Hubert Burda Media

Excuse My French

French patisserie Ladurée aims to bring the taste of Paris (and its macarons) around the world. DAVID HOLDER shares with Alethia Tiang how that makes the brand oh-so-magnifique

Picture a quaint Parisian cafe with its bright chandelier lights, large window displays, white marble counter-tops and cabinets fitted with glass shelves and designs similar to those in ancient French castles. To top it off, you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own city. That’s exactly the idea behind the design of Ladurée shops around the world — to bring the flavour of Paris to the locals.

David Holder, chairman of Ladurée and vice-chairman of the Holder group, reveals the creative stimulus behind the shop, the boxes and the shopping bags dates back to the 18th and 19th century of French history. Being fully involved in it, he says everything the patisserie offers must evoke Paris.

“The idea is for customers to enter the shop and not doubt that they are in France. And it is like going back in time to the 18th or 19th century — that is the spirit of Ladurée. There is no limit to our design inspiration, as long as we stay in the right spirit,” he shares.

As such, Holder is not concerned with adapting the brand to the local culture of whichever market they are in, unlike many others. His main focus, he declares, is to retain the French roots of Ladurée.

“I’ve seen many brands around the world that said: ‘Well, the taste is different in Brazil, Singapore or wherever.’ So they adapt. But it is not for these that people will queue for Ladurée,” Holder divulges. To him, it is the brand’s duty to “educate the locals on the French taste” and not the other way around. After all, patrons get in line so they can bask in the experience of being in Paris.

“They come because it’s chic and they want to hold the small paper bag like a Parisian girl. They come because they want exactly the same taste as the one they had in Paris. It is very important that the product stays stable with exactly the same texture and taste that they have there,” he maintains.

So whether it’s in France, the US, Brazil or Japan, the vibe and the products are the same. With each shop, Holder holds to his belief: “It is not only that we sell macarons, but we sell the French lifestyle. When you enter the shop, you just feel like being in Paris. And this is what makes Ladurée very unique.”

Which is why the French patissier isn’t too concerned with multiplying fast and furiously to every corner of the world. It’s not all about making profit; business expansions are only secondary to having the right partner and location at the right time.

In running Ladurée, the right business relationship begins with having an appropriate brand spokesperson. With Singapore, Holder wanted to enter the market years ago but despite having the right location during a time when the city-state was rapidly growing, a suitable partner hadn’t come long.

“I need to find people who have passion for the brand because they’re going to be like my brother or sister and they will also be the ambassador of the brand. To put it simply, they need to be very Ladurée,” he shares, adding that all the partners he currently works with have become his close friends. “I take as much time as I need to find the right people.”

To some, this could be a risky move but it seems his approach works. Outside of France, New York and Hong Kong were sales record-breakers when they launched. Singapore then took the cake when it opened on April 15 in Ngee Ann City.

Even when it comes down to the taste of the products, it must be exactly like the one you can get in France. How is that possible? Well, the French patisserie makes all its macarons and products in one place — Paris.

On why he wants to do it that way, Holder says he wants to retain its authenticity: “If we expanded to 100 countries around the world, I don’t want to have 100 different recipes. If I have my chef, my raw materials and my processes followed from A to Z, I can be sure the product that goes out from the manufacturer is precisely the same.”

But how fresh will the food be? Don’t worry because he’s already on top of it. “It’s just logistics,” Holder reveals. Because of modern advancements, freight companies are highly advanced and more equipped to maintain the goodness of its macarons. Products are delivered approximately two to three times a week and it doesn’t take too long to transport them to the rest of the world. It’s similar to us travelling by plane — we could be in Singapore one day and the next we’re halfway across the globe.

The distinct flavour of the brand not only lies in the culture, but also in how it behaves like luxury fashion labels, such as Chanel or Louis Vuitton. In what sense? For one, funnily enough, the patisserie also launches new lines for different seasons.

“We are the first ones [in the pastry business] to make a collection of products. To me, I thought that very naturally in the summer, you don’t feel like having the same fragrance or flavour as in the winter,” he quips.

So, having spent decades in the business, which of the macaron flavours is his favourite? “It’s orange blossom. Why? I don’t know,” he laughs. “I just like it.”