Jean-François Houbigant was born in Paris, France on December 21, 1752 to Nicolas Houbigant and Geneviève Rolinard, both servants. His father's cousin was chamber boy to King Louis XV's sixth daughter Princess Sophie Justine de France, later known as "Madame Sophie" at Versailles.
His mother and father worked for the Duke and Duchess of Charost, who owned a mansion at what is now 39 Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. For fifteen months Armand II Joseph Bethune-Chârost, the 6th Duke of Chârost (b.1728 - d.1800) had been raised by his mother, the Duchess of Ancenis. His grandfather had just died. The little son had inherited his title and fortune. A year after, the young Duke of Bethune-Charost married a girl of fourteen: Louise Edmee Martel Fontaine-Bolbec, who was from a wealthy family who owned three castles in the province: Beaumesnil in Normandy, Chamilly in Burgundy and Gacougnelle in Poitou.
It is said that the Duchess was very kind and that she decided to take Jean-François under her wing by giving him an education and a modest nest egg to start in life.
Jean-Francois was seven when Edmee Martel had married the Duke of Charost. It was here that he was encouraged by the duchess to go to school, he received a good education, as was customary in these wealthy homes. He also learned the way of the Faubourg Saint-Honore, accompanying his mother when she was doing the work at the Charost hotel.
When did it occur to him to be a perfumer? A maid sees a lot, and having access to the cosmetics and perfumes of the aristocracy, Jean-François was inspired. A cousin of Ms. Fontaine-Bolbec, Count Charles Martel had his hotel on rue Saint-Honoré, near the perfumer Deschamps. At the age of 20, the young Houbigant went in as an apprentice to the perfumer Deschamps. Jean-François Houbigant would thus become a master perfumer under the tutelage of his future father-in-law, allowing him to open a shop and sell his own products.
The court of Louis XV was known as "la cour parfumee", or "the perfumed court"; there a different perfume was ordained for each day. The use of odors, blushes and powders, is being introduced in the French manners, like the Italians, the Glovers. At the time, the fashion for perfume was in full swing primarily because of the awful stench in the streets of Paris and from its inhabitants. The king's mistress, Madame de Pompadour, her bills are alone evidence of her preoccupation with perfumery, two of her favorite scents were Eau de Portugal and Huile de Venus. Also available to preserve her beauty was Eau Admirable, a facial wash.
Houbigant sought to seduce this noble clientele that was loving the finery of elegance. By installing in the district of the Faubourg Saint-Honore in the second half of the eighteenth century, the young perfumer-glover already demonstrated great flair, in fact this area of Paris at this time was a new district which enjoyed a craze and as a result, its inhabitants built many new shops, restaurants and mansions.
The young Jean-François worked his way into this community of merchants, who were licensed to make and sell perfumes, powders, ointments, soaps, scented water, gloves, mittens, and knitted leather. The statutes in this community,which required four years of education followed by three years of apprenticeship, were enacted in 1190 during the reign of Philippe II duke of Orléans (also known as Philippe-Auguste) and were renewed by Louis XIV in 1656. Patents cost 50 pounds and 550 pounds for certification.
He rented a boutique that was part of an apartment building belonging to the Vignon family of wine merchants on this street and took as his trademark the phrase: “Houbigant is a perfume merchant, glove manufacturer, and creator of powders, ointments, and the highest-quality blush; he also makes and sells assorted wedding and christening baskets”. He named the shop "A la Corbeille de Fleurs" ("at the flower basket").
His first products were toilet waters, scented gloves, floral extracts, gloves, fans, wig powders, burning pastilles, and face powders. His earliest patron was his old friend, the Duchesse de Charost whom he created the pommade a la Duchesse. Other notable women such as Madame du Barry and Ninon de l'Enclos, enjoyed the scented offerings of Houbigant.
Houbigant set up a principle that has been followed by the house to this day to let nothing stand in the way of prestige. He opened his little shop in the very heart of fashionable Paris and risked his all on the quality of his goods.
Soon he found a footing for trade in the society of the day. There is in existence a simple written invoice that lacks heading or any of the printed accessories of modern accounting but is dated for the second half of the 1790 for 203 livres of perfumery to the Comtesse de Matignon.
On the left: the itemized statement of the Comtesse de Matignon's account.
Paris à l'époque de Balzac et dans la "Comédie humaine", 1992:
"At number 19, the perfumer Houbigant, was associated with Felix Chardin, his store has a "Arabie épicée", according to Lady Morgan. A specialty lies in the perfumed handkerchief, but it also sells gloves and art fans. The duchess of Maufrigneuse buys a lot, rule me hard. Balzac also knows this house."
He created his first toilet water named, L'eau d'Houbigant, a scent both refreshing and sweet, composed exclusively of flowers.
“It is to the beauty of the face all that the morning dew is to flowers; it refreshes and stimulates the skin, while imbuing it with exquisite smoothness, lending it a most delicate velvety aspect and protecting the complexion from all ailments of the skin. Used in the bath, it renders the body its strength and stimulates vital energy.”
