8 agosto 2017

The Masters of Perfume: Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) (3)

Bandit ad by Bouldoires (1948)
The genius of Germaine Cellier can only be measured within the frame of her larger-than-life, remarkable creations.
The crucial event was meeting Robert Piguet, an ex-modelist trained at Paul Poiret's atelier who after WWII enstablished his own fashion house. His style is lively, full of drive and desire for reward after the dark years of the war.

In 1944 he debuted with a mythical collection inspired by buccaneers and their adventures by faraway seas that was paired by the launch of Bandit, a leathery chypre bearing a brutal sensuality. To evoke the dangerous smell of leather and forays Germaine dares to use 1% of iso-butyl-quinoleine, a molecule doused till then with fear for its violence.

Vent Vert ad by René Gruau (1947)
In 1945 her friend Pierre Balmain asks her to translate his elegantl, joyful style. That's how Vent Vert was born, the first green floral again built around a powerful raw material, galbanum. Its herbaceous, metallic sparkle bearing moist, earthy floral reflections was far from being a crowd-pleaser, but in the decades will become a reference for many creators. The perfume beautifully illustrated by René Gruau will be sold in a green felt pocket as wanted by Germaine herself.
In 1947, again for Balmain, Germaine creates Elysées 63.84 from the fashion house telephone number. The same year she composes for Nina Ricci Cœur Joie, an aldehydic floral presented in a Lalique crystal flacon designed by Christian Bérard.
In 1948 another hit for Robert Piguet was Fracas, the unapologetic Diva of all the soliflores that since then seduced men and women, from Walter Albini to Mark Jacobs, from Marilyn to Sofia Coppola including Brigitte Bardot, Courtney Love and Madonna. Nowadays, though reformulated more than once, it still represents the prototype for tuberose in perfumery.

Marie-Thérèse in a
Balmain Jolie Madame flannel suit
Pic by Tom Kublin (1956)
In 1949 Balenciaga launches La Fuite des Heures, later renamed with the less lyrical Fleeting Moment: the come back of aldehydic florals leads Germaine to find here an original interpretation thanks to a bunch of jasmine and wild thyme.
The success of Bandit drew attention to Mademoiselle Cellier and in 1952 she collaborated with Balmain on another leathery perfume: Jolie Madame. This time it's a soft, floral leather with a sly touch. Pierre Balmain will define it "the perfume of adventure for the evenings of passion and enchantment".
In 1964 she created Monsieur Balmain focusing on the brisk freshness of verveine and lemongrass. Pierre Balmain himself will ask her for a bespoke Eau de geranium.
For Hermès she composed the long lost Eau d’herbes aiming to suggest the outdoors freshness of fresh cut grass.

Germaine Cellier (right) with her hiece Martine
and Christian Boussus
The last years
Later she will compose cosmetic fragrances for Elizabeth Arden and the US market but there's almost no evidence of this. During the 1970s her health became failing, maybe because of inhaling too many vials in the lab or more likely for too much Johnny Walker and too many cigarettes.
Christian Boussus will take care of her till  the death by pulmonary edema on June 1976. To her heart's desired, she's been buried close to her parents in Pau, far from the Parisian highlights.
Germaine Cellier has surely been the most influent women in perfumery from the last century, forerunner and inspiration in the business to many other women like Josephine Catapano and Sophia Grojsman. Her genius, as great as her exuberance were immediately understood by Roure Bertrand Dupont who then granted her carte blanche to compose such modern masterpieces.
Fortunately we're faraway from the flattening market consolidating in the last decades. Impossible to imagine her creations passing right through any test panel!

<Part 1> <Part 2>

Main sources:
- "Le sens de la formule", Martine Azoulai - Vanity Fair France No. 14, August 2014
- "M.me Cellier Germaine", Jeanine Mongine - Société Française des Parfumeurs

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