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Why Marc Jacobs Beauty Is Cruelty-Free: An Overview Of Licensing In The Beauty Industry

by Suzana Rose

Nov 8, 2019

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.

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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.


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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

Download our list of 600+ verified cruelty-free brands straight to your device. Bring it with you everywhere you go, and never worry about supporting animal testing again. Click here to download

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+ Show Comments (37) - Hide Comments (37)
  • lesley says:

    I go by one simple rule. If in doubt do without. There are plenty of companies that are totally cruelty free. We don’t need to buy from companies that trade in grey areas or blind us with legal loopholes. Either they do test or they don’t. Simple.

  • Laura says:

    Is this the same with Zara Fragrances? I noticed that you recently included that brand on your list of companies that do test. If it’s not just a licensing snafu that earns them that dubious honor, but the brand itself selling in China or doing the testing, then I’d love to know so I can boycott them.

  • Wendy Leja says:

    Okay, so Marc Jacobs fragrance is licensed under Coty. Therefore NOT cruelty free, right? Such a disappointment. Thank you for your research.

  • Marsletta Knapp says:

    Marc Jacobs Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter contains carmine, which comes from an insect, so isn’t this an animal ingredient? So how is this product cruelty free?

    • Aly Laughlin says:

      The product is cruelty-free in that it is not tested on animals, but it would not be considered vegan.

  • Beka says:

    Thanks so much for this breakdown! I have had a hard time trying to figure out where MJ Beauty is manufactured though. Any info on that? I recently fell in love with several of their products which puts me even closer to my goal of using only cruelty-free makeup, but I am also hoping to avoid brands that manufacture in China.

    • Suzi says:

      You’re very welcome! I just checked the products I own from MJ and most are made in Italy, but also the US and Korea. Hope this helps! 🙂

  • Úrsúla says:

    is MARC JACOBS BEAUTY really make up cruelty-free??

  • Thanks Caroline! Philosophy tests on animals where required by law (although they don’t sell to mainland China). This is why I had to remove them.

  • Mikaela says:

    Very interesting and useful information. Great post and thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Amruta Nargundkar says:

    Also, the recent news that Estee Lauder has bought Too Faced for more than $1.4 billion.

  • Amruta Nargundkar says:

    Hi Suzi! I’ve just read on Kendo’s website that it’s a unit of LVMH, and brands like Kat Von D and Marc Jacobs, that are part of Kendo, are contributing to LVMH profits as well. Here’s a business report on LVMH website from October 2016 that mentions revenue from Kat Von D. https://www.lvmh.com/news-documents/press-releases/5-organic-revenue-growth-in-the-first-nine-months-of-2016/

    I’m curious on what your take on parent companies, or in this case parent of parent companies, is, since you have researched these issues a lot. This corporate quagmire, and companies that test on animals buying cruelty free brands to piggy back on their success, is alarming. What do you think about this situation?

  • Claudia says:

    If you have come to this conclusion, why is Marc Jacobs Beauty not on your cruelty free list?

  • nah says:

    Wow! Some serious research here. I still do not want to support Marc Jacobs since they don’t care enough about animal testing to stop it in their fragrance line and since they probably kill a ridiculous amount of animals for their leather purses, shoes, etc.

  • I very much agree Suzi and I am anxiously waiting for other cruelty free bloggers to come also to this conclusion. From the moment PETA listed all the Kendo brands as cf I knew it’s only a matter of time. I think exactly like you, that we should make a difference between the fragrance brand and the beauty brand. I just wasn’t brave enough to say something first lol! Good job Suzi

  • mrsblankenship says:

    Good to know. Thanks!

  • Thanks so much Georgia! Glad to hear you switched to cruelty-free beauty!!

  • Stephanie Wilson says:

    That was a great post! I feel like you made really good points. Thank you for researching and sharing. I have been cruelty-free for two years and I am still learning new things!

  • Great post! I see so many international beauty bloggers rave about the Marc Jacobs foundation so I’m so happy to hear its cruelty-free! Hopefully it will come to South Africa soon!

    Cassidy xXx

  • Thank you Jen! I’ll look more deeply into Philosophy, Formula X, and Ole Henriksen. When I started looking into Philosophy last year, they didn’t sell to China and I’m really confident about this. I didn’t personally look into the other 2 though, and they haven’t made it to my cruelty-free list. I’ll also try to contact Marc Jacobs Beauty before adding them.

  • Kelsey Christou says:

    This has made me really happy as I hear amazing things about the foundation and the eyeshadow palettes look sleek and pretty.
    It’s so interesting to hear how different brands operate, it would never have crossed my mind that the fragrance and make up ranges were owned by separate companies, but still under the same name. I’m not sure I’m explaining myself very well haha.
    Anyway, great post!

  • Excellent post, I had no idea about the licensing, because I’d originally pinned them as being under parent companies. I thought that Kendo, as a company, does test on animals, or was I mistaken?

    Stephii Mattea

  • Well that’s great news!

  • Rosario says:

    Hi Suzi! Great post could you put an update on your final thoughts on the brand in response to what Vicky has said and your response from Kendo. Would be great to know haven’t bought anything from marc jacobs beauty because of this 🙁

  • Luna says:

    They also don’t pay their models, so it would be a laughing stock to call their brand “ethical.”

  • That’s Marc Jacobs Beauty? It looks like they’re horribly misinformed, since that makes 0 sense. If they were trying to be deceptive on purpose, they wouldn’t blatantly claim that their ingredients might be tested on animals. I’ll definitely check with Kendo again! Let me know if you hear anything.

    • kaitlyn says:

      Let me know what Kendo says! I’m definitely more inclined to buy from Marc Jacobs Beauty since they have a different parent company (but I’m a little concerned about their third party ingredients). Does the Marc Jacobs corporation itself still profit from fragrance sales in China?

    • Vicky says:

      I just checked the original email response and yes, it was from a Marc Jacobs Beauty email address and signed off as “Marc Jacobs Beauty”

      It’s totally frustrating when we get such different responses! Arghs, please do let me know if you hear something else from either Kendo or Marc Jacobs Beauty =)

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