Spotlight on: Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent was a ground-breaking designer who delighted in shaking up the mainstream, always in his  stylish and undeniably sexy way, with this ethos effortlessly transferring from fashion to fine fragrance.

Producing several of the best-selling perfumes of all time, with stunning bottles that have become collectors items in their own right; not many fragrance houses can claim to have a founder who dared pose naked for his own fragrance advertising campaign, because ‘perfume is worn on the skin, so why hide the body…?’

It all began at the tender age of seven years old, when Yves Saint Laurent began designing clothes for his sister’s dolls, expressing a natural talent and indulging a dream of a career in the glamorous world of fashion design. A deacde later, and he’d enrolled on a graduate fashion course at college, winning both 1st and 3rd prize in the prestigious International Wool Design competition at only 18 years old. His talent was showcased to the world and a young Saint Laurent was offered the role of haute couture designer for the House of Dior. A dazzling debut, interrupted by a brief period of national service in the army, led Saint Laurent to opening his very own couture house, still aged just 21, and enabling him to truly express his fashion expertise.

1962 saw the dawn of the Yves Saint Laurent brand and his masterful couture creations for the rich and famous. But clothing was never the only way Yves Saint Laurent wanted to dress women – in 1964 he created his first fragrance, Y, a collaboration with perfumer Jean Amic. It was an olfactory expression of the elegance and luxury of his couture fashion – a fragrance tailored for the beautiful women he dressed. In its original packaging, the green chypre juice was housed in a bottle cut to reflect the silhouette of a woman’s head and shoulders. The letter ‘Y’ cleverly placed to represent the neckline on her dress.

In 1971 Yves Saint Laurent continued to shock when he launched his first fragrance for men, Pour Homme – posing nude for the visual, in stark representation of the values of the Yves Saint Laurent House, comfort and sophistication coupled with modernity and audacity. In the same year, he created a fragrance for the independent, free-spirited woman who shopped at his new boutique: Rive Gauche. At a time when fragrances were presented in classically feminine bottles, best stored on the dressing table at home, it was the first fragrance to be launched packaged in a tin can!

 

In 1977 Yves Saint Laurent wanted to glorify another facet of YSL femininity; sensuality and seductiveness – and women the world over were seduced by YSL’s Opium . An opulent swathe of oriental ambers and vanilla by perfumers Jean Amic and Jean-Louis Sieuzac, this audaciously-named fragrance sparked immediate controversy. As the scandal and the hype grew so did demand. Global press took straight to the newsstands to criticise Yves Saint Laurent’s determination to shock, but scandal only served to fuel desire; testers were stolen, posters were ripped down and stores sold out of stock in a matter of hours on the launch date.

Fast-forward to  2014, when the latest reinvention of the YSL woman was launched in the form of Black Opium, composed by four master perfumers (Marie Salamagne, Nathalie Lorson, Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc), with an overdose of black coffee accord to instantly invigorate the senses, contrasting with voluptuous white floral heart notes and a gourmand vanilla base.

The following year, Black Opium scooped Best New Fragrance for Women in the UK’s prestigious Fragrance Foundation Awards – and since then, the fragrance has acquired countless ‘collectors’, thrilled by limited editions and new ‘spins’ on this smouldering scent.

There are few people who’ve not owned and loved an Yves Saint Laurent fragrance, or who don’t have one of these – classics and modern must-haves alike – in their collection. We’d be hard-pushed to pick a favourite… so, we wonder, what would yours be? And while you’re pondering which perfume to choose, you can read all about their history in more detail on our page dedicated to Yves Saint Laurent

#InternationalWomensDay – our celebration of six inspiring women: the pioneers of perfumery…

In celebration of #InternationalWomensDay, on our Instagram account we’re sharing our admiration of just a few of the incredibly inspiring women in perfumery, and wanted to take some time to write about them here, too…
Currently there are more women joining the famous French perfumery school, ISIPCA, than men – an about-face for those legions of ladies who spent years beavering away in labs but in fact remained somewhat faceless as their male peers were lauded within the industry (a time before noses were public names) as the genius perfumers: moustachioed masters in gleaming white lab coats, the respectable (and respected) face of fragrance.
So we say: let’s hear it for the gals! And do read on for ways you can join in the celebration, too.

