History & Legends: 38 posts

Fragrance stories, legends, and antique perfume & beauty recipes

The Mixed Legacy of Francois Coty

The Chinese heritage mansion in Georgetown, the capital of Penang island in Malaysia, may not have been the most obvious place to reflect on François Coty had it not been for the perfume flacons on display. The vanity tables in the ladies’ quarters featured L’Aimant scented talcs, cream powders, soaps and colognes. Some boxes were barely touched, with the bottles still set into the artfully rumpled peach satin. That these bottles traveled from France to this Southeast Asian town in the interwar era is a testament to Coty’s marketing genius.

malaysia-coty

The man who gave the multi-million dollar fragrance empire his name was a renegade. Decades before Estée Lauder purportedly made it acceptable for women to treat themselves to a bottle of perfume, he revolutionized the industry by breaking some of its rules. Coty cleverly matched the packaging to scents and created eye-catching designs and logos. He offered budget alternatives and scented products, from oils to creams and powders. He didn’t shy away from using new materials, and to this day, the accords he favored qualify as classics. Most of his fragrances charted new avenues in perfumery and set lasting trends.

Continue reading →

Perfumers on Perfume : Ernest Shiftan

“What a character he was,” said Sophia Grojsman when I once asked her about Ernest Shiftan. When Grojsman came to International Flavors & Fragrances as a young chemistry student, Shiftan (1903-1976) was an experienced perfumer with a great portfolio of fragrances. Over the years, he created fragrances like Brut (with Carl Mann), Révillon Detchema, Jean Naté, Givenchy Le De, Prince Matchabelli Wind Song (with Léon Hardy) and Revlon Intimate. (Some sources mention Estée Lauder Youth Dew and White Linen as his co-creations too, but this is not correct. The former was created by Josephine Catapano, while the latter was the work of Sophia Grojsman. Since at the time Shiftan held the position of vice-president at IFF, his name would sometimes be automatically added to the successful creations of other perfumers.)

detchemaintimate

Shiftan certainly was a character. Well-versed not only in technical and artistic aspects of perfumery, he was excellent at winning customers’ trust and sensing the direction of trends. Shiftan made a famous quip that “in all of America there is only one true nose and it belongs to Estée Lauder.” In turn, Leonard Lauder was unstinting in his praise for Shiftan and the way he put American perfumery on the map. While many of his own creations have been either discontinued or reformulated, the fact that companies like Estée Lauder and Avon can compete with the French brands, and in some sectors of the market, even overtake them, is one of his achievements.

In partnership with the Osmothèque, I would like to share several excerpts from Review of the History of Perfumes, an essay by Ernest Shiftan:

Continue reading →

Elie Roger and Estee Lauder Knowing

Who was the perfumer behind Estée Lauder’s Knowing, a chypre of roses tangled up with dark moss? For many years, Lauder, like many other companies, didn’t put the perfumers into the limelight, and this is why Elie Roger’s name is not often linked with Knowing if you search for the information online. Roger worked for the fragrance house of Firmenich, and he signed both Knowing (1988) and Clinique Wrappings (1990). While his portfolio wasn’t as extensive as that of some other perfumers, he had a distinctive style, and both Knowing and Wrappings remain beloved classics.

estee-lauder-knowing

Roger passed away on Nov. 19, 2010, after a long career, which started in 1946 in Grasse, France, his hometown. He worked for 20 years at Firmenich, both in New York and Paris, and he received the American Society of Perfumers’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Since he crafted two American classics as well as some other interesting fragrances, it’s well-deserved recognition.

Continue reading →

Paul Vacher : Perfumers on Perfume

Do you wear Arpège or Miss Dior? Have you smelled Le Galion fragrances? In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from Indiscretions apropos of a new perfume, a 1943 magazine article by Michel Arbaud, which pays tribute to French perfumer Paul Vacher. Vacher worked at Le Galion and Guerlain, and he collaborated with many legendary perfumers on creations that still inspire us. He co-authored Miss Dior for Christian Dior in 1947 with Jean Carles, and Arpège for Lanvin in 1927 with André Fraysse. In the article, Vacher describes how he would create a seaside inspired perfume and what notes lend fragrance a sensual effect.

sortilegesortilege1

Vacher had an interesting approach to fragrance, but he’s much less well-known to most perfume lovers than some of his contemporaries. Part of the pleasure of dipping into the Osmothèque’s archives is hearing the voices of other creators, not only the most prominent ones. Vacher passed away in 1975, but Arpège remains an icon. Miss Dior has suffered somewhat post reformulation, but you can still smell it at the counter. In other good news, Le Galion is reintroducing its collection, including the exquisite Sortilège and Iris. Both were created by Vacher and reorchestrated by Thomas Fontaine, the current in-house perfumer at Jean Patou.

For other articles from the Perfumers on Perfume series, please see perfumers-on-perfume tag.

“The true creator of perfumes, not he who is satisfied by a decent mixture that is more or less novel, but he who ceaselessly searches for a new range of smells, rich in suggestion and reverie, always filled me with a somewhat superstitious admiration. A strange poet is he who has no words; a strange musician who uses no sound; a strange artist whose means of expression consist of a quantity of little labeled bottles that contain the essence, so variously aromatic or malodorous, of that in the world which touches most violently our olfactory nerves.

Continue reading →

Perfumers on Perfume : Jacques Guerlain

Jacques Guerlain needs no introduction. Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko–these words say it all. The fragrances created by Guerlain in the first decades of the 20th century continue influencing perfumers and fragrance lovers. The trends are still set by them, and most perfume collections have at least one Guerlain inspired creation. Born in 1874, he entered the family business run by his uncle Aimé Guerlain and before long, he established the house’s reputation for creativity and quality.

jacques guerlain

Much has been written about Jacques Guerlain’s creations, but the man himself remains in the shadows. He preferred working at the perfumer’s organ to speaking at public gatherings, and he left behind few articles and interviews. He let the perfume do the talking.

In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from The Perfumer’s Chronicle, a 1964 magazine article by Marcel Billot (a Houbigant perfumer of Chantilly fame). Billot was also the founding president of the French Society of Perfumers, and The Perfumer’s Chronicle was his regular beat. With the exception of L’Heure Bleue, all the Guerlain perfumes Billot mentions were recently reconstituted for the Osmothèque by the current Guerlain perfumer Thierry Wasser.

Continue reading →

From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • bregje in Cherry Blossom Inspirations: thanks for the tip,Karen! I’ve listened to it twice today already :) May 5, 2015 at 6:05pm

  • bregje in Cherry Blossom Inspirations: hahaha. Me too. But i think you are selling yourself short. May 5, 2015 at 6:03pm

  • bregje in Cherry Blossom Inspirations: My mom was a painter and she loved the woodblockpaintings. We still have a couple hanging in my parents’ house.(the prettiest one is a branche with ginkgo leaves) She was… May 5, 2015 at 6:02pm

  • Annunziata in Cherry Blossom Inspirations: What a beautiful picture. You look lovely. I always find spring way too evanescent, but I guess that is part of its nature. In New York, we tend to crash… May 5, 2015 at 3:07pm

Latest Tweets

Design by cre8d
© Copyright 2005-2015 Bois de Jasmin. All rights reserved.