Francois Hénin founder of Jovoy perfume and Jeroboam perfumes came from a very classic and quite traditional family, son of a university teacher and a father in finance, He had quite a classic education, boarding then business school. After a stint as a DJ and a few crazy years in Vietnam he was recruited by a perfume company in France where he worked until he created Jovoy. We caught up with Francois Hénin during the pandemic to reflect on his priorities, and to laugh a little.
IRK: Tell us about yourself before Jovoy perfume?
Hénin: I guess the entrepreneurship DNA in my blood is a bit strong so I was not made for working in a big organisation. I originally set up a small trading company based in Saigon in the South of Vietnam. Then at the age of 25 I discovered that I had to do my military service…. I closed my business and managed to find a mission for a French company in … Vietnam. But not Saigon, the big city with an interesting nightlife for a young man like me who was DJing a bit in bars and clubs, for fun, and “a few” free drinks too. No, my mission in the north, at the Chinese border which was the total opposite. I was awakened by the propaganda screaming almost from the speakers, and again at 5 pm. When I woke up back in Saigon at the WE… the same speakers would greet us all saying how proud we can be of the work we did, that Ho Chi Minh would be proud of me, and of course, for a romantic touch, I can’t forget the family planning announcements at bedtime.
IRK: Tell us a little bit about your brand?
Hénin: Jovoy does not only have stores in Paris, London, Doha and Dubai but also a collection of unique perfumes and heavily scented candles. Our newest creations under the Jeroboam brand are dedicated to perfume extracts only, in bottles of 30 ml only, ideal for the nomads we were before being confined at home…
IRK: What do you think we will learn from this extraordinary time and how will it affect you / your business/your life?
Hénin: Well I am old but not old enough to have known war or privations! It is interesting to see that our generation is not ready for confinement and our world is discovering how fragile we all are. Ideally, we should learn our lessons and come out with a stronger determination to preserve our planet, respect nature and humans. I hope our greed is not going to kill our enthusiasm and that we will be better to ourselves and our environment too. This period also is a unique moment in our “busy lives” to give back time to time. We have to go back to the roots and show patience, care, love to our families, our better halves. Our kids need time, our wives or husbands need our support. We have to make these challenging times a rock on which our lives will be based upon, until our very end.
And now the easy ones:
IRK: Favourite Colour?
Hénin: Blue, I am a fish, I love water but spend my days in the sky, dreaming.
IRK: When you were growing up what did you want to be?
Hénin: A cook! I almost stopped school and was encouraged by family but finally life decided on another path for me.
IRK: Name the place you’d most like to live?
Hénin: On Oleron Island growing tomatoes and fishing.
IRK: What’s the first thing you want to do when you come out of Lockdown?
Hénin: Get drunk, but with many friends this time.
IRK: You’re hosting a dinner party what’s your signature dish?
Hénin: I am mister BBQ. My wife stole and improved all my dishes so the only things left for me is the BBQ.
IRK: Dogs or Cats?
Hénin: Dogs, cats are too selfish, I still have a scar on my face after a nice looking cat scratched me when I was a kid.
IRK: What was your nickname at school?
Hénin: The dwarf. My French family name gives rise to a bad joke. ‘Henin’ could also be said ‘Hey Nain’ and the work Nain means dwarf. And then I grew up so much kids dropped it J
IRK: Most influential person in your life?
Hénin: I would say my father but since my mom is the real boss…
IRK: If you could go back in time to which period would you go to?
Hénin: The discovery of America, but in my dream I have a stock of antibiotics and a few buddies with loaded guns. I love the movie “Mission” I think I would change the end of the story…
IRK: Name an Instagram account you follow.
Hénin: I don’t.
IRK: Favourite museum or gallery
Hénin: The museum of middle ages torture in Zagreb, (the museum of tarantulas was closed that day), always amazed to see how creative human is to torture the other one.
IRK: If money were no object, what luxury item would you buy yourself?
Hénin: A boat, a rather big one.
IRK: Favourite album (music)?
Hénin: Bob Marley and the wailers
IRK: Person you’d love to meet?
Hénin: A few politicians, just to confirm that we agree to disagree.
IRK: Describe your ultimate romantic date.
Hénin: Pizza, movie, long leave the confinement.
