Last week I went to Sniffapalooza, and among all the other things and people you could see there, I met the in house perfumer of Jean Patou, Thomas Fontaine. Under ordinary circumstances this wouldn’t happen because in my zig- zagging about New Jersey, head perfumers don’t turn up all that often, but at the time, on the cosmetics floor of Bergdorf’s, I got a moment to speak to him and he was very interesting, perhaps particularly to me, as I love the history of perfumes, and not just the novelties.
He’s a busy man these days since he works for the parent company of Jean Patou Designer Perfumes, and they own more than one older brand. Jean Louis Scherrer is also on the roster. Thomas Fontaine has the task of keeping up the older formulas, and in the age of restrictions, this is no easy thing. You never know when IFRA will put out an APB on desperate scent villains such as jasmine. If you are responsible for keeping up Joy’s appearances, this sort of interdiction could constitute the coup de grâce for the old classic.
So far though it sounds as if M. Fontaine’s employers are trying to revivify Jean Patou, and good for them. They have moved production back to France from England where it languished during the period when JP was owned by P&G.
All acronyms aside, M. Fontaine told me that he’d been obliged to bring the quality of the concentrates back up. If you want to distinguish the pre-take-over perfumes from the post, all you need to do is look at the bottles. They have returned to an in house design used for 1000. Those are the newer bottles.
His most exciting news is that they are going to re-issue three lost and lamented perfumes at the end of this year: Chaldee, a green orange blossom over oppoponax, Patou pour Homme, sometimes called the greatest masculine perfume ever created, and Eau de Patou an innovative eau fraiche with a lingering trail that used to include incense. They’ll be available in the flagship store in Paris first, then in high end stores in different parts of the world.
If they were doing these three, I asked, what about the other old Patous? Would they bring back Moment Supreme, for instance?
He said that they were thinking about this, and I asked how he managed in the absence of the old companies that made bases for the perfumes (De Laire, for example, used to make many, in the way that Synarome does Animalis bases today). He smiled and remarked that he had become “the Indiana Jones of perfumers.” This because he had to go and dig up old sources for different components of discontinued perfumes.
He has done this before; indeed he is noted for his skill in such re-creations, working most notably for the very old firm Lubin, which in addition to releasing new fragrances, has also re-introduced new versions of antique perfumes. One of the oldest such recipes would have been Black Jade, a twenty first century reproduction of a scent that may have dated back to 1798 or so when the company was founded, and the mid-century Gin Fizz.
I have smelled Gin Fizz, and was curious about how he’d done it. “Oh, my mother wore that perfume,” he said. “So I had a memory of it to work from.”
So he and his staff have three more old Patous to select for 2014 revivals. I may have lobbied for Moment Supreme (ok, I did actually lobby for it), but in fairness to everyone who talks about these things on forums or on blogs I should really mention Vacances. Everyone loves that one.
Will they do it? Can they do it?
I’m on the edge of my seat.