I met Samer Zakharia.

Each month, I share with you an amazing find. A dragon slayer. Creator of MAISON FLAMEL and Maison Douze, the new must-haves in luxury perfumery and cosmetics, Samer Zakharia, 33 years old, combines alchemy, astrology and beauty in a very personal cosmogony.

BK: Have you discovered the secret of the philosopher’s stone?

SZ: The secret of the ‘thing’ yes. The stone itself no.

BK: Really?

SZ: I think the philosopher’s stone exists materially. I think it’s possible to turn lead into gold, I think it’s possible to walk on water, I absolutely believe that all of this is possible. But not only. I believe this has already been done. And will probably be redone. This requires an immense amount of spiritual energy. With all what it implies: work on oneself, synchronicity, discipline… At the same time, it has to remain a game! It’s a reconnection with the marvelous, as children know how to do…

Now, did I do it? No. Because I’m still too full of myself, because I’m too young, because I still need to realize myself materially, in my creations, my work. This may be what I will do in the second part of my life!

BK: Why did you name your brand MAISON FLAMEL rather than Maison Hayyan, Maison Le Grand (two great alchemists of the 8th and 13th centuries AD) or even Maison Zakharia?

SZ: MAISON FLAMEL. It rhymes with Chanel. (laughs) I had stopped working in big groups (L’Oréal, LVMH) and I was starting to think about my project. The name came to me all of a sudden. (If it is too laborious or overthought, it is not a project coming from the heart). I said to myself… MAISON FLAMEL , it sounds great, there is the F, as in flame, it’s soft, there are those who say “Flame El”, flame of God… From the moment I had this idea in mind, things started to happen. Incredible encounters, travels, and adventures. I LOVE adventures.

BK: Your personal profile on Instagram presents you as a “brand designer”. Others also call you (including yourself) a contemporary alchemist. Is there a relationship or even an equivalence between brand designer and alchemist?

SZ: Yes, it’s the same job! The alchemist is a blacksmith who separates the principles, brings them together, distills them… by working the lady’s mantle (a plant), I separate the sulphur, the mercury then I combine them… In the word design we find this notion of construction, of architecture but also of intention. The purpose. ‘Designed to be in a certain way’. I actually have a perfume called ‘A dessein’ which means “purposely” in English. This is what characterizes me. I put a lot of intention into what I do. I understand it today. I realize that I transform myself, I evolve, I change myself thanks to this brand. It is a pre-text. It announces or foreshadows something else that involves two stages. The first one is linked to creation, women, beauty, the second one is spiritual. It’s a quest.

BK: You graduated from HEC Paris, worked as a marketer at LVMH and L’Oréal. How did you come to develop these slightly magical care and beauty elixirs 😊? Do you also have training as a herbalist or/and chemist?

SZ: When I ran the factory where my products are made, I made very interesting blends 😊 My micellar honey for example. (one of the best-selling references at Le Bon Marché in Paris) I put it in a mixing machine. Then I gave it to the chemist, telling him: that’s what I want.

But I’m not a chemist, I’m a creator. I have the ultimate creative tool: my word! Speech is Mercury, Hermes, the central god of alchemy. The people I work with tell me: “when you ask us for something, we understand it very clearly”. That’s what I love about what I do.

The Spa at Bel Ami Hotel Paris

BK: The Athanor -alchemical oven and also the name of your wellness center in the 6th arrondissement-, Alchemy -the clever art of mixtures- show how the notions of transformation and transmutation sit at the heart of your universe. Transformation/transmutation of what into what? What is at stake in this transformation?

SZ: When in contact with the philosopher’s stone, matter is transformed and sublimated. Transforming lead into gold means also, from a spiritual point of view, transforming matter into light. The same light that transforms and illuminates a face…

BK: Your brands have been a resounding success: launch of MAISON FLAMEL in 2016, listing at Le Bon Marché, creation of your spa at the Bel Ami hotel, introduction of your brand in Monaco and inauguration of Maison Douze, your astrological perfumery in 2020…all this in less than 6 years. Parisian connoisseurs love you! Vogue, Les Echos, Elle and others have devoted articles to you. Is this also about alchemy? What is your secret – beyond a flawless marketing mix? Any international expansion plans on the cards?

SZ: Le Bon Marché was an important milestone. I got an appointment with the team 8 months after offering them some samples. A meeting that was supposed to last 30 minutes turned into a three-hour conversation! Hence my products have been referenced there. At the time I had a small section. I sold my products myself. Then we placed the oxygen device (oxygen is at the base of my cosmetics) to make an on the ground animation. It is still there. In 2018, I run the factory that manufactures my products… In 2019 MAISON FLAMEL becomes the number one selling brand for skin care at Le Bon Marché.

My secret ? It’s quite prosaic. MAISON FLAMEL works because it touches on the essentials of beauty. I think that the main purpose of a beauty product is to make you beautiful! As simple as that. No need to get lost in marketing speak. Does it give me a great skin? Does it allow me to become strong enough to divorce? (a client told me it did). Does it allow me to deal with pain ? A client, for example, told me after a grieving period:  “This is the first time that I find myself beautiful in a long time”. This is the essence of what I do.

Expansion plans? There are a lot of things in sight: a dedicated stand at Printemps Doha in a few months (MAISON FLAMEL will be located in the “Iconic brands” section alongside Dior and Chanel (!!!)), another one at Printemps Haussmann in 2023, another spa opening in Paris…. My products have been evaluated by top R&D experts in the industry. They see in MAISON FLAMEL a global potential, it is encouraging.

BK: This stellar journey has probably been punctuated with challenges and difficulties. Especially with such a differentiating value proposition (cosmetics, astrology, alchemy). Can you tell me a few words about it? How did you overcome tough moments?