IRK: You are happiest when…….?
Hénin: I had a big long night of sleep without one of my five kids waking me up asking for anything that has nothing to do with the great dream I was having.
IRK: What makes you sad?
Hénin: Stupidity, lack of generosity, limited selfish visions.
IRK: If you could change one thing about the world?
Hénin: I would end hunger and thirst. With a filled belly it’s easier to face other matters.
IRK: What’s the first thing on your bucket list?
Hénin: Swim in the ocean.
IRK: What have you learnt during lockdown?
Hénin: That family is all that is left in the end so why not start by making family life better.
IRK: Book shop or record Shop?
Hénin: Record shop
IRK: Name your favourite book?
Hénin: The art of war from Sun Tzu and for one that I loved to read, The Man With the Miraculous Hands by Joseph Kessel.
IRK: Pet hate? (a pet hate is something that you don’t like so, for example, my pet hate is when people drop litter)
Hénin: Impolite people.
IRK: Prize Possession
Hénin: Don’t understand the meaning.
IRK: How many tattoos/piercings do you have?
Hénin: None but I have a few scars.
IRK: Gym or Jim Beam?
Hénin: Black label, on the rocks
IRK: What colour are your eyes?
Hénin: Whatever colour you prefer darling.
IRK: Junk Food - what is your dirty secret
Hénin: Big Mac, I can’t resist this stuff.
IRK: What’s your poison? (what do you like to drink)
Red Burgundy wine.
IRK: Describe your morning routine.
Hénin: Coffee and cigarette in the garden.
IRK: Where do you call home?
Hénin: At the airport
IRK: What makes you laugh?
Hénin: My kids who keep on finding where I hide the chocolate….
IRK: What perfume/aftershave do you use?
Hénin: Vespero from Jeroboam, my bottle is getting empty …..
IRK: What’s your favourite season and why?
Hénin: Summer because it means holidays with family and hours swimming
IRK: Describe the wildest night out you’ve ever had.
Hénin: You don’t want to know that? OK it was in Saigon, we left with a generator to play music on an epic trip with 3 boats for a wild night dancing to house music. We got the river police after us so we hide from them by taking some small side rivers. We finally stopped the boats near a rice field and put the music back. This is when the fog went away we understood we were by a military base with loads of Vietnamese soldiers staring at us. We throw them a few tiger beers and bravely fled away…
IRK: What opportunity have you turned down?
Hénin: Sell my company.
IRK: Have you ever been arrested?
Hénin: Yes, car speed excess. I was young and stupid racing with another stupid French. We got caught and had to call for someone to drive our car. He called his godfather, a policeman from the region…. not a good idea, I called mom.
IRK: Favourite Quote?
Hénin: It is urgent to do things right
IRK: First live band you went to see?
Hénin: Amy Winehouse, in Paris, not a good performance. It was with my wife, I am more into electro and preferred to go to clubs, but that is a lifetime ago
IRK: Biggest Regret?
Hénin: Not selling my company, no I’m kidding. I should not have stopped playing music.
IRK: Describe something that you are proud of
Hénin: Blond, blue eyes, my five kids.
IRK: Describe yourself in 3 words.
Hénin: Lazy, big sleeper, very lazy, especially in the morning.
IRK: Favourite film.
Hénin: The killing fields by Roland Joffé
IRK: How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Hénin: 7, 8 all the same almost
IRK: Describe a favourite walk
Hénin: Obviously by the ocean in summer at a time when nobody’s there is my all-time favourite. I miss the sea.
IRK: Tell us what’s in your bag/pockets
Hénin: A notebook with all ideas that can come out of my troubled mind. My father says it takes 1000 ideas for a very smart person to get 1 really good one. I am an idea collector to increase my success rate :D
IRK: Who was the last person you called?
Hénin: My brother who had much to tell with big decision he had to take together with his wife and kids. He will leave Paris to settle down in his house by the sea.
IRK: What’s the tune/band that you are listening to the most?
Hénin: Right now? It is between the Requiem from Mozart and Daft Punk. I know I am a bit weird, sorry
IRK: What’s your cure for a hangover?
Hénin: Replying to your 49 questions helped me go through this! Thanks I had a lot of fun answering!
Biography by Megan Slack, Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery.