7 agosto 2017

The Masters of Perfume: Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) (2)

At the beach in Belle-Île (1930s)
If you enjoyed the first part of this portrait of Germaine Cellier, surely her first years as a perfumer will thrill you, specially the years spent in Roure Bertrand Dupont, that ain't always easy. After a brief period in functional perfumery at Colgate-Palmolive, in 1943 Germaine Cellier gets back to Roure.
Till the end of the 1920s perfumery was ruled by names like Houbigant, Guerlain, Coty and Caron. It was only since a decade that fashion houses ventured in the olfactory realm and designers like Poiret, Patou, Lanvin and Chanel directly collaborated with perfumers in a special, almost exclusive relationship. So Roure and other producers, essentially confined themselves to provide them with natural and synthetic raw materials, innovative bases and specialties for the time. But the wind was changing.

Shocking ad
by Marcel Verte (1937)
During the 1930s, Louis Amic steered the Roure company in the daring direction of creating fine perfumes directly dealing with the big dressmakers of the time. Having understood perfume had become an essential part of the feminine elegance, their reply to the call won't be late.
The first customer will be Elsa Schiaparelli for whom Jean Carles will create Shocking in 1937. Many others will follow so that in 1939 Roure was one of the major European producers of raw materials for perfumery and toiletries. Such moment of great freedom for perfumers will be crucial also for Germaine and her revolutionary ideas.

The green line - Henri Matisse (1905)
Germaine Cellier was a chemist first of all. The rigorous training allowed her to approach perfume composition without constraints and stylistic prejudices just like abstract and fauvist painters, taking a break from academic tradition and giving way to a more emotional elevation of color. Her palette is made or raw materials and her creations are daring, sometimes even brutal. Rhythmic, tonal and dissonant like the music from Igor Stravinskij, her composing style favors short formulas for the time forecasting the next decades and greatly innovating the public taste. "One has a nose. The nose scents and it chooses. An artist is simply a kind of pig snouting truffles" once said Stravisnkij. Also Germaine Cellier conceived perfumery as a talent, the sense of formula is an intuition where there are no made-up rules and one can hardly learn it.
This belief, together with the feeling that chemistry will more and more impact perfumery in the future, sets her opposed to Jean Carles, who those years founded his method and the first perfumery school in Roure.
So in 1946 Louis Amic thought too many cooks in the kitchen spoiled the broth. He founded then Exarome and put Germaine Cellier as lab chief. The first head office was in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a shabby old hôtel particulier at the corner between rue de Rouvray and boulevard Victor Hugo.
Germaine concocted there her first successes, followed by a patient assistant and a handyman she nicknamed "Foujita" for his oriental-like features. 
Given the precarious building, Exarome will eventually move to avenue de Neuilly (nowadays Charles de Gaulle), not far from where today are many companies in the industry.

<Part 1> <Part 3>

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