If there’s a cosmetic company in existence today that has a more legendary past than Guerlain, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. The French brand with a flagship store on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées was started by Pierre-François Pascal Guerlain (1798’1864).
His was the first of four generations of Guerlain-family perfumers, who started out making fragrances ‘to hide the smell of leather gloves,’ according to François Carlier, Montreal-based president of Guerlain Canada.
Guerlain went on to make beauty products and perfumed toilet water: Eau de Cologne Impériale, made for Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III (but worn by men, too), came out in 1853, making 2013 its 160th anniversary. ‘It’s the oldest fragrance in the world still in production,’ says Carlier. ‘I wear it.’
The company’s newest is the fruity-floral La Petite Robe Noire by perfumer Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s ‘nose’ since 2008. It was designed to target a younger consumer, says Carlier, and was introduced last year with a light-hearted campaign.
You can follow the fascinating trail of perfume history’and the generations of in-house Guerlain family perfumers who put their stamp on the house’on the guerlain.com website (click on ‘Heritage’).
The company was bought by the luxury-brand conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton/Moët Hennessy) in 1994. Along with Eau de Cologne Impériale, a good clutch of Guerlain’s early perfumes are still in production.
While fragrance is central, Guerlain is also known for luxurious skincare products such as the Orchidée Impériale line, and the Terra Cotta line of makeup. Says Carlier,’We were the first to bring out a bronzer, in 1984.’
And the makeup item that flies out the door in Canada? It’s KissKiss LipLift, a smoothing lip primer stick that keeps lipstick in place. ‘We can’t keep enough of it in stock,’ says Carlier.