Today, a visit to Guerlain Boutique on Champs Elysees, 68 is a fashionable and romantic gift. What could be more exquisite than a lazy morning spent at L'Institut 68 SPA, a leisurely testing of rare teas in a cozy restaurant, a choice of gloves or a silk scarf with a unique "aromatic" trail, and finally, buying that one perfume that will make you happy? But the main thing in this whole story is the very history of the legendary perfume house, which you can touch at least for a short while.
It began back in 1828, when the son of the manager of a spice trading company, Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain, decided to start his own business. After taking a course in chemistry in the advanced and friendly progress of England, he returned home and in Paris, not far from the Arc de Triomphe, organized a small factory producing cosmetics.
Things went well, and very soon the first store opened on the ground floor of the luxurious Le Meurice hotel, selling perfumes, soap and other ladies' (and not only) things. The bestseller was Liquid Bloom Rose Lip Balm with a light pink tint and Golwond Whitening Lotion.
New boutique on the Champs Elysees (Paris, 1930s)
Pierre-Francois himself, meanwhile, did not stop experimenting with perfume compositions and in 1830 created the Imperiale cologne, mixed with Provencal herbs and citrus accords. It was a success, after which everything went like clockwork.
By the middle of the 19th century, Pierre-François Guerlain had become the highest paid perfumer in Paris. Almost all the royal courts of Europe were clients of Guerlain: Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen Isabella of Spain, Queen Maria of Romania, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Emperor of All Russia Alexander III and his wife Maria Feodorovna …
Especially for the Romanovs, the perfumer created several colognes Eau de Cologne Imperial Russe and Eau de Cologne Russe. And the French writer Honore de Balzac became the first customer of a "personal" perfume, thus laying the foundation for a new "VIP service".
The finest hour of the great perfumer can be called 1853 - the year of the appearance of the composition L'Eau de Cologne Imperiale, which was intended for the wife of Emperor Napoleon III, Eugenia de Montijo. The young woman yearned for her native Spain and was depressed in an unusual climate. The caring husband decided to make her an unusual "psychotherapeutic" gift and asked Pierre-Francois to fill the bottle with the aromas of the Andalusian fields. The perfumer agreed. However, the intrigue was that he had no idea "what Spain smells like." Experimenting endlessly in his laboratory, he eventually came up with the perfect formula. When applied to the skin, the cologne reveals delicate notes of verbena, lavender and orange blossom, accented with citrus accords of bergamot and lemon.
Having received the coveted bottle with a hand-signed label, Empress Eugenia was magically healed from sadness (and at the same time from migraine). The grateful husband appointed Pierre-François Guerlain as the chief perfumer of the court. Soon L'Eau de Cologne Imperiale went on sale, but already in a luxurious design, fully conveying the high origin of the perfume. This is how the iconic Guerlain bottle with embossed bees was born, which was a replica of the heraldic ornaments of the Bonaparte dynasty.
The birth of the Guerlain perfumery dynasty was triumphant, but the development of events was no less exciting. After the death of Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain in 1864, the matter passed to his sons Gabriel and Aimé, who had to not only not drop their faces, but also prove to the world (and above all to themselves) that they themselves are real creators-perfumers.
At the family council, it was decided to share responsibilities: Gabriel took over the management of the company, and Aimé took up the creation of fragrances. The Brothers' Union raised the House of Guerlain to new heights. Eme turned out to be a very, very talented perfumer, who not only created masterpieces, but also laid the foundations of modern perfumery. It was he who "decomposed" the perfume composition into its components - initial notes, heart notes and base. He is also the leader in mixing natural and synthetic notes. Finally, the creation of the first unisex fragrance is also the credit of Aimé. Among the iconic launches of that time, one cannot fail to recall the fragrance Jicky, the anti-inflammatory cream with camphre Camphre, and the world's first lipstick in a cylindrical case with the self-explanatory name Ne m'oubliez pas (“forget me not”).
In 1910, Aimé Guerlain died without leaving heirs, and Gabriel's sons Jacques and Pierre entered the game: the first devoted himself to the creative part, and the second to business development. It must be said that Jacques Guerlain became the main star of the House. On his account are such perfumery legends as L'heure Bleue (1912), Mitsouko (1919), Shalimar (1925) …
But it is not for nothing that they say that a talented person is talented in everything: Jacques became famous not only for successful fragrances, but also for cosmetic novelties. He has Le Poudre C'est Moi scented powder, Lynx eyeliner in four shades, Citron moisturizing lemon cream, Rouge Automatique's first automatic lipstick. And that's not all! In 1939, a beauty salon was opened on the first floor of the Guerlain boutique on the Champs Elysees, gathering all the secular Paris within its walls.
Jacques Guerlain's grandson Jean-Paul learned from his grandfather the intricacies of craftsmanship from childhood. A family legend says that as a teenager he was able to recognize about three thousand smells. But his independent work as a "nose" began in 1955, when severe frosts destroyed all the daffodil bulbs, and the question of an equivalent replacement arose. Then Jacques instructed his grandson to recreate the sound of the flower. The task was successfully solved and a number of perfume successes followed - oriental fragrances Chamade, Nahema, Samsar and the strongest men's launches Vetiver and Habit Rouge.
Following the family tradition of dealing not only with perfumes, but also makeup and skin care, in 1984 Jean-Paul blew up the beauty market with a whole line of Terracota bronzers, and in 1987 with Meteorites "in balls" powder.
But everything flows and changes. In 1994, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy Corporation acquired a majority stake in the House of Guerlain. For some time Jean-Paul continued to work with the new management of the company, but in 2002 he retired, and since 2008, Thierry Wasser became the leading perfumer of Guerlain.
Photo: archives of press services
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