicious by DKNY, and American Girl.
“It’s a great time to be in the industry right now—it has been exploding. So many brands are reinventing themselves—it’s amazing. Many people weren’t as open to new ideas 10 years ago, but today they are, which is very exciting,” he says.
Lavigne studied graphic design, not packaging. He was never trained in engineering or manufacturing. “For me, this has been a plus. I usually come up with ideas that other designers often think are impossible,” says Lavigne.
He spent the summer after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design searching for a job in New York City, and his first offer was from L’Oréal. “I didn’t even have a portfolio. I had a few prints and just one of those gut feelings that there was something about the beauty industry that was for me.” He stayed at L’Oréal for 11 years, working on the Ralph Lauren and Armani brands. “I learned exactly what it takes to bring a brand to market, from A to Z.” Then Lavigne spent four years at LVMH, where he designed entire collections.
In 2002, Lavigne founded Chad Lavigne LLC. “Going out on my own was a huge step for me. It was the best, most exciting career decision I’ve ever made,” he says. Lavigne works with his own small team. “It is important for me to know that the people I work with feel as inspired as I do. Everyone has to contribute positive energy to a project,” he explains.
Since leaving a corporate staff role, Lavigne has had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects, and he thrives on such diversity. Inside his SoHo offices in New York City, a sparkling pink package designed for the tween market sits alongside a black, Gothic-style packaging concept being worked on in the next cubicle.
Lavigne becomes engulfed by each project. “You can’t just think of a bottle alone. You have to visualize how its design and message will work throughout every aspect of the brand, including advertising and point-of-sale merchandise,” Lavigne explains. He defines a great package as having a balance between a great look and an interesting type of functionality with a surprise or twist to it. “If you can nail both those elements, you’re flying,” he says. Lavigne points to Coty’s Signature by Kenneth Cole. “Both the bottle and carton look luxurious. Guys love its wooden cap and think it looks cool. Then when they lift it up and realize it’s magnetic, it makes them smile,” he says.
Lavigne is most proud of working on all of the fragrance collections in the Michael Kors brand, including its most recent launch, Island by Michael Kors. “I really love Island. God bless all the engineers who worked on it, because it was a huge challenge,” he says.
Lavigne feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to collaborate with great people throughout his career. “The entire industry, as well as the people in it, are just fantastic,” he says. He looks forward to expanding to other categories within the beauty industry.