Germaine Cellier was a pioneering nose from the 1940s who created outstandingly new (and scandalously daring) scents such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-killing tuberose. A formidable woman who shone through in a time the entire scent world was otherwise dominated by male perfumers, forging the way fearlessly and stamping her mark in scent history; Cellier very much believed in doing her own thing, and how we applaud her for it.

Josephine Catapano is considered a mentor by Sofia Grojsman (see below) and when you read her list of accolades, it’s not hard to see why. In 1980 Capatano was granted the Cosmetic Career Women’s Award followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993. Working during an era when perfumers were kept firmly within their labs, no names emblazoned on bottles, and most especially if they were female; creating the all-time classic Youth Dew for Estée Lauder, the original Shiseido Zen and Fidji for Guy Laroche; it is only now truly Catapano’s name is truly acknowledged.

Sofia Grojsman is a Belarus-born American perfumer who moved to Poland when she was fifteen, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in analytical inorganic chemistry there before being uprooted by her family and arriving as an immigrant to the United States in 1965. Delighting in creating multitudionous scents inspired by the rose, Grojsman composed such contemporary classics as Estée Lauder’s White Linen, Lancôme‘s Trésor, Calvin Klein‘s Eternity and Yves Saint Laurent‘s Paris. In 1999 Grojsman was honored by the Cosmetic Executive Women for her lifetime achievements in the fragrance industry.

 
Estée Lauder may not have been a perfumer but nevertheless was a complete perfume pioneer. In an interview for Vogue in 1986, Lauder spoke of her marriage, saying ‘…we
 decided 
that
 Joe
 would
 give
 up 
his 
business 
and 
come 
in to
 mine.
 We
 would 
work
 together:
 he 
would
 deal
 with
 the 
economics
 and 
practical
 aspects
 of
 the 
business,
 I
 would
 do
 the 
selling.’ Well-known as a generous philanthropist, supporting countless charities and the restoration of Versailles; Lauder was honoured with so many awards during her career, but one of the high points is said to have been receiving the French Legion of Honour.

Patricia de Nicolai might have become the next generation of the Guerlain family’s master perfumers, had she been growing up within an era of equality, but de Nicolaï has gone on to have her own eponymous fragrance brand – Parfums de Nicolai – is a member of the technical committee of the French Society of Perfumers and now president of the Osmothèque scent archive – striding forth on her own path rather than resting on her laurels. Having been decorated as a knight of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, it’s fair to say de Nicolai is one of the all-time (if unsung) great perfumers. An inspiration.

Chantal Roos is legendary in the fragrance world for commissioning and launching some of the biggest fragrances of all time – seeking out the best of the best way ahead of her contemporaries. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent‘s Opium and Kouros, Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique and Issey Miyake‘s L’Eau d’Issey have the genius marketing savvy of Roos to thank. Now working with her delightful and equally talented (musician and composer) daughter Alexandra on their own perfume line, Dear Rose; Roos can concentrate on launching fragrances closest to her own heart. Not so much #sisterdoingitforthemselves as a mother and daughter doing just that.

We’re donating a raffle prize to the International Women’s Day Celebration taking part this evening: Wednesday 8th March 2017
Venue: Good & Proper, 96A Leather Lane, London, EC1N 7TX
Time: 6.30pm – 9pm
Details: £20 on the door – £10 of that goes straight to the charities and then the other £10 goes on wine/beer/soft drinks and food which will all be laid on.
Organiser Roxy Walton says: ‘As well as selling the usual raffle tickets – for which there are some really great prizes this year – I have a fresh delivery from the Women’s Interlink Foundation of beautiful items handmade by women who have been rescued from human trafficking and the sex industry in West Bengal, India. Silk pyjama bottoms, weekend bags, silk wash bags, silk scarves and much more – nothing will cost more than £35 and it’s all lovely. Convenient shopping opportunity for anyone buying Mother’s Day gifts and I will accept IOU’s if you don’t have enough cash! 100% of the sales will go back to them.
The other two charities we’re supporting are Women For Refugee Women  and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. I will have lots more information on the incredible work they do to share with you on the night…’
Written by Suzy Nightingale