This year two formidable classics celebrate their sixtieth anniversaries. Robert Piguet Fracas (1948) will turn 65, while Estée Lauder Youth Dew (1953) will mark its 60th year. These remarkable fragrances elicit strong emotions and inspire us even today. Youth Dew set the trend for rich orientals, while no tuberose perfume can be spared a comparison with Fracas.
These perfumes are also notable because they were created by two of the first female perfumers: Germaine Cellier and Josephine Catapano, respectively. The perfume industry of the 1940s and 50s was a boy’s club. In 1947, Donald William Dresden wrote in his article, The Twenty “Noses” of France, “Only a few people have the supersense of smell necessary to become a Nose—for reasons known only to Noses themselves, no woman has ever had it…” Dresden, reporting for the New York Times, simply reiterated what he heard around Grasse, France, the main perfumery hub of those days.
It’s a testament to Cellier’s and Catapano’s talent that they were recognized and admired (sometimes grudgingly so) by their peers. Cellier also created trend-setting fragrances like Robert Piguet Bandit (1944) and Balmain Vent Vert (1947), while Catapano counted gems like Norell (1968) and Guy Laroche Fidji (1966) in her portfolio. She also was responsible for training a young lab technician by the name of Sophia Grojsman, who went on to create some of the best-known fragrances of the 20th century, Lancôme Trésor, Yves Saint Laurent Paris and Calvin Klein Eternity.
Another nice surprise is that these classics are still available to us in good form (not counting the necessary adjustments due to the regulations). I only hope that we can celebrate many more anniversaries like this!
Images: Robert Piguet Fracas and the original 1960 Youth Dew ads.