Anyone who has followed my blog over the last few weeks will probably have realised that I've been enjoying Michael Edward's wonderful book, French Feminine Fragrances. While I've enjoyed reading about the perfumes and their history, I've possibly enjoyed even more some of the insights and comments by the legendary perfumers behind the fragrances.
I am hardly an expert, but for me, the true essence of art is conveyed through emotions, both of the creator and the receiver, or audience. While I'd obviously prefer to love a work of art, I'd still prefer to be moved, whether it be by attraction or repulsion, than by indifference. Perfume is no different for me; I don't love every great perfume I've encountered, but I have been moved or stimulated in some way, and left with an indelible impression.
What struck me most when reading this book is the emotions that flowed from the perfumers. Almost without exception, these perfumes (we're talking about close to fifty) were inspired and transcended the science and chemistry behind the creations.
So in this first instalment, I will set out some quotes that really stood out for me from the early part of the book, dealing with Guerlain and its early 20th century perfumes. I can't take any credit for this of course; I am quoting verbatim from the book and stress that all credit is owed to Michael Edwards and his research.
"It endures, not because it was the first modern perfume, but because it is timeless. Jicky is emotion translated into perfume." Jean-Paul Guerlain.
"'I couldn't put it in words', he told me. 'I felt something so intense, I could only express it in a perfume.'" Jean-Paul Guerlain on what inspired Jacques Guerlain to create L'Heure Bleu.
"First you learn to smell,", says Roja Dove. "You learn the smell of your mother, the scent of home. Then, as you grow up, you start to learn about fragrances. When you become a little bit older, you learn about fine French fragrances, and then, hopefully, you learn about the Guerlain fragrances. When in the end, you appreciate L'Heure Bleu, then you know that you really love perfume."
Sylvaine Delacourte, assistant at the time to Jean-Paul Guerlain on Mitsouko: "A perfume is an emotion that men and women can share. Little girls and boys both enjoy smelling flowers and woods. Its only later that someone lays down the law 'this is for women and that is for men'. It is not always true. A great perfume appeals not just to women, or to men, but to all human beings."
Ernest Beaux: "If I had used so much vanilla, I would have made only a creme anglaise, whereas Jacques Guerlain creates a Shalimar!"
"To this day, there are still customers who believe that Shalimar is the name of the House. They don't think of Shalimar by Guerlain. To them its Shalimar by Shalimar." Sylvaine Delacourte