The firm that created designer scent
Saturday 13 June 1998
The company started when Pierre Francois Pascal Guerlain, a chemist, opened his first shop in Paris in 1828, selling an eau de toilette called Senteur de Champs. It was a roaring success and quickly attracted royal patronage, in the shape of King Charles X.
Guerlain even created a perfume for Balzac, which we are told inspired him in the writing of "Cesare Birotteau".
By 1853 the company had found another royal patron in Empress Eugenie, a famous beauty and wife of Emperor Napoleon III. Pierre created Eau Imperiale especially for her. It could be described as the first "designer" scent.
Some Guerlain products from the earliest period are still in production - like the lip balm Baume de la Ferte, which first appeared in 1830.
The business boomed, and by 1889 the house of Guerlain was perfumier to every court in Europe. After 170 years, Guerlain is still the market leader in France, although less well known abroad. Its current best seller is Shalimar - first blended in 1925. More recent releases include 1989's Samsara and Champs Elysees. Samsara and Shalimar have proved so popular in America that, between them, the two fragrances account for 60 per cent of all Guerlain's business there.
Guerlain ceased to become a wholly family-owned business in 1994 when the LVMH consortium - owners of Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton - acquired a controlling stake in the company. Although the Guerlains no longer own the business, some are still closely associated with it. Jean-Paul Guerlain, the victim of yesterday's attack, is the only person who knows the exact formula and contents for the house's collection of classic scents. He is retained as the "nose" of the company, a role he has fulfilled for 40 years.
The family has a 12 per cent stake in Christian Dior, and Eric Guerlain, another member of the family, sits on the Dior board.
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