I was reading the September issue of Allure magazine while getting a haircut last month and I did a double-take when I read this paragraph. It’s the opening of a column by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, titled “Fashion Scents.”
“Chanel no. 5 was the first scent to bear the name of a fragrance house, not a perfumery. And it introduced the concept that fragrance can represent a look or a style. (It also paved the way for dozens of other Chanel fragrances, including the brand-new Gabrielle Chanel.)”
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel put her name on the perfume No. 5, created by perfumer Ernest Beaux, in 1921. It was the first fragrance launch from her couture house, which she had established in 1915 (after her initial millinery business and an earlier sportswear line).
On the other hand, designer Paul Poiret established his fashion house in 1903 and founded Parfums de Rosine, its sister house of perfume and cosmetics, in 1911. “Rosine” was the name of one of Poiret’s daughters. Poiret worked with several perfumers to create an extensive line of fragrances, enough to fill a boutique located adjacent to his couture headquarters.
(You can read an essay on Poiret’s work and career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Timeline of Art History.)
Poiret released his first Rosine fragrance, La Coupe d’Or, circa 1910-11. It was followed by many others, including La Rose de Rosine (ca. 1911-12) and Le Fruit Défendu (ca. 1913)…before 1921.
As for “the concept that fragrance can represent a look or a style”? Poiret had that pretty well nailed down, too. His use of opulent fabrics, saturated colors, loose silhouettes, and Eastern-inspired ornament was echoed in Rosine’s packaging and the spicy, rich fragrances themselves. He even coordinated certain fragrance releases with certain themed couture collections.
As one of my friends pointed out on Twitter, well, the name on the bottle was technically “Rosine,” not “Poiret,” and maybe that’s what Allure meant. In my opinion, that’s just splitting hairs. Women who purchased Rosine perfumes (on both sides of the Atlantic) were deliberately buying into the Poiret mystique.
And sometimes the packaging did carry Poiret’s name as well as his daughter’s (see above, left).
This advertisement in a New York newspaper (1917) makes the connection between Rosine perfumes and Poiret’s fashion very clear: the “perfumes are as famous for the individuality and charm as the gowns.”
None of this information is hard to come across. Why, then, would Allure seem to make this kind of error? I have no explanation…other than the fact that Chanel is a major advertiser in Allure, with a new women’s fragrance released this fall.
And I know for a fact that Kurkdjian knows who Poiret is. I sat beside Kurkdjian at an industry event several years ago, and he complimented my little black Moleskine notebook, which I’d customized with a printed image of Poiret’s “Iribe rose” logo pasted to the cover. “I added that—it’s Poiret,” I said. He repeated “Poiret” (in a much better French accent, of course) and nodded.
And it’s very possible that he didn’t actually write out the column—shocking thought, I know.
So yes, I’m complaining about Allure again, and I don’t expect any response (since I didn’t get one last time), but it’s a baffling and irritating state of affairs.