Of his most famous clients, Houbigant had become the official supplier to Marie-Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, and her court. They provided these clients with powders, scented gloves, and toilet waters.
It was said that Marie Antoinette who reportedly hurried to Houbigant to get her perfume bottles refilled with Eau de Mousseline and Eau de Millefleurs before fleeing from Paris. A Houbigant legend, not verified, has it that when Marie Antoinette was fleeing to Varennes to escape the French revolutionaries she was recognized as royalty because of her Houbigant perfume, which only royalty could afford.
In 1905, Le Bulletin de l'art ancien et moderne, listed a porcelain cup that belonged to Marie Antoinette
"a soft-paste porcelain cup called the Queen closed by a seal in ancient silk "containing some of odorant component a potpourri made for Marie Antoinette, born according to the formula grant by Houbigant perfumer of the Court."
It is said he sent two perfumes to the Queen, one was named after her, Marie Antoinette and the other after her mother, Maria Theresa, the Empress of Austria. But the sovereign found the flattery too blatant and had not wished to accept them.
Here are some products that anyone could find in his shop:
- The perfumes Eau de Chypre, Eau de Millefleurs and Eau de Mousseline
- Dog-skin gloves for men, women, and children, such as winter and everyday gloves in all colors, gloves for larger hands, fur gloves, etc.
- White, flower-based powders made of orange flower, tuberose, Spanish flowers, frangipane, etc.
- Brown powders in Marshal, Sultana, and British styles, etc.
- Colored, odorless powders to degrease hair, prevent sweat, etc.
- Ointments made of roses, heliotrope, acacia, Milady, beef marrow with hazelnut oil, snail, etc.
- Quintessence made of neroli oil, myrtle, lavender, musk, etc.
- Scented water made of sweet water, cassia, cithara, cedar, distilled vinegar, essence of melissa, etc.
- Soaps – perfumed or not – made of Turkish rose, fine amber, neroli oil, carnations, herbs, etc.
- Marzipan made of honey, orange flowers, Spanish jasmine, etc.
- Ribbons from Bruges, Belgium
- Fine sponges
- Potpourri from Montpellier, France
- Sachets of iris flowers from Florence, Italy
- Swan tassels from Holland
- Powder masks
- Depilatory waxes
On the right: Trade card of Houbigant-Chardin, perfumers and chemists (parfumerie et chimiste), before lettering. With annotation identifying the card and dating it circa 1790. The image is etched and stipple engraved. The design consists of a blank lambrequin for text and a representation of goods with mythological figures referring to Medicine. The whole is surrounded by a thin rule. photo by Waddeson.
When the nineteenth century opened was firmly established with the court had extended his reputation. About time his records show that he was almost every famous personage with the court of France.
But perhaps the most interesting of the many ancient documents to be found in the big safes at the present establishment is the old ledger from the time of the last Napoleon. Running through this huge volume one finds a multitude of names famous in the world's history. Heads and princes of most of the royal houses of Europe side by side with Balzac, Talleyrand, Rothschild and the greatest names in literature art and finance of the period. One page of special interest bears the ledger account of Napoleon and it stops short on the day he left Paris just before war was declared between and Germany.
This information is given by the advertising brochure of the house Houbigant whose direction is now 7, Place Vendome. The plaque states that Josephine de Beauharnais and Madame Tallien Cacharel were furnished plenty of rose creams, Cythera ointments, and soaps of the sultanas. Madame Tallien Cacharel, Joséphine de Beauharnais, Fortunée Hamelin and Juliette Récamier who formed the Merveilleuses do Diretório.
It was Houbigant who devised the Parfum Recamier for the beautiful Madame Recamier who held sway until her death in 1849. Josephine, the future Empress of France, used to shop at Houbigant even before she married Napoleon. She belonged to a group of stylish young men and women called “The Muscadins” because of their craze for musk which was Josephine’s favourite essence.
On the left: The firm's first advertising medium early in the nineteenth century.
This is the back of the invoice shown in the following photo, and served as a catalogue of the various lines carried by the firm.
On October 22, 1807, Jean-François Houbigant died at the age of 55. He left a thriving business to his wife and son. It was Armand-Gustave that succeeded his father after his death, and built up a sound and flourishing business. Within a span of about four years, Armand-Gustave called it quits.
No one knows exactly why Armand-Gustave retired from the perfumery business but he ended up working as a scholar, as well as a friend of Stendhal, and the general counsel of the Oise, it was said that he was one of the outstanding personalities of the department.
In order to continue the work of her late husband and because of the statutes in this profession, the widow Nicole Adelaide had no choice but to marry the attorney and chief clerk of the store, Mr. Francois Maguy (b. 1765, Haute-Saône) after several years of widowhood. Maguy (also recorded as Magny) was said to be a thrifty man who sent his old clothes to his sister at Lure to be used by his nephew.
