“What remains of a woman when she is in the dark? When she has undressed, when we can no longer see her make-up, her wonderful hair, her beautiful eyes, when she’s taken off her jewellery, what is left? Only her charming voice and her perfume.” – Jean-Paul Guerlain
Inhale deeply, and what do you experience? Most likely, you will come across a single or a mixture of scents. Our sense of smell is perhaps the most luxurious and nostalgic of the senses. No one should underscore the importance of our sense of smell. The whiff of an aromatic restaurant can get our stomachs churning and the inhaling of a musky fragrance that reminds you of someone can cause you to shed tears.
It is then no wonder that perfume has become a multi-billion dollar global industry. The creation of perfume was thought to have been popularised in Western Europe in the 12th century. Since then, perfume was a luxury good. Precious oils and extracts were mixed intricately to create an alluring fragrance that did not come cheap, thereby making it only available to the rich. Thanks to industrialisation and technology, perfume has become a good available to the mass market. Today, almost everyone can afford perfume.
One would think that this provides a grave situation for the established perfume houses such as the House of Guerlain. In the contrary, although the House of Guerlain has had to adapt to the times, there is no end in sight for this legendary brand. The House of Guerlain has enjoyed its success due to one advantage that few others can ever obtain – a tradition of luxury and finery that is enjoyed by women and men all over the world.
In 1828, Pierre-Francois Pascal Guerlain founded the House of Guerlain in Paris. To say that the French high society respected Guerlain is an understatement. The master perfumer became His Majesty’s Official Perfumer, thanks to the creation of Eau de Cologne Imperiale which was made for Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Queen Isabella II of Spain were also two of the many royal clients of Guerlain. The House of Guerlain remained in the family for the next three generation before it was sold to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy in 1994 (with the last Guerlain family master perfumer, Jean-Paul Guerlain, as a consultant).
Despite the change in ownership, the House of Guerlain remains a French institution. Over the times, Guerlain has, like other traditional French perfume houses, modified itself to become more available to a wide range of consumers and has invested in elegant marketing campaigns. However, unlike the trendy perfumes which are accompanied by aggressive marketing in order to widen its customer base, the introduction of Guerlain to many of its patrons is more subtle and elegant – a ritual rather than a mere activity.
All over the world, young women are being introduced to the Guerlain brand by an elegant lady in their life – such as her mother, grandmother or favoured aunt. The experience of selecting her first Guerlain perfume is an important milestone in a young lady’s life. Rather than be swayed by the crowd, the young lady is making a quiet yet confident step towards womanhood. By becoming a patron of the House of Guerlain, the young lady becomes part of the classic French tradition of fine luxury which has stood firm against the test of time.
While the perfume industry has made luxury available to everyone, the House of Guerlain has held true to its ability to make each of its clients feel unique and grand, like royalty.