SZ: I need to feel on top of my game in everything I do (even if with age, we go beyond all that, we transcend, we are less in a reward and punishment type of dynamic). So I am in constant anxiety! In addition, the perfect product does not exist… It may not hit the mark, the formula may be great but not stable in production.

There were several difficult moments. People are selling you dreams. Some told me: “I put 300 000 Euros in your project”: they disappeared overnight. Or “This huge hotel group will reference your brand”. But ultimately no. I was disappointed. I was frustrated, I felt betrayed, my ego was bruised. A bit of a diva! Then you work on yourself. You understand that believing in yourself should not depend on others believing in you. It’s not necessary to have a triangular desire. Investors believe in profit, and that’s fine!

What helped me to move forward? My faith. And also my mother’s words: “whatever you do, never lose faith in yourself”. I held on to that.

BK: The ultimate goal of alchemy is the philosopher’s stone: the panacea and also the elixir of youth. Is staying young or immortality an end in itself? What is your view as a contemporary alchemist?

SZ: We live in an era of desire; to believe otherwise is illusionary. It is better to be young and rich than wrinkled and poor! And even if youth is a state of mind and a self-care, the elixir of youth is always sought after! But we must avoid excess in everything:  the Catwoman is actually presented as a monster (the monster is what we show): this woman shows hubris, sin… she has to exist.

That said, the elixir of youth is a metaphor. It is about abolishing time in order to be able to learn as many things as possible. Live long to do something important. The long life is the time given to the alchemist for research and knowledge. Why did Noah live to be 800 years old? Because he had things to do! The alchemist does not seek immortality, that is the quest of predators. The ultimate quest of the alchemist is to transcend the multiple, the illusion to find the one, God.

BK: Why does MAISON FLAMEL exist? To what end?

SZ: My brand makes you 5 years younger. I want to rejuvenate the whole world.

BK: Maison Douze is a high-end Parisian astrological perfume house. Your 12 perfumes are created according to the 12 signs of the zodiac. You also offer your clients an astrological consultation when choosing their perfume. Is there a link between alchemy and astrology?

SZ: The link exists but is not easily understood. Astrology and alchemy have a common vocabulary and semantics. There are plants, stones, minerals and evocative associations. Venus, for example, is copper, Libra and Taurus, etc. There are many correspondences. Astrology and alchemy seek to achieve the same goal through different paths.

BK: How would you describe your aesthetic? Is it also influenced by the Arab culture from which you are half from (you are Franco-Lebanese) and which also strongly influenced the world of alchemy between the 13th and 16th centuries?

SZ: It evolves over time, it evolves with my identity. It’s a subtle balance: I’m Parisian (minimalism, art deco, etc.) but there are also inspirations from the Middle East, where things are beautiful just because they are beautiful, and expensive, and precious, and generous…

For example, at the beginning of MAISON FLAMEL I made the copper, gold serum. I found the design quite minimalist: the small, simple lacquer, the large font that some later copied, the names of ranges with 2 or 3 characters… I’m releasing the micellar honey: it’s an orgy of generosity! It smells of honey, it’s dripping, it’s lavish…it’s the sacred liquid, gold. My best seller in volume. I was told: “We see the Orient, so opulent and generous…” and I: “What! can we see the Middle East? Here am I unmasked ! “. (laughs). Today if I want to put gold everywhere, I put it! I surrender to the color, the perfume, the texture. I assume it, express it, explore it, reconcile myself with it, do it with great joy and without complex.

BK: I have to say that your products have a form of luxuriance, a great sensoriality. I am obsessed with your brand new Caviar H20 exfoliant with its bamboo and papaya pearls. And those scents! Let’s talk about them?

SZ: Scents communicate. A little story to illustrate it. I’m busy working on Maison Douze, my perfume brand that offers each astrological sign its olfactory signature. I start looking for investments from friends. Meeting at Café Flore in Paris. I have samples on me. Comes the Scorpion (the scorpion refers to death and resurrection in alchemy but it also symbolizes other people’s money and what we take from others).

I spray the perfume. To my right a stranger leans over and asks me what it is. I answer him, a bit annoyed by his indiscretion: “You can see that it’s perfume! “. The server also stops. “It’s bewitching.” A little enchanted break follows. I mention MAISON FLAMEL at Le Bon Marché. After which the stranger tells me he is going to invest 20,000 euros in the project (which he actually did)! The meeting with this man turned out to be fruitful thanks to the scent of the scorpion. That is the perfume of what others leave us. Scents have real power.

BK: Why do scents have this power?

SZ: Pre-text again. It’s about the intention that we put into it. When I designed the scorpion perfume, I was inspired by a scorpion woman who has an extraordinary survival and “predation” energy. She loves men! I encapsulated her in the perfume. By vaporizing it, it created a situation placed under the sign of the scorpion.

I repeat, perfumes have a power. We put the symbol, the intention in the symbol, we encapsulate it, it becomes a talisman, a magical thing.

BK: What does a person’s scent trail say? What should a CEO smell like for example 😊?

My reading grid is once again the astrological sign.

There are linguistic and semantic correspondences between materials, perfumes and signs. Signs are embodiments, a way of being. I associate the CEO with a charisma built by experience, expertise… There is something ‘Capricornian’ in the CEO. Earthy, woody scents (conifers like fir that resists winter), ivy, pansy, iris, violet that express this specific energy.

BK: Samer Zakharia, thank you for giving me this moment. An enchanted break for me too!

SZ: Thank you!

MAISON FLAMEL au Bon Marché 24 rue de Sèvres 75007 Paris

L’Athanor, 12 rue de l’échaudé 75006 Paris

Spa Hôtel Bel Ami par MAISON FLAMEL  7 rue Saint-Benoît 75006 Paris



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