FOR THOSE IN THE NOSE
Since 1775, the exceptional scents from the House of Houbigant have been favoured by kings, queens and movie stars
It is said that when Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine in 1793, she placed three vials of perfume made by Jean-Francois Houbigant in her corset to give her courage. Over the next two centuries, the House of Houbigant went on to supply Queen Victoria and other European royals among other distinguished clientele – including Napoleon, who has visited the shop on several occasions and who is said to always carry some bottles of Houbigant in his trunk during his campaigns around Europe.
Houbigant is now owned by the Perris family, who are committed to the firm’s proud heritage. “I grew up surrounded by Houbigant fragrances,” says Creative Director Elisabetta Perris. “My father worked with the last member of Houbigant family. Since 2005, we have been working very hard to perpetrate the heritage and traditions of this house.”
Houbigant has done this with a twin approach. On the one hand, it is restoring some of its vintage perfumes and fragrances, but it is simultaneously collaborating with some of the industry’s greatest contemporary “noses” to develop exciting new lines. All are available in the world’s finest department stores and boutiques.
“We work with raw material suppliers in the French town of Grasse, the world capital of perfume,” says Elisabetta. “For the packaging we source as much as possible in Europe and we try to work in a way that is more sustainable. Everything we do is about trying to achieve the best possible quality. One thing that is very important to us is the concentration of the fragrance. We only do fragrance that is very highly concentrated.” The special lines include the gorgeous Limited Edition Collections flacons. These come in signed and numbered annual editions made with the finest crystal from Cristallerie de Montbronn. Each piece is designed and hand-painted by Elisabetta, who is an artist as well as creative director.
The king and queen of the House of Houbigant are Fougère Royale, for men, created in 1882; and Quelques Fleurs L’Original, for women, created in 1912. Both are groundbreaking fragrances that have established new categories in the classification of perfumes. A fougère is a perfume that usually features an accord of bergamot, lavender, geranium, oakmoss and coumarin. “Fougère is still the most important men’s fragrance category,” says Elisabetta. “Ours was the first fougère ever created. What was special was that it was the first perfume to be created after an idea. Before, perfumes came from the raw material, whether that was jasmine or rose or else. Fougère was about the perfumer, Paul Parquet, trying to recreate a smell that he associated with that of a fern. That was a completely new idea in fragrance.” Similarly, Houbigant’s Quelques Fleurs L’Original was the first multi-floral bouquet ever created, spawning numerous imitators.
It is this prestigious heritage that the Perris family are expanding upon through Houbigant’s new and vintage fragrances. “We keep the brand alive by creating new fragrances because we don’t want to live only in the past,” says Elisabetta. “We have a history of innovation as well as of heritage and high quality and this will be continued in the 21st century. We are still a family firm so we understand what is important. We are able to put all the focus on the quality of what we produce – the choice of the raw materials, and the way they are blended together to find a perfect balance and to leave a memorable sillage – which is what a great perfume is all about.”