theLady 11/01/20 11:29
The Death of Joy and Farewell Jean Patou
Something I was fearing has happened. The house of Jean Patou is now dead when it comes to fragrance production.... The acquisition of the brand by LVMH was the final sign that things were coming to an end, and when they released a perfume called Joy under the Dior umbrella, it was clear that nothing good was going to happen with the original Joy, launched by Jean Patou in 1930.
But I still had some hope, as I saw LVMH's efforts in bringing back the couture house. Unfortunately, the death of the perfume line is now official, and you can see it on the Patou (they dropped the Jean) website, clear for everyone to behold (and weep about).
Yes, you are reading it well: "Today, Jean Patou's fragrances are no longer in production."
Joy Forever... Ironic, huh?
It's the end of an era, for all those who recognize Joy as an icon of perfumery, but also the end of many other scents, like 1000 and Sublime, pieces of olfaction that are a part of so many people's memories and personal stories. Maybe there just aren't enough buyers of these fragrances in the world. Maybe their time has passed and they have become fragrance zombies. As for me, I think that Joy is just as timeless and important as Chanel Nº5. But what was once the "Costliest Perfume in The World" seems to have lost its market value, at least for its current owners, LVMH.
The death of Joy is something we should worry about, because it's a significant part of a collective history, especially in France. It's part of the French cultural heritage, and it should be cherished by those who purchased the rights to produce it, even if it would become a limited distribution edition. Fortunately, there is still the Osmotheque in Paris, where the original formula is kept available for everyone to smell.
Jean Patou's fragrances were a very important part of the business for the French couturier. He opened his perfume business after watching Paul Poiret (in 1911), Coco Chanel (in 1921) and Jeanne Lanvin (in 1924) making money out of their first fashion designer fragrances. In 1925, he released his first two scents: Amour Amour and Que Sais-Je?, the first one was a floral bouquet dedicated to women with lighter skin and the second one was a fruity chypre dedicated to women with darker skin. The line became a trio with Adieu Sagesse, a gardenia soliflore created for redheads. As described by Emmanuelle Polle in her book Jean Patou - Fashionable Life, "these three perfumes were designed for different hair types, three types of skin, and therefore three types of women. Their order of appearance suggests the three stages of a lovers' relationship, from the first thrill to the pleasure of succumbing." This idea of moments in the love process was further explored by the designer in other perfumes like the first unisex fragrance Le Sien (1929), the rose-jasmine pièce de resistance Joy (1930), and Moment Suprême (1931), a spicy floral bouquet.
Henri Alméras, a perfumer that had worked before for Paul Poiret, was the creator of all the Patou perfumes that I've mentioned, as well as Chaldée, a fragrance that came to the world firstly as a scented tanning oil, and knew great success, especially in coastal places like Deauville and Monte-Carlo. The perfume branch of the Patou company was growing and it had subsidiaries in New York, as well as fields of roses and jasmine in Grasse, for it's own use in perfumes. "This control of every stage of production is another example of the care Jean Patou put into everything. It also reflects his fierce desire for independence, the better to run his house as he saw fit," references Emmanuelle Polle.
In 1936, following France's paid vacations initiative, Jean Patou launched Vacances, which was more successful than Colony, launched in 1938, at a moment when independence movements were rising. Among his masculine releases, we had Normandie in 1935, Patou Pour Homme (1980), and Voyageur (1995). Jean Patou was always looking for something different; in 1928 he released Cocktail Dry, Cocktail Sweet, and Cocktail Bitter Sweet, three perfumes that were made for layering with seven bottles of concentrated extracts called Angosturas. They all came inside a wooden box, and they recall the time when Patou had an actual cocktail bar inside his boutique in Paris.
Jean Patou as a company suffered from going through the years of economic recession, but it had a contradictory approach: when things got tough, luxury was boosted. Even when the company was in difficulties, and so was its clientele, Patou's approach was always to surprise the market with seemingly nonsensical products. That was the case of Joy, the quintessence of rarity and supreme opulence. When in 1929, Jean Patou smelled the unreleased sample of what was to be Joy, he loved it, but the perfumer told him it would be impossible to release it in the marker, for the essences that had been used were too expensive, and impossible to use commercially due to the prohibitive price. Jean Patou took this answer and turned this perfume into a marketing strategy, announcing Joy as "The World's Costliest Perfume." It was a success!
An ounce of Joy had a retail price of 40 dollars, the most expensive perfume at the time. As told by Emmanuelle Polle, "What the clients would soon learn was that this ounce of perfume was produced through the extraction of some 10,600 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses. It was a gargantuan perfume, requiring huge quantities of fresh flowers. The couturier-perfumer was not one for artifice, be it in the way silk was worked or the walk of a model on the runway, or the ingredients of a perfume. The same line of conduct prevailed in his perfumes and his fashions: the quest for naturalness and the very best raw materials."
Joy was different from the previous Patou perfumes. First of all, unlike all the precious releases from the house, this bottle was very simple, austere and geometric, much in sync with the Art Deco style, and following the footsteps of the hit of Chanel Nº5. Second, the composition was for all women, more universal and not directed at a specific skin color or a particular event. It was a simple name, but very meaningful for everyone, everywhere. Joy was also jumping in the floral rose-jasmine trend initiated with Chanel Nº5, but whereas Chanel's take depended on artificiality and illusions, Patou's approach was mainly about naturalness and tradition.
After the death of the designer in 1936, the Jean Patou perfume production went from hand to hand with several ups and downs, until it recently fainted and deceased in the hands of LVMH. The name Jean Patou has 52 perfumes in our fragrance base, and the latest release was in 2016. Jean Patou fragrances were made in collaboration with perfumers Jean Kerleo, Jean-Michel Duriez, Henri Almeras, Henri Giboulet, Guy Robert, and Thomas Fontaine (read HERE our interview with him, where we talk about the days when Jean Patou seemed to be on the right track, again).
Of course, there are many more perfumes from the house of Jean Patou that are wonderful, and you can even take a look at our article Best In Show Jean Patou Fragrances. Let's not forget 1000 (1972), Sublime (1992), and Patou For Ever, created by Jean Kerleo. But Joy is, or should be, considered an indelible cultural heritage of perfume history and French culture.
In 2014, when the brand belonged to Designer Parfums, Joy Forever was re-created by perfumer Thomas Fontaine in an attempt to allure younger crowds into the magic of Joy with a fresher, musky, and slightly fruity composition. However, it did not seem to convince. Before that, Sira des Indes was also another interesting scent in need of highlighting, composed by Jean-Michel Duriez when the brand belonged to Procter & Gamble. This indolic, spicy, fruity, tropical scent was not met with much enthusiasm either. What Jean Patou needed was to keep the classic Joy and create a new world today. LVMH could have done that. Instead, they took the name of the masterpiece in order to apply it to a nondescript forgettable scent in the Dior portfolio, and after that they closed the historical house of Patou, leaving the world forever without Joy.
Miguel Matos Editor, Writer, Translator
Miguel has been a Fragrantica editor and columnist since 2013, and his work has been recognized by the Fragrance Foundation and the Perfumed Plume Awards several times, as well as by the Art and Olfaction Awards in 2019. He has a list of olfactory art exhibitions, including Making the Body Think, in Los Angeles, at the Institute for Art and Olfaction. He wrote the book "The Perfumed Zodiac" (in Portuguese) and launched his own line of fragrances, Miguel Matos Olfactory Art. His perfumer portfolio includes fragrances made for Bruno Acampora, Calaj, Der Duft, Horai Studio, Nishane and Sarah Baker.
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