History & Legends: 36 posts

Fragrance stories, legends, and antique perfume & beauty recipes

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Perfumers on Perfume : Paul Parquet

Ernest Beaux called Paul Parquet the “greatest perfumer of his time.” Coming from the legendary creator of Chanel No. 5, it’s very high praise, but Parquet (1856-1916) deserves it for his innovative work. Although most of his fragrances, like Le Parfum Idéal or Coeur de Jeannette, created for Houbigant, have not survived, his influence is profound. He is responsible for giving perfumery the fougère fragrance family, inspired by his marvelous Fougère Royale. His experiments with novel synthetics inspired many groundbreaking fragrances of the 19th and early 20th centuries such as Piver’s Le Trèfle Incarnat, Roger & Gallet Vera Violetta. Even Beaux himself was under the spell of Parquet’s creations.

Paul Parquetfougere royale

The start of Parquet’s career was in hosiery, rather than perfume. It was not until 1878 when his father bought a perfumery called Houbigant-Chardin (founded in 1775 by Jean-François Houbigant) that Parquet became interested in the business. In 1881, Parquet bought Houbigant-Chardin from his father, and over the course of the next three decades composed a fascinating and original collection*. His style was bold, dramatic, and daring, but also romantic.

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Perfumers on Perfume : Vincent Roubert

My fascination with vintage perfumes owes a lot to Coty L’Aimant and Jacques Fath Iris Gris, fragrances created by Vincent Roubert. I stumbled across L’Aimant at a second-hand clothing store, where its red box sat among the bins of faux pearls from the ’60s and “genuine nylon” shirts from the ’70s. I had no idea that this perfume was launched in 1927 or that it was Coty’s answer to the smashing success of Chanel No. 5. I simply enjoyed its powdery, sweet scent that was completely unlike any of the fragrances I smelled at department stores. It gave me an escape from my routine on par with favorite books and The Classic Movie Channel.

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Iris Gris, on the other hand, was a special quest. By then, I already knew that Roubert was a talented but not a prolific perfumer and that he crafted a legend by blending the cool, earthy iris essence with the luscious sweetness of peach skin. I searched high and low, and when I finally found a bottle of Iris Gris, the remaining perfume smelled of tobacco and sour wine. It was too old. My encounter with Iris Gris–pristine, stunning–took place years later, and I still have a blotter perfumed with iris and peaches.

So who was Roubert? What inspired him? In partnership with the Osmothèque, I offer you an excerpt from The Perfume of Memories, a 1947 magazine article by Vincent Roubert. The Osmothèque has all of the perfumes he mentions in his piece: Caron Fleurs de Rocaille, Chanel No. 5, Coty À Suma, Coty L’Aimant, Coty Muse, Guerlain JickyGuerlain L’Heure Bleue, Houbigant Cœur de Jeannette, Houbigant Demi-Jour, Houbigant Quelques Fleurs, and Lanvin Arpège. Iris Gris is still awaiting its hour.

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