Hélène Rochas, the widow of fashion designer Marcel Rochas, passed away on August 6th, 2011 at the age of 84. A private funerary ceremony was held today which will be followed by a religious ceremony in September.
She met her future husband while riding on the Parisian metro. It is reported that Marcel Rochas who was her senior by 25 years approached her proclaiming that she had the kind of head that was meant to wear hats. He married her several months after their first encounter when she was a young model of only 17. She hoped to have a career as an actress but her marriage put a stop to her stage ambitions. Most noteworthy is the fact that director Jacques Becker wanted to cast her as Casque d'Or, but Marcel Rochas out of jealousy prevented her from accepting the offer. The role went to Simone Signoret instead...
She was the muse for the fragrance Femme de Rochas which was designed as a wedding gift for Hélène in 1944 while resting on an authorial composition by Edmond Roudnitska. The scent started off as a private-circle perfume before launching into the international career it is known for today.
Later on she would commission her signature perfume, Madame Rochas, launched in 1960. Time Magazine wrote in a 1964 article about her entitled "The Well-Groomed Panther" (she had a reputation for being a rather tough business woman) that,
"She applies her perfume to her clothes, rather than to her skin. Her favorite scent is a mixture of geraniol, rhodinol, cedryl, acetate, jasmine, geranium, santal, patchouli, oak moss and Tibetan musk. It is called "Madame Rochas."
The quote gives insight into the early forays into transparent renderings of perfume. Here synthetic molecules are listed rather than a full-blown poetical description offered.
After the death of Marcel Rochas in 1955, his wife would take over the reins of his house becoming the youngest entrepreneur of France at 30.
Although one of her first initiatives was to launch a line of cosmetics, she herself professed a disdain for face creams declaring that she disliked creams in general, preferring to rely on natural antioxydants from fruits, and grapes in particular, which she made a habit of consuming in the summer.
Other fragrances that launched under her stewardship were Monsieur Rochas in 1969 and the iconic Eau de Roche, now known as Eau de Rochas, in 1970. She sells the enterprise in 1971 but would be back from 1984 to 1989 as a consultant.
More recently in 2009, her role as perfume muse had been reactivated through an advertising campaign for Rochas Eau Sensuelle portraying her with the help of a model who was a de facto look-alike. This year, a fragrance entitled Muse de Rochas and composed by current in-house perfumer Jean-Michel Duriez was launched paying homage to the seminal role Hélène Rochas played in the history of the fashion house of Rochas, which has now gone back to its sartorial roots.