The story of Guerlain began in early 19th century France, with Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain. Born to a family of spice merchants and pewter craftsmen, Pierre-François-Pascal grew up amidst a marvelous array of scents, enabling him to develop his nose and kindle his interest in the world of fragrances. He studied medicine and chemistry in England and worked as a perfume and cosmetics representative for Dissey, Jean-Marie Farina and other leading companies of the times.
By 1828, he had made Paris the location for his factory sited near the Arc de Triomphe, and he opened his first store on the chic Rue de Rivoli, on the ground floor of Hotel Meurice. Shortly after, he opened his second shop in Rue de la Paix, which quickly became a favorite amongst Parisian society.
After studying the fashion trends of the times, Pierre-François-Pascal set out to create fragrances which could express natural beauty by means of fresh, floral aromas. He would then personalize these fragrances for each individual customer. His most famous clients included Balzac, who asked for a fragrance before writing César Birotteau. He quickly attained a position of great prestige, and by 1842 Guerlain had become perfume supplier to all the European courts. He created the famed Eau de Cologne Impériale as a wedding present for Empress Eugenie (wife of Emperor Napoleon III). This celebrated scent is based on a combination of orange blossom, bergamot, lavender and rosemary, and it was presented in the now famous bottle with the gilded bees that was especially designed for the occasion.
Upon his death in 1864, Guerlain was succeeded by his sons. Gabriel took over company administration and business, while Aimé followed in the footsteps of his father, and became a specialist perfumier. Aimé’s early works reflected his father’s passion for floral scents. Bouquet de l’Exposition was created in 1867 for the Universal Exhibition. He traveled to source raw materials, and became fascinated by exotic new substances from distant lands, creating Far West, Oppobalsam de la Mecque and Jasmin du Siam. His enquiring mind induced him to work on a range of substances that could be used to create perfumes, and his research led him to formulate a revolutionary perfume, Jicky, in 1889. Jicky was originally designed for women, but it soon became preferred by men. It was the first fragrance to incorporate synthetic materials. It is made with a combination of synthetic vanillin, linalol and authentic perfume oils. It was a revolutionary product and it ushered in a whole new world of perfumery.
Meanwhile, Aimé was training his nephew Jacques, who at the age of 16 created Ambre, his first perfume. Jacques, like his predecessors in the company, had an infinite passion for perfume making, and he was continually working on new creations. He composed Apés L’Ondée which captured the feel of the Impressionist paintings that he loved, and translated their bright, natural light into fragrance. Inspired by literature and opera, he created Mitsouko from Claude Farrère’s La Bataille, Liu from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot and Vol de Nuit from his close friend Antoine Saint-Exupéry. Jacques created over 400 perfumes, however his most famous fragrance is Shalimar. Created in 1925, Shalimar laid the foundations for the world of Oriental scents, with an intensified scent of vanilla attained by the introduction of the synthetic molecule ethyl-vanillin.
The Guerlain heritage continues to the present and on to the future with Jacques' grandson, Jean-Paul. Though Jean-Paul was not initially trained in the family business, he soon showed an interest in fine perfumes and demonstrated his natural talent. He learned the trade from his grandfather, and the apprenticeship was deemed as concluded when he challenged Jacques and succeeded in recreating the scent of a daffodil. He spent a lot of time studying raw materials, and traveling, in the incessant quest for new and exotic ingredients. His first fragrance, a celebration of simplicity and the beauty of raw materials, is called Vetiver. Continuing the family tradition of making perfumes for women that then win admiration from men, in 1969 Jean-Paul created Chamade as a tribute to all women. He went on creating fragrances, which are the perfect expression of his inborn passion for, and devotion to, the art of perfume making. Though not fully involved in the company’s day-to-day developments, Jean-Paul currently oversees the quality of ingredients and continues to formulate wonderful perfumes.
For over 180 years, Guerlain has been a brand producing celebrity perfumes loved by the great women of the day. The brand also has an impressive array of cosmetic products, ranging from creams and lotions to make-up. They are all made with the same care and devotion dedicated to the company's perfume making sector.
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