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GUERLAIN ANARCHY


Sylvaine Delacourte recently announced her exit from fragrance development at Guerlain to promote her own fragrance brand. However, she will still be "a consultant" for Guerlain.

It was the advent of marketing in perfumery in the 1980s that ignited Sylvaine Delacourte's career at Guerlain. Jean-Paul Guerlain's role was reduced from solo artist to being part of a team when she became the brand's fragrance evaluator. Héritage (1992) was her first fragrance project with Jean-Paul Guerlain, and after the LVMH takeover, she invited other perfumers to become part of the team, like Olivia Giacobetti who collaborated on Petit Guerlain (1994). In 1996, for the first time Guerlain's marketing department chose an external perfumer's prototype (Olivier Cresp's Champs-Elysées) over that of Jean-Paul Guerlain's. Subsequently, perfumer Mathilde Laurent created several successful fragrances for Guerlain, of which Pamplelune (1999) is still in production.

When Jean-Paul Guerlain closed the curtain on an era with his retirement in 2002, the brand became a melting pot of various external perfumers, coordinated by Sylvaine Delacourte who devised the fragrance briefs. She had by then risen through the ranks to bear the official title of Guerlain's Artistic Director. "I am what you call a nose," she proclaimed in 2005, and she would often talk about the creations that ensued — L’Instant de Guerlain, Insolence, Cologne du 68, L’Instant Magic, the L’Art & la Matière and Les Elixirs Charnels fragrances, Mon Précieux Nectar, and La Petite Robe Noire — as entirely her own.

A confusion about who actually directed whom arose in 2008 when Thierry Wasser was chosen as Guerlain's in-house perfumer. Today, Guerlain seems to have openly and completely dismantled the traditional idea of the perfumer as a solo artist, stating that the company's olfactive output isn’t attributable to one man’s genius, but to the joint forces of a large, unstructured team of people with various professional backgrounds. Sylvaine Delacourte has said that "a brief can come from the girls in the marketing, from me, from Thierry. No one has the monopoly." Guerlain's creative team includes perfumer Delphine Jelk, who has been involved in the development of most of the brand's fragrances since La Petite Robe Noire.

The Guerlain image is founded on a distinct and firmly rooted olfactive DNA, but today, it seems to be ruled by anarchy.
(November 2016)


Some images courtesy of guerlain.com


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