Germaine Cellier: 6 posts

Renegade Perfumer : A Tribute to Germaine Cellier and Fracas

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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.

Balmain Vent Vert New and Vintage : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

There are days in the winter when one can smell spring. It comes surreptitiously, even if the ground is still covered with snow and the sun is concealed by thick white clouds. Yet, the fragrance of spring is unmistakable—fresh, wet, and earthy, bearing that violet intensity that marks the desire of living beings to cast off winter’s slumber. Remarkably, this dissonance of spring is captured by perfumer Germaine Cellier in Vent Vert, the perfume created for Pierre Balmain in 1947.

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Balmain Jolie Madame : Perfume Review

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Meeting Balmain Jolie Madame for the first time is an encounter that leaves one intrigued by the unpredictable personality of this beautiful stranger. The dazzling shimmer of the green floral notes has a lighthearted character, however as soon as one is ready to see a smile of its dewy heart, the veil of leathery smokiness falls darkening the gentle features.

Yet, predictability is not the quality that Germaine Cellier’s creations possess. One of the most avant-garde perfumers, she worked against the classical tradition by exploring the raw materials that most perfumers of her time would reject for their crude potency and strength. She was not afraid to overdose Balmain Vent Vert with galbanum, which made the fragrance seem as if it were exploding on the skin into the cascade of emerald dust. The original version of her Bandit possessed so much animalic robustness, it seemed almost shocking to wear in public. …

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Robert Piguet Bandit : Perfume Review

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Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

In the constellation of Caron Tabac Blond (1919), Chanel Cuir de Russie (1924) and Parfums Grès Cabochard (1959), united by the smoky leather, Robert Piguet Bandit is the most fearless and daring. It is neither coy and naughty nor aloof and chic. It does not hide its aggressive animalic side under the layers of vanilla like Tabac Blond, nor softens it with the rose and jasmine sweetness like Cuir de Russie. A classical chypre, Bandit is unmistakably alluring, even if it is not the easiest acquaintance to make, especially for someone unfamiliar with this genre.

Bandit was born out of the dreams about pirates and sea voyages. Robert Piguet, a former Poiret fashion designer, upon establishing his own house in 1940, decided to create a fragrance to accompany his new avant-garde couture collection that had models walk down the runway wearing black masks and brandishing knives. His encounter with the perfumer Germaine Cellier, a rebel herself, led to the creation of Bandit in 1944, an essence of rebellion. It shocked and enticed simultaneously, its dark leather notes hinting at dark desires. …

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Germaine Cellier : Perfumer, Femme Fatale and Bandit

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One of the first famous female perfumers, Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) was a creator ahead of her time, relying on short formulas to paint dazzling abstractions and treating notes as colors, much like a painter would. She was not afraid to use a large quantity of the aggressive aroma-chemical isobutyl quinoline in creating of the leather accord for Robert Piquet Bandit or 8% of galbanum for infusing Balmain Vent Vert with a fierce verdancy. She was also responsible for Robert Piguet Fracas (1948), Balmain Jolie Madame (1953), Balmain Monsieur Balmain (1964), and Nina Ricci Coeur-Joie (1946).

It is said that she was a striking woman—elegant, tall, thin, blond, blue-eyed. She had a sharp sense of humor and was full of vitality. She posed for André Derain and counted other famous painters and sculptors among her friends. …

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