I have a great love for vintage Coty fragrances, so I thought I’d look at vintage Paris today. Most vintage lovers know all about Emeraude, a fragrance that was, arguably, the template for Guerlain’s Shalimar, but few people seem to know about its vintage sister, a stellar feminine floral bouquet with notes of lilac, hyacinth, violets, rose, and more.
Fascism is the common thread that ties two important early 20th century figures: the perfumer François Coty and the haute couturier Lucien Lelong who, as fragrance director, made a number of excellent fragrances with the legendary nose Jean Carles. The critical point, however, is how each man responded to fascism.
The biography of one of the great noses of the time, Coty, is typically white-washed of his extreme white supremacy ideological beliefs, his raging antisemitism, and his support for fascists like Mussolini. That gap in his coverage is something I mean to fix today.
I also want to talk to you about one of my 20th century fragrance heroes, Lucien Lelong, who has been relegated to the deepest shadows of time despite having saved both Jews and the French fashion industry from the Nazis during the latter’s occupation of Paris in WW2. To put another way, he was the Oskar Schindler of Parisian haute couture. Plus, he had an intriguing personal life, like marrying a Romanov princess whilst secretly being gay.