Tonie Ong

Articles on Guerlain

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Luxury is usually attained mostly by the upper class as not a lot of people are able to afford such items. The exclusivity of such a market is what has driven the business to its highest heights, and what has made people do whatever it takes to join in. Luxury is characterized by both its quality and price points, both of which are incredibly high.  Some of the most famous pieces in the luxury goods business are made by hand, out of exotic materials, and takes hours or even days to finish. Yet, once finished, no other item can compare to its fine quality and impeccable design. However, there is a sector of the luxury market a lot of people are still able to afford: perfume.

Fragrances are actually one of the driving forces of the luxury goods business. Because they’re a bit more affordable than clothes, bags, and accessories, they’re bought by legions of the middle class that want to get in on the luxury goods game. For them, a bottle of perfume is tantamount to wearing a couture dress or holding a handbag from the same luxury label. Fragrances are usually the most lucrative part of any fashion luxury brand, and some of the most iconic items in the luxury good business are perfumes. Just take a look at French luxury perfumery Guerlain’s roster.

Scents that put Guerlain on the map

Guerlain is one of the most premier luxury labels of fragrances in the world. Their contribution to the perfume business harkens back to the 19th century when royalty wore their scents. One of their first scents eventually became one of their most famous, Eau de Cologne Impériale. It was worn by Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, who liked it so much she commissioned Guerlain to be the official perfumer of the French Royal family at the time. The perfume contained notes of lime and lime-flower, making a citrusy scent. In 1889, the brand released Jicky, considered by the industry as the first modern perfume. It was the first scent to be referred to as a “parfum” rather than an eau de cologne. The feminine fragrance is a mix of vanilla, lavender, and coumarin.

Their famous Mitsuoko scent, released in 1919, was released at the same time the First World War I ended. Its bottle is similar to that of an earlier fragrance, L’Heure Bleue because there was a perfume bottle shortage at the time. As a result, the Mitsuoko is widely-considered to be L’Heure Bleue’s warmer counterpart. 70 years later, in 1989, the company released Samsara, an oriental fragrance with notes of jasmine and sandalwood. It garnered a bit of a controversy after Jean-Paul Guerlain, its composer and descendant of the company’s founder, made racist remarks surrounding the concept of the fragrance.

Passing on brand leadership within the family

Guerlain was founded in 1828 by perfumer Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain. He opened the first store at 42, rue de Rivoli in Paris. He soon became a master perfumer, with many members of high society wearing his fragrances to social events. In 1853, both Pierre-François and his namesake company were named the Official Perfumer for the French Royal family. That moment in the history of the company spread the brand’s awareness tenfold, and they became one of the premier perfumers in all of Europe. Even when he was still working at his company, Pierre-François involved his sons Aimé and Gabriel in the company. They eventually inherited the business in 1864 when their father and brand founder passed away.

Both sons divided their work among them: Gabriel was in charge of managing the business while Aimé was the second perfumer of the company. During their time, they expanded the business further and added more scents to the company’s roster, including the famous Jicky perfume in 1889. After them came Gabriel’s sons Jacques and Pierre Guerlain, who introduced more scents to for the company to offer. It was during their time that the label released their famous Mitsuoko scent in 1919. By the latter half of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Guerlain headed the family company, becoming the last member of the family to take its lead. He was also the last master perfumer of the Guerlain family, as the business was eventually acquired by luxury group LVMH in 1994. Although Jean-Paul stayed along in the business after it was owned by LVMH, he was terminated in 2010 after the controversy surrounding the Samsara fragrance.

Makeup line

Although their fragrance line is what made them successful, Guerlain also ventured into makeup and cosmetics. They’ve become known in the cosmetics industry for their array of lipsticks and eyeliners, all of which help a woman’s features pop out more due to their vibrant hues and tender quality. Since 2008, Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova has fronted the campaigns of Guerlain cosmetics. Her face helped the company’s makeup line soar to almost equal the revenue of their perfumes and colognes. For the Asian market, the label got Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh to front their campaigns.

A bottle of perfume has become a thing of luxury, courtesy of Guerlain. The leadership in the perfume game has a historical impact, and even the most prominent figures throughout history had embraces the Guerlain perfumes.

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