Fragrance Article: Perfume and Politics, the Story of Coty

Coty_1

“Two natural endowments are necessary to a fine perfumer—good taste and an olfactory nerve suited to segregating not only kinds of odors but their qualities. Coty’s gift for his career was an olfactory nerve, marvellously talented and acute. Its judgment, incidentally, was once unquestioningly accepted by a rival who was bringing suit. Though he began by exporting essences from the flower fields of Grasse on the Riviera, and can still be recalled later peddling his perfumes to the barbers of Paris, it was by way of his bottles that he really broke into the big perfume business of Europe,” said the fascinating article about François Coty published on May 3rd of 1930. Read the rest from the New Yorker archives. It is fitting to include an article on Coty this week. After all, his first fragrance La Rose Jacqueminot has been a major success.

I shall be back next week with the discussion of Shisiedo Nombre Noir and damascones, the materials that can range from roses to dried figs. Their glow is what illuminates Nombre Noir, gives interesting complexity to Guerlain Nahema and fills the lucid heart of Be Delicious for Men.

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18 Comments

  • Laura: Good luck with your work, V! January 27, 2006 at 11:22am Reply

  • marchlion: Coty…. if I were queen I’d command the House of Coty to go back and dig through their files and re-issue, using quality ingredients, all of the classics I’ve unfairly been cheated from knowing. January 27, 2006 at 11:49am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, thank you! Have a wonderful day. January 27, 2006 at 11:59am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, oh, yes! I found this list of Coty fragrances online:
    Ambre Antique
    A’Suma
    Chypre de Coty
    Eau de Cologne Speciale
    Eau de Coty
    Emeraude
    Four Seasons Cologne
    La Rose Jacqueminot
    L’Aimant
    Le Vertige
    L’Effleurt
    Le Jacèe
    Le Nouveau Gardènia
    L’Or
    L’Origan
    Jasmin de Corse
    Meteor
    Muguet de Bois
    Muse
    Paris
    Styx
    Would it be great to smell them? I am wearing Chypre de Coty on one arm today and Chanel Pour Monsieur on another. They are actually very close. So, I would recommend trying Chanel, if you would like to have an idea of what Chypre was like. Pour Monsieur is just more citrusy, with a sweeter bergamot note. January 27, 2006 at 12:04pm Reply

  • Tania: What a character. The first time I smelled Chypre (shout out to Evan) I was instantly bored with everything other scent strip on the table (and there were a lot). It was that good. I practically wanted to eat it. Too damn bad everything is gone now, left for the vintage collectors scrounging estate sales and eBay. 🙂

    The article mentions the newspapers but leaves out (as far as I could see on skimming it) that Coty also founded an enormous right-wing paramilitary group of jackbooted fascist thugs called Solidarité Française. Now, that’s not so nice. January 27, 2006 at 12:11pm Reply

  • marchlion: Thanks for the recommendation on the Chypre — I will go and sniff! I love l’Origan vintage, and l’Aimant was pretty too… I want to try Styx just for the name, it must have been a dark, disturbing thing? January 27, 2006 at 12:13pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I also remember that lunch and smelling Chypre. It is just amazing. The way it unfolds on the skin is wonderful. Many chypres that followed are more wearable and can be deemed prettier, but this one has a raw power about it. Pour Monsieur is much more polished, and while on one level it preserves the similarity, on another, it is already in the wrong direction from Chypre. Too elegant.

    The article mentions his fascist inclinations, but it does not explore them in detail. The story of how he even got in the politics is an example of the kind of corruption I study. January 27, 2006 at 12:19pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, can you imagine what it was like! From this list, I have tried:
    Ambre Antique
    Chypre de Coty
    Emeraude
    L’Aimant
    L’Origan
    Muguet de Bois

    Edmond Roudnitska praised Muguet de Bois and considered it to be a great lily of the valley fragrance. I doubt that it is as beautiful these days as it was at one point. January 27, 2006 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Tania: “Raw power” is right. It was arresting!

    Corruption, power, money — and perfume. You’re right, the tale of Coty is everything you’re into. 😉 January 27, 2006 at 12:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, hey, would that make a decent polisci dissertation topic? 🙂 January 27, 2006 at 12:50pm Reply

  • Tania: Brilliant! January 27, 2006 at 1:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Now, I just need to convince the DGS. 🙂 January 27, 2006 at 1:47pm Reply

  • Anya: Legend has it that he created a buying frenzy, when, being rejected by a Paris store, those silly gits that refused to carry his perfume, he dropped a big bottle of it, and the resultant scent wafting drew customers like moths to a (fragrant flame). Some say he hired the women (shills) to cause the stir. This was supposedly at the start of his career. Good salesman! He is also credited with being the first to believe that perfume should be in gorgeous bottles, as the eye sells as much as the nose, and thus commissioned Lalique. January 27, 2006 at 10:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I heard that story too. I believe that the perfume in question was La Rose Jacqueminot. He had a great business sense, that is for sure! And a great nose! January 27, 2006 at 11:13pm Reply

  • Evan: Thanks for posting this V, I’d never before read this New Yorker article. It’s interesting how, in 1930 when this piece was written, the word “fascist” hadn’t yet taken on quite the negative connotations that it would just a few years later. I think F. Coty was a fascinating character, for much of his life quite a positive one; the end of his life perhaps a cautionary tale, though I’ve always been taken with visionary recluses. It’s too bad France in those days had to choose between constipated socialism and fascistic nationalism. A lose-lose situation really.

    I’m always a bit saddened when I think about what happened to Coty’s company, which went from making first-class, beautiful perfumes that regular people could afford to today’s Coty (what little is left of it)- making cheap swill that anyone could afford but that no one would want. If you want to upset yourself, take a look at the “Coty” website, complete with a broken main image and a list of their current perfumes, such as Mary-Kate and Ashley, Celine Dion, Adidas, Calgon and Vanilla Fields:

    http://www.coty.com/

    The company profile page has the following quote from François Coty, apparently pasted there with a straight face and no irony:

    “Give a woman the best product you can make, present it in a perfect flacon with beautiful simplicity and impeccable taste, ask her to pay a reasonable price, and that will be the birth of a business such as the world has never seen.”

    Perhaps someone will one day resurrect Coty in the way that Lubin (and perhaps someday Dana) has been brought back from extinction.

    Tania- I remember you making a chomp-chomp face when I gave you a smelling strip saturated with Chypre, I don’t think you spoke to me up until that moment! January 28, 2006 at 6:31am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: The quote is truly ironic. I suppose that Coty is making money, but with what…. That link leads to a very depressing sight indeed.

    The article is very interesting, and while I had it among my notes, I was glad to find an online version, since I cannot reproduce a copyrighted text here in its entirety.

    I am wearing Chypre in your honour today! 🙂 And in honour of Francois Coty. January 29, 2006 at 11:02pm Reply

  • Glyn: Hi, My aunt recently passed away and among her things is an unopened bottle of Meteor, still in the wrapper – does anyone know when they stopped manufacturing it or how old it’s likely to be?
    Glyn April 1, 2006 at 7:32pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Glyn, I am not sure about its exact age, but the youngest it can be is 1952. It contains jasmine, tuberose, rose, musk and civet. April 1, 2006 at 7:37pm Reply

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