Have you ever spent two hundred and some odd pages with a real bastard? I just have, and by the way, the description is one that Charles Revson himself would have embraced. In fact, he did embrace it. He got ahead in his business by being a bastard, and his life story bears that one out in spades.*
He was born the son of Jewish American parents in New Hampshire and got into the cosmetics trade by selling nail polish for a firm based in New Jersey. Then came the Great Depression. Instead of being grateful to have a job at all, he was miffed when he lost out on a promotion.
He brooded. And he decided to do something about it.
Since there have been a dozen rose posts, this might a good time to take a breather, go back, and re-cap.
For all the complaining that perfume consumers do about the industry these days, one thing is inescapably true: there’s more variety. Once upon a distant time, Perfumer’s Workshop produced Tea Rose and Houbigant sold A Rose is a Rose.
That was about it in 1976. Now you have entire lines devoted to the flower in all its variations. Les Parfums de Rosine is one such house, and besides its twenty or so perfumes, there’s a slew of mainstream releases popular with the public such as Stella, or Valentino’s Rockin’ Rose.
It was 1917 and François Coty invented something new – a perfume that was floral, but also woody, light but also dark, sexy but also restrained, and, like Jicky, a fragrance that could be worn by women or by men.
Naturally it was a hit. Coty – or Spoturno, to use the name he was born under – was a natural perfume impresario. Like P.T. Barnum then, like Simon Cowell nowadays, he had an instinct for what attracts the public’s attention and – the real trick – holds it.
He’d done this before, with Le Rose Jacqueminot in 1904 and L’Origan in 1905, but Chypre, the 1917 perfume, was something new, what the French call Le chef du ligne, the head of the line. Every other chypre fragrance ever produced looks back to that initial release (now discontinued) during World War One.