Thursday, July 18 2019


Sophistication in a Scent

Considered one of the most luxurious brands in the world of beauty, skincare and fragrances, Guerlain has come a long way from its beginnings in Paris 184 years ago. ATELIER presents its elegant, historical journey down the ages.
It was the early 19th century in Europe and Romanticism was in full swing. Paris echoed with the strains of waltz music, novelist Victor Hugo was at the height of his profession. There could not have been a better time to launch a perfume shop. Paris reeked of the tar that was beginning to be used as a coating for the roads, which carried a heavy traffi c of magnifi cent horsedrawn carriages.
It was in this world in 1828 that Pierre- François-Pascal Guerlain opened his fi rst boutique on Rue de Rivoli in Paris, in what later became the dining room of the Hôtel Meurice. Having qualifi ed as a chemist and physician from England, where he also learnt to make soap, the Guerlain founder combined his pharmaceutical expertise with nostalgia for his native Picardy, where his family worked as pewter pot makers. Soon, he was churning out exquisite fragrances and perfumed Sapoceti soaps, counting the Marchioness de Girardin and Lord Seymour amongst his customers.
He also began importing skincare from England and creating sophisticated lotions, makeup and skincare from natural ingredients. His boutique stocked Blanc de Perles for whitening the skin, alongside a cream that contained liquefi ed bear fat and the Crème de Roses aux Limaçons, which contained snails. He also created the Poudre de Lys for an alabaster complexion, a lipstick called Extrait de Roses pour les lèvres, and Roselip, the fi rst solid makeup that came in a porcelaine de Paris jar.
In 1842, Guerlain moved to 15 Rue de la Paix, and his regulars included the Countess de Castiglione, Princess Metternich, the Prince of Wales, the Queen of Belgium and Tsar Alexander III. A decade later, Guerlain dedicated the famous Eau de Cologne Impériale to the wife of the new emperor Napolean III, which is still sold today in its fi ne bee bottle with the green label. This homage to Empress Eugénie’s beauty earned him the envied title of His Majesty’s Offi cial Perfumer.
Around the time that the Eiffel Tower was built, Guerlain was the preferred perfumer of every court in Europe, creating unique perfumes for royalty. He came to symbolise French elegance and refi nement. His sons Aime and Gabriel took over after his death, and the company was further handed down to Gabriel’s sons Jacques and Pierre, who continued to create masterpieces in scents and cosmetics around the turn of the century. Many of Jacques’ creations are still sold today, notably the bold, sweet Shalimar, fi rst launched in 1925 and still considered the ultimate in olfactory indulgence. Jacques’ grandson Jean- Paul Guerlain was the last family master perfumer and took over in 1956; he retired a decade ago though he is still an advisory consultant. The company was taken over by the LVMH group (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) in 1994, the last independent perfume house to give way to the industry landscape of our time.
Always ahead of its time, the Guerlain brand made waves with every new idea: Jicky, the fi rst perfume to combine natural and synthetic ingredients, created in 1889, continues to sell today. In 1939, they opened the world’s fi rst beauty salon on 68 Avenue des Champs-Elysées designed by the top artists and architects of the time. The company invented its own makeup codes in conjunction with fashion trends, sticking to the founder’s philosophy: “We make what we know how to make, and we sell what we make.” Guerlain’s pathbreaking skincare such as the magical Orchidee Imperiale range or the L’Or Radiance Concentrate that contains with pure gold fl ecks; exquisite fragrances endorsed by the top actresses and models; and luxurious makeup go through rigorous manufacturing processes at the industrial plant in Orphin. Notably, this unit near the Rambouillet forest in France – which makes 10 million products for sale – has also set the standard for ecodesign in its business sector.
“Glory is short-lived. Only renown lasts,” said the founder of the brand nearly two centuries ago. With its renown wellentrenched in the luxury world, Guerlain’s glory is ensured for generations to come.
Natalia Vodianova, photographed by Paolo Roversi, has the freshness of a chrysalis in an advertisement for Shalimar Parfum Initial
L’usine de l’Étoile, Guerlain’s fi rst factory on Avenue de
Saint-Cloud, 1828.

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