Renegade Perfumer : A Tribute to Germaine Cellier and Fracas


My article on Germaine Cellier, a perfumer I admire for her genius, confidence and ability to succeed despite all odds against her, appears today in Financial Times Magazine. In Renegade Perfumer, I talk about Cellier and one of her most famous creations, Robert Piguet Fracas.



  • Suzanna: Wonderful piece about one of my favorite frags! Brava!

    Fracas is something that stands apart even in this era of the tuberose. To me it smells like a hybrid flower of tuberose and orange blossom pressed against salty skin. July 1, 2011 at 8:21am Reply

  • Beata: Thanks a lot, Victoria! I will certainly check this out as I love your writing. July 1, 2011 at 9:51am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you very much, Suzanna! I cannot agree with you more on Fracas standing out even today. It is almost like a salty caramel to me–buttery and yet with that savory, saline twist underneath. Beautiful, even if challenging. July 1, 2011 at 9:02am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome, Beata! I admire Cellier so much. Can only imagine how hard it was for her to be recognized in the industry of her day (completely a male domain back then.)
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile July 1, 2011 at 10:50am Reply

  • Anne: Right, that’s it. Having dithered for ages about trying Fracas, I’m going to give it a go. The time has come. Bandit fascinates. I don’t love it, but wear it sometimes.

    That is a lovely piece on Cellier. It makes me want to live my life as fearlessly as she did. Wonderful photo too (above). I don’t recall having seen it before. Thanks! July 1, 2011 at 6:51pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Adore Cellier, the work and what I know of the woman. And she’s part of my pantheon because of what you wrote about her here on BdJ. Off to read! July 1, 2011 at 8:26pm Reply

  • Ann C: Nicely done, Victoria. Cellier’s talent must have been immense to rise to the top of a male dominated industry during that era. It’s difficult today; one can only imagine how difficult it was then. July 2, 2011 at 6:37am Reply

  • Parfymerad: Lovely article – it’s great to hear the Fracas praised. I only wear the parfum, which on me is a tame little kitty of a scent, but it undoubtedly v v in-your-face feminine. July 4, 2011 at 5:49pm Reply

  • Victoria: Anne, I am glad that you liked it. I really find Cellier to be inspiring. I love this photo too! July 4, 2011 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: A, what a lovely compliment, thank you! July 4, 2011 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Victoria: How right you are! These days it is somewhat of a struggle, but back then it was a battle. And yet, Cellier paved the path for Josephine Catapano (she of Youth Dew, Norell and Fidji fame!), for Sophia Grojsman, and for many other renowned female perfumers. July 4, 2011 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Perfumaniac: Thank you for this post, Victoria. She is one of my favorite perfumers, hands down. I think I have almost every vintage Germaine Cellier fragrance, minus a couple: Bandit, Fracas, La Fuite des Heures, Coeur-Joie, Vent Vert, and Jolie Madame. Each one represents her understanding of the variability of women, at once hard and erotic (Bandit) to soft and nostalgic (Fleeting Moment/La Fuite des Heures) to seductive (Fracas) to bold and independent (Vent Vert).

    I’m curious though. I hear all this biographical stuff about her (gay woman, etc.), but what is the source material for her biography? I’d love to know moreo about her, and to see other images of her! Thanks again! July 4, 2011 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Perfumaniac: Oh, and I think Miss Balmain? How could I forget? July 4, 2011 at 9:42pm Reply

  • Victoria: The parfum has a different character from the EDP, which I find to be much bolder. Still, all concentrations are excellent. July 5, 2011 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Victoria: Most of the information comes from people who have worked with her and her contemporaries, from stories. The perfume industry being a small and closed society tends to retain a lot of this lore. I love working with the older perfumers, who are not only very knowledgeable, but also full of fascinating stories and anecdotes. July 5, 2011 at 12:25pm Reply

  • Victoria: Miss Balmain is stellar! I love your idea of different aspects of a woman that one can find in Cellier’s work. I find her fragrances to be very moving. July 5, 2011 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love that impish grin on her face. She obviously was quite a character.
    I am not that familiar with her work though. I have smelled both Bandit and Fracas. I like Fracas, and would love to get some in extrait. July 5, 2011 at 5:31pm Reply

  • Andrea: Lovely article, I enjoy the EdP but haven’t tried the parfum. Do you think they are different enough a person should try both? July 5, 2011 at 6:12pm Reply

  • Victoria: I think so. The parfum has a beautiful creamy quality, while the edp is bolder and sharper. The accents are different enough.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile July 6, 2011 at 6:56am Reply

  • Victoria: That impish grin won me over too! 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile July 6, 2011 at 6:57am Reply

  • Andrea: Okay, thank you! I think I wouldn’t mind it a little creamier and less bold, so I will seek out a sample. July 6, 2011 at 2:43pm Reply

  • KiKi: I love you Bois de Jasmin and Cellier, but Ma Griffe – that was Jean Carles 🙂 July 22, 2011 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, it certainly was! One of his greats. What I meant is that he was inspired by Cellier’s work when he created Ma Griffe. He himself never admitted, of course (they were on rather poor terms,) but his son and contemporaries mentioned it. And the structure of the fragrance is telling. July 22, 2011 at 4:11pm Reply

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