Here comes a controversial post! I know even before I’m writing this that not everyone will agree with me. I’ve said many times that cruelty-free beauty comes in shades of grey, and this is because of the complicated business aspect that goes on behind the scenes of every company.

When it comes to Marc Jacobs, I’ve come to the conclusion that Marc Jacobs Beauty is cruelty-free and does NOT test on animals at any point during production, nor do they test on animals where required by law.

On the other hand, Marc Jacobs Fragrances are owned by Coty and sold in China, where animal testing is required by law. For this reason, Marc Jacobs Fragrances are not cruelty-free.

I’ll tell you why below, and I’ll show you why it’s so important to make the distinction between the two.

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What Is Licensing?

Licensing is a perfect example of the “shades of grey” I just mentioned. If you don’t know what licensing means in business, it’s essentially when a brand sells someone else the right to put their name on products.

These deals are really common and happen in every industry, including fashion and beauty. Designers license their brand name for fragrances, sunglasses, watches, cosmetics, and so on.

What typically happens is that the designer will license out their name and provide guidelines to the company they’re licensing to. The licensee is then responsible for both production and distribution. So they not only manufacture the product, but they’re also responsible with selling it.

Since distribution is out of the designer’s hands, they’re not the ones who decide if their products will or won’t be sold in China.

You can learn more about licensing here.

The Marc Jacobs Brand

Since we, the consumers, only see the designer’s name on the perfume and beauty products, it’s hard to break it down without knowing what really goes on behind the scenes.

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Marc Jacobs Beauty is on PETA’s list of cruelty-free brands.

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But when we look at Sephora China, we can see Marc Jacobs listed as a brand they carry. This implies that some Marc Jacobs products might be tested on animals, since China requires it. This is why until now, I had listed Marc Jacobs in my list of companies that test on animals.

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If you look more closely at what Sephora China has to offer, you’ll see that ALL they list for Marc Jacobs is 27 fragrance items. No makeup items whatsoever. What gives?

Marc Jacobs Beauty

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Marc Jacobs Beauty is owned by Kendo Brands, which also owns Kat Von D, Bite, Ole Henriksen, and Formula X — all cruelty-free. Kendo is Sephora’s cruelty-free branch that doesn’t have distribution in China. Since Marc Jacobs is licensing their name to Kendo, the makeup products we see at Sephora with Marc Jacobs’ name on them are really Kendo.

Marc Jacobs Fragrance

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LVMH used to own the fragrance license to Marc Jacobs.

Coty, Jacobs’ curreny licensee, acquired the license from LVMH in May 2003 (source).

Coty’s animal testing policy is not to test on animals unless required by law. They have distribution of their brands in China (although not every Coty brand is sold in China, for example Philosophy is cruelty-free).

What Does This Really Mean?

Marc Jacobs Beauty and Marc Jacobs Fragrances are two separate brands owned by two separate and very different companies!

Marc Jacobs is licensing their name to Kendo for color cosmetics. So when you purchase Marc Jacobs makeup, your money goes to Kendo. Pure and simple.

Marc Jacobs is also licensing their name to Coty, this time for fragrances. Therefore, when you purchase a Marc Jacobs fragrance, your money goes to Coty.

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What About Parent Companies?

If some of you don’t support parent companies that test on animals, you might not want to support Marc Jacobs Beauty. Technically though, Mac Jacobs Beauty has no parent company that tests on animals. But since Marc Jacobs licensed their fragrances to a company that tests on animals, a point could be made that they profit from animal testing.

Bottom Line

When you buy Marc Jacobs Beauty, your money does not go to Coty (which tests on animals). The company you’re supporting is Kendo, which is cruelty-free.

This also means that Marc Jacobs color cosmetics were never available in China nor will they be, since Kendo is in charge of their distribution.

Do you agree? I’d love to know your stance on this!

Image: Marc Jacobs

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Suzana Rose
By Suzana Rose|
Suzana is the founder of Cruelty-Free Kitty. She believes in ethical businesses and wants to see a global ban on animal testing. She loves cats, debunking myths, and shoegaze music.