Parallel to the activities of innovation and sense of sheer child-like liberty of creation in perfumery that are perhaps best exemplified by Etat Libre d'Orange who seem to be delighted to be sticking their tongues at starchy perfume wearers and complementary to it, we see a more curatorial-minded movement that aims to resurrect antique and vintage French perfume brands, some of which are all but forgotten.
It would be interesting to see how this current (for the French-owned brands) parallels another cultural movement in French-movie making, that of the so-called heritage movies. The preservation of national patrimony has become a core Republican value of the French. Is its seeming equivalent in perfumery similarly minded or animated by a different spirit? More generally and beyond the French frame of reference (for Piguet for example) it certainly signifies an aesthetic choice......
We think that this movement is different from the archival movement existing within perfume houses to re-edit fragrances from their catalogues although they meet at some point. Here a whole brand is pulled out of oblivion and adopted by people who are not necessarily the designated transmitters of a house's tradition and history.
Recreation is perhaps not the most exact word to use in most of these cases as some of the newly made perfumes go more for the spirit of the once defunct brand than for literal recreations. Or "recreation" would have to be taken in a broader sense. Yet, this apparently irresistible tropism towards the past has meaning in terms of reaffirmed moral and aesthetic values as to excavate forgotten gems and be inspired by them can hardly be called an innocent activity in a day and age groaning under the weight of too many launches seeming to be coming out at a fast and furious pace. It is an act that is motivated certainly in part by a protest towards the all-too-frequent perceived loss of character in contemporary mainstream fragrances and by what one might see as the dwindling of the mystique of perfume. And perfumes have the capacity to encourage and express a religious type of fervor as we all know.
The notion of rarity is important in perfumery. The perfume as memory-object is also critical. The values conveyed by vintage outlooks on perfumes when excess was considered a virtue and a woman, in particular, aimed to be olfactorily, unforgettable, explain the search for lost textures and sensations. Finally unique visions are always in high demand and bound to be resurrected. One day, the thought crosses our mind, perhaps in a hundred years, Gobin-Daudé will be resurrected by perfume enthusiasts (we hope before then).
Robert Piguet, which is now owned by an American company, in this manner issued a series of re-editions of the classics of the brand. The names of the perfumes remain the same, the juices are preserved as well as best can be for the true classics that Bandit and Fracas are while some modernized twists are added to the recreations of Baghari and Visa. Cravache we have but would need to compare with the original as the reformulation seems quite up to date but not as trendy as Visa with its unequivocal references to Thierry Mugler Angel and the peachy gourmandise in a previous work by its perfumer Aurélien Guichard, Bond No. 9 Chinatown.
Lubin, established 1798, is another brand that was resurrected with Idole in 2005 created by Olivia Giacobetti. This fall they are proposing two limited editions of Vétiver and Eau Neuve.
A recent newcomer in the world of re-enacted vintage perfumes is Jovoy. Co-founders François Hénin together with Henri de Pierrefeu and Marie-Laure de Rodellec are giving life back to a now obscure-sounding name except perhaps for collectors. Jovoy also known for a time as Corday is back on the map of living perfumery with a collection of perfumes inspired more by the aesthetic values of the brand than by its creations proper it seems although initially the re-discovered formulas played a role in motivating the project of giving birth to a new Jovoy.
Thierry Piguet, the grand-nephew of Robert Piguet, is also keenly interested in giving a second life to vintage labels.
And now Gabilla! The name is also confidential today. Established in 1910, it belongs to the era in which Colette lived. Richard Stamelman mentions it several times in his work, Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin and now it seems to be about to be given a new life. We discovered their website and hope to be able to report about the new Gabilla perfumes in the future. Meanwhile we just got Gabilla La Vierge Folle and Sinful Soul and if anything can still be smelled, we will report on them.
Will Bichara be next? Colette's favorite perfume - or one of her favorites at least - is reported by Stamelman to have been Le Jasmin by Bichara....... (to be continued....)
(Links will be added later; you can search these brands on the blog meanwhile)