In 1798, right after the French Revolution, the House of Lubin Perfume opened their doors for business and their list of devoted clients included Napoleon Bonaparte’s ladies, his wife Empress Josephine and sister, Pauline Bonaparte. Currently, the company is still enjoying a worldwide devoted clientele. From then until now, its history has had many ups, downs, twists and turns that brought them to where they are today.
Gilles Thevenin – the Man with the Vision
I had the pleasure to spend a day with the warm and charming President of Lubin Perfumes, Monsieur Gilles Thevenin, at their office during a recent visit to Paris, and what an incredible pleasure it was. To be in the presence of a man with so much passion, encyclopedic knowledge and vision, and so willing to share it all, was not just an overwhelming privilege, but also a pure delight. To be surrounded by contemporary perfumes I love and learning of their historic origin, while having the opportunity to smell those that are still in the works was a thrill beyond compare.
Museum Quality Vintage Bottles from Centuries Ago
It was amazing to view the archives, filled with pages upon pages of beautiful vintage labels and advertising posters from way back when. Lubin even made cosmetics in the 30’s. Holding in my hands exquisite museum quality perfume bottles from centuries ago was an experience that this perfume lover will always remember with extreme fondness and respect.
Original Paris Shop in 1798
From Royalty to the 18th Century Trendsetters
Lubin Perfumes was founded by Pierre-Francois Lubin who studied perfume in Grasse beginning at the age of 10. He then opened the first Lubin Perfume boutique at 53 rue Sainte Anne in Paris in 1798. Pierre-Francois named the shop Au Bouquet de Roses, which was a nod to Marie Antoinette, whom he helped create perfume for during his early apprenticeship, throughout her imprisonment and before her tragic fate. The shop flourished and enjoyed business by the post French Revolution trendsetters, known then as Les Incroyables (The Incredibles) and their beautiful ladies and courtesans, known as Les Merveilleuses (The Marvelous). This extravagant group became the ‘IT”’ group of their day, and were the symbol of a new Parisian Savoir-Vivre.
A Horse Race, a Princess and a Disco Ball
Pierre-Francois Lubin had no heirs to pass the company on to, and so by the mid 19th century, he had sold the House of Lubin to a French family business. Throughout their ownership, some very fine fragrances were created. Nuit de Longchamp (1934), celebrating the Longchamp racetrack in Paris. L de Lubin, (1974) was very popular with the disco set because of its oriental spices. The most famous, and still extremely popular is Gin Fizz (1955). This sparkling, fresh chypre was created as an ode to Grace Kelly when she won an Oscar for Country Girl, before she was Princess of Monaco. It’s rumored she was wearing Gin Fizz when the Prince of Monaco proposed. These three fragrances have been modernized but still use essences from the original formula and are part of The Classic Collection.
Author with Gilles Thevenin/Bottle of current Akkad Perfume
Reviving the Brand
Sadly, by the 1980’s the company had changed hands a few times and Lubin Perfumes practically ceased to exist. Gilles Thevenin, who was a Creative Director at Guerlain cosmetics at the time, came across the name, and knowing its fantastic history went on a mission to bring the company, and its outstanding perfumes, back to life. Of course, he couldn’t buy it on his own. During our day together, he explained, “I found the name of one of the oldest luxury brands in the world, and no one was interested in it”. After a lot of exploring he found some others who shared his vision and in 1998, the House of Lubin stood proud again with Gilles at the helm. Incredibly, through a grapevine of connections he met with some former owners and was able to procure Lubin’s original formula journals, which Pierre-Francois Lubin began writing when he was a 10 year old apprentice in the 1700’s. However, Gilles explained to me that he wanted Lubin to be a modern house of luxury perfumes, and not just recreate the old recipes and so he set out to craft modern perfumes that anchored to their original, yet were new. He worked with Thomas Fontaine, a perfumer who specializes in reformulating vintage perfumes for modern times using current ingredients and relaunched some of their classics, mentioned above. Additionally, the company was able to locate some of Lubin’s perfumers from the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s who also aided in the mission and contributed valuable information and some of the missing details of forgotten formulas. Their premier launch from the new team was an updated Idole in 2005. From there, Lubin went on to launch modern versions of L’Eau Neuve (2007), Nuit de Longchamp and L de Lubin (2008), Gin Fizz (2009) and Black Jade (2011) when Thevenin was given a black talisman owned by Marie Antoinette that still had some perfume in it. Since then, there have been entirely new perfumes created as well. See the review of Grisette (2015) here.
Lubin Paris boutique today
The House of Lubin Today
Monsieur Thevenin has a holistic approach to running the company and is involved with every detail. Rather than going to the large perfume companies that make perfumes for many, Gilles works closely with notable perfumers such as Thomas Fontaine, Lucien Ferrero, Olivia Giacobetti and Delphine Thierry. He’s involved with bottle design as well as overseeing their boutique located in Paris on 2 rue des Canettes, in the Saint Germain des Pres area. See above how the modern boutique gives a nice nod to the design of the original shop.
If you’re ever in Paris, shop by the charming boutique, and for more information on Lubin and their perfumes, visit their website filled with information about their rich history, their beautiful perfumes, gorgeous artwork and photography, all set to the most interesting music choices. The website can be viewed in 6 languages http://lubin-parfum.fr/
In NYC you can buy Lubin perfumes at Aedes de Venustas, 7 Greenwich Ave. http://www.aedes.com