While “Mademoiselle” Chanel herself may have created her famous No.5, which is still among the world’s most famous perfumes, that age is well and truly gone. Today, creating a “liquor” is the prerogative of a handful of inventors particularly skilled at handling essences: they are known as “noses”.
It is not a profession that comes with a diploma since, above all, it requires a love of and a gift for fragrances as well as many years of apprenticeship not to mention the fact that a “nose” does not smoke and avoids anything and everything that might ruin his or her talent. After all, these rare experts (who can be counted on the fingers of both hands) must be capable not only of finding their way through a range of several thousand fragrances but also of blending them successfully.
To create a perfume, you need to blend several dozen essences and choose what specialists refer to as the “key note” (the fragrance that is instantly perceptible), the “core note” (which gives the chanel perfume its character) and the “basic note” (which holds the entire structure together). The perfume is created by mixing notes that are fruity or tart, woody, flowery or sensual. Some of these experts work for a particular house such as Jean-Paul Guerlain, who created Samsara, while others create for a brand, such as Jacques Cavalier and Jean Guichard, from Grasse.
The ability to distinguish olfactory notes with a mere sniff is not enough to create a perfume that will remain famous. It also requires a sensitivity for the mood of the day, as was the case for Shalimar by Guerlain, created in 1925, or, more recently, for Opium (1977) by Yves Saint Laurent and Poison (1985) by Dior. Nowadays, perfumes are more startling, such as L’Eau d’Issey by Miyaké, with its pronounced marine touch. Or more discreet, for young girls, such as Eden by Chanel.
In most cases, as in fashions or in any artistic creation, success comes from the chance encounter between the public and a certain sensitivity. For that, the perfumes must also correspond to the brand name that launches it and comply with its image luxury, youth, sensuality, mystery, originality. There must be total coherence between the perfume, its perfume bottles and the image they convey.
Most popular womens perfume – by Yves Saint Laurent.
If, from New York to Paris and from Sydney to Peking, more than two million visitors have admired his creations in museums, his style is expressed first and foremost through colour, life, movement and the history of women, which he lovingly accompanies since 1958, the date of his first collection for Christian Dior, which made him famous all over the world.
Born in Oran, Algeria, in 1936, he was a mere twenty-one-years-old when, already, he was referred to as “Christian II”. He founded his own house of couture in 1962, with Pierre Bergé, and, in 1966, his “Rive Gauche” line of ready-to-wear, which allowed thousands of women to blend elegance and comfort. Besides creating some of the most popular womens perfume, the bush shirt (1968) and the pantsuit (1969) became classics of the contemporary wardrobe. “A happy woman is a woman in a black skirt, with a black pullover, black stockings, a piece of costume jewelry and a man who loves her by her side.”
In order to assert himself as the leading outfitter of his day, this aesthete succeeded, better than anyone else, in transcribing his dreams inspired by artists: Andy Warhol, Mondrian and Tom Wesselman during the sixties, Picasso in the seventies, Van Gogh and Bonnard in the eighties. His creations have always caused a scandal, from the first see-through blouses (1968) to his perfume, Opium, launched in 1977. But his strength is his ability also to embody absolute classicism, with Catherine Deneuve as his ambassador. As the heir to Chanel and Balenciaga, he remains true to their lines, uncluttered by detail: “Elegance is a way of moving”.
Yves Saint Laurent, a passionate collector and opera enthusiast, creator of most popupar womens perfume , remains one of the last great aesthetes at the close of this century. From Cyrano de Bergerac to The Two-Headed Eagle, he has created many costumes for the theatre, his first love. His art has become purer and, in a whisper of muslin, he recreates dreams worthy of a Botticelli, as if to say: “A man or a woman’s most beautiful adornment is love.”
Guerlain: the conductor of perfume bottles men.
France’s oldest established perfumer is a veritable “conductor of fragrances”. Over the last 165 years, Guerlain’s compositions have all become great classics: L’Eau impériale, Shalimar, L’Heure bleue, Vol de Nuit and Mitsouko.
The entire history of French perfumery is concentrated in those two syllables, Guer-lain. From the Second Empire through to the Belle Epoque, the Roaring Twenties and the postwar period, five generations of perfumers have taken the succession in the Guerlain family, founded by Pierre François Pascal. Ever since the first boutique was opened in Paris, in 1828, the company has gone on expanding its line of perfume for men. Today, it has seven exclusive boutiques in Paris, with equally exclusive shops in Milan, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The House of Guerlain has gradually developed from small-scale production in the 19th century to an international cosmetics firm which, with 321 fragrances, boasts the broadest product range in the French perfume trade. The “Guerlain style” over the past few decades has been characterised essentially by such products as Vétiver, Habit rouge, Chamade, Nahéma, Jardins de Bagatelle, Samsara, Héritage. There has been a marked acceleration, since the early eighties, in the creation of beauty products, with beauty care ranges – Issima, Evolution, Odélys – and also make-up lines – Matéorites, Terracotta and L’Or de Guerlain.
In April 1994, the perfumer’s history turned a major corner since the established house was bought up by the world’s leading luxury group, LVMH (Louis-Vuitton-Moët-Hennessy). Headed by Bernard Arnault, the Group includes other perfumes such as Christian Dior and Kenzo. Does this mean, then, that the label which is so selective when it comes to the distribution of its products is to become more widely available?
Today, Guerlain intends to develop by “retaining all of its tradition while incorporating contemporary elements in its offering,” explains Christian Lanis, the new chairman of the board. At present, the Group achieves 33% of its discount perfume bottles men turnover in Europe as a whole, with France accounting for 27%, America, for 18%, Asia and Oceania, also 18% and 4% throughout the Middle East and Africa. The new dimension afforded by LVMH, resulting no doubt in new sites abroad, will not prevent the group as a whole from remaining true to its motto: “To be Guerlain more than ever before”.