Parfums d'Orsay was established in 1865. Its first product, L'Eau de Bouquet, was said to be a perfume created by the firm's namesake, Count Alfred d'Orsay, who had died thirteen years before Parfums d'Orsay was born.
Companie Française des Parfums dorsal was established in 1908 by a group of investors who may have acquired the rights to the name from the former company's owners or their heirs. The 1908 investors, French, Dutch, and German, were Leo Fink, Siegred and Sally Berg, and M. Van Dyck. Fink would go on, in 1922, to found Parfums Forval (renamed "Forvil" in 1923 by a new owner).
In 1916 d'Orsay was acquired by Jeanne-Louise Guérin in association with Théophile Bader. (Bader, co-founder of the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris, would, in 1925, become a co-founder of Parfums Chanel.) Under Jeanne-Louise Guérin's management, d'Orsay flourished. By 1931 annual sales had reached 5 million bottles.
Jacques Guérin, Jeanne-Louise's son by Gaston Monteux, was sent to Toulouse to study chemistry. After completing his studies he joined his mother's company where he would work for the next sixty plus years.
In 1936 Jean-Louise bought out her investors and Jacques Guérin became director, a position he would hold for over fifty years, steering the company through the depression and war years.
By 1983 however, the company had foundered. While d'Orsay was his day job, Jacques Guérin's true passion was literature and he was both a collector of and promoter of modern French authors. Guérin, now 81 years old (he would live to be 98), had allowed the d'Orsay business to die.
1993 saw the beginning of a new age for d'Orsay when Groupe Marignan acquired the name. By 1995 d'Orsay fragrances were again reaching the market under the guidance of its new director, Claude Broll. Broll, it was said, was passionate about the company, its products and its history, but short on time and resources to develop it.
In 2007, d'Orsay was acquired by Marie Huet, a lover of perfume but, perhaps more important, a professional marketer. Under her leadership, d'Orsay is again building its reputation for elegance and quality.
Count Alfred D'Orsay
The image of the D'Orsay fragrances was based on the life and legend of Count Alfred D'Orsay (1801-1852), best known for his role in the fashion world as a "Dandy", second only in Dandyism to England's Beau Brummel.
But D'Orsay was also known to have been a talented sketch artist as can be seen in his work that has survived. He was also alleged to have been an amateur perfumer.
The amateur perfumer claim is made more credible by the observations of his contemporaries that he was known for wearing six pair of gloves a day reindeer gloves for his morning ride, chamois gloves for hunting, beaver gloves for the ride to London, braided kid gloves for afternoon shopping, yellow dogskin gloves for a dinner party, and finally, lambskin gloves embroidered with silk for an evening ball.
The significance of the gloves is, of course, in their relationship to perfume. Glove makers and perfume makers were part of the same (French) guild the guild which was to establish Grasse as the heart of French perfumery. (Grasse's glovemakers had begun to develop perfumes to knock the stench out of the leather from which their gloves were made.)
This possible thread of relationship between D'Orsay and perfume was enough to spark the creation of Parfums D'Orsay. But it was the long dead Count's social connections and high fashion lifestyle that powered the marketing efforts of Parfums D'Orsay. D'Orsay's fragrances were given names that related to Count D'Orsay themes, the most obvious being the 1923 introduction of Le Dandy, a direct reference to the dead Count. It is likely that other D'Orsay fragrance names had "insider" meanings not understood by the general, perfume buying public.
Bottles, Manufacturing, Public Relations, and Distribution
In 1916, manufacturing facilities were established at Neuilly puis á Puteau and a retail shop set up on the fashionable rue de la Paix.
Bottles were created for d'Orsay by Baccarat, Nancy, Brosse, Lalique, and Süe et Mare (Louis Süe and Andre Mare). In the 1920's Paul C. Delaize became a designer for d'Orsay and a number of design patents were filed in the United States under his name.
In the 1920's distribution became extensive. Antonio Puig, founder of the Puig Beauty and Fashion Gruop, distributed d'Orsay products in Spain. In the United States, "travelers" for d'Orsay placed the products in many upscale pharmacies and department stores. In addition to France, d'Orsay fragrances found their way to England and other European countries.
The beauty of the d'Orsay bottles helped insure the popularity of d'Orsay fragrances and often the bottles themselves became more prized than the scents which they held. Historically, the bottles continue to be prized while the fragrances themselves, for all their costly ingredients, have not been remarked as being of unusual originality.
Perfumes By D'Orsay
Guérins, mother and son, information from Lorenza Foschini's Proust's Overcoat. Additional information from Perfume Intelligence, Cleopatra's Boutique, and Marie Huet's interview for Fragrantica.com.
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