Maguy owned it for a short time, it was then that the company was known as Houbigant-Maguy. Maguy transferred the business in 1818 to a third perfumer, Felix Chardin, who was appointed Napoleon III’s personal perfumer. It was in 1815, according to the almanacs of the time, that Maguy-Houbigant gave way to the perfumer Chardin who had already formed a dynasty of perfumers.
The reputation of the Chardin family trade was firmly established before the master perfumer Jean-Theodore Chardin. Chardin's perfumes were well known by the wives of the aristocracy. The earliest mention I have found for them was for Gervais-Chardin "Parfumeur — a la cloche d'argent" of rue St Martin in 1790 where their shop had a sign with a silver bell on rue St. Martin. By 1831, they had another address at 15 boulevard des Italiens at the corner of the rue de Grammont. Gervais-Chardin gave not only his attention to the invention of new perfumes, but above all to the perfection of all. His shop offered, with all that is exquisite, perfume, the thousand small objects for the use of a woman; bottles, vases, small baskets of porcelain, and fans, as well as charming furniture designed to receive toiletries.
They shared the world of early French perfumery with the likes of Jean Artaud of rue St Denis (who also had a house in Grasse), Jean Chouillou of place Baudoyer, Marie Antoinette's personal perfume Fargeon of rue du Roule, Hadancourt of Pont St Michel, Joannis of place de l'Ecole (still in business in 1805), Logier of rue Bourg l'Abbé, and Prévôt of rue de l'Arbre-Sec during the late 18th century.
For there was now several Chardin perfumers throughout Paris:
- Gervais-Chardin, 248 rue Saint Martin and 15 boulevard des Italiens (c1790-1834 - in business since c1786)
- Jean-Theodore Chardin at 19, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (c1820)
- Chardin-Gamard at 10 and 12, rue de Bac (c1855)
- Charles-Edme Chardin-Hadancourt at 3 and 5, rue Saint Andre-des-Arcs (c1809-1852)
- Chardin Jeune at 103, rue des Neuve des Petit-Champs (c1864) and 21, Montagne de la Cour
- C. Chardin at 11 rue d'Enghien (and at factory at La Villette situated at 126 rue de Flanders) (c1855)
Chardin Jeune released a perfume called Bouquet de la Jungfrau in 1864, and also had a perfume called Violaceti, refreshing drops scented with Neapolitan violets.
From this period the business always belonged to perfumers.The Houbigant company was then called Houbigant-Chardin in some publications and advertisements. The succeeding members of the Houbigant family were always at pains to preserve the traditions of the house, and remained at the same address in the Faubourg Saint-Honore. The courtyard at 19, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré housed the perfumery staff and technicians Lambin and Hubault.
Houbigant fragrances traveled in Napoleon’s campaign chest during the years when he was conquering Europe. Napoleon liked to drench himself with Eau de Toilette and on May 17th 1815 when he only had three months in which to raise an army, he ordered perfumed gloves and other toiletries from his supplier, "Houbigant-Maguy, Marchand Parfumeur, Grande rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore." The bill of sale is part of the perfumer’s unique history collection.
In his book Memories of Saint-Helena, Victor Masson wrote that Napoleon’s wife Josephine was a devoted patron of Houbigant, and when her beloved husband lay dying, she had two of Houbigant’s perfumed pastilles burning in a cassolette in his bedroom.
Other early patrons were Madame de Crillon in 1816, Madame Dorville in 1823, Madame Wayett in 1825 and Mademoiselle Adelaide in 1827.
Proud of his commercial success. Chardin retired, and through his connections in the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, he married his niece to the famous Henry a la Pensee; haberdasher the number 5 which holds the famous shop "A la Pensee", especially places in the hands of his son the future of the perfumery.
In 1829, Charles Nicolas Gabillot became the owner of the perfumery. In 1830, he married Antoinette Clementine Chardin. They had a daughter, Marie Adélaïde.
It was Mademoiselle Adelaide who later became Princess Eugenie Adelaide Louise d’Orleans and appointed Monsieur Chardin, then the owner of Houbigant as her personal perfumer on May 8, 1829. By August of that same year, she had appointed Monsieur Gabillot, then the newest owner of Houbigant as her personal perfumer and with permission, used the Princess's Royal Arms over his shop.
Charles Nicolas Gabillot performed very well in profits and on January 10, 1838, when he was 33 years old, he received the title of perfumer to Her Majesty the Queen of England. For the occasion he took the opportunity and created "Windsor soap " and an almond paste scented with tuberose. The success of Maison Houbigant-Chardin is such that Gabillot became the owner of the large property with carriage porch entrance at number 3. Queen Victoria who evidently before even a new set of Royal Warrants could be prepared, appointed him her perfumer.
France in 1829-30, Volume 1, By Lady Morgan, 1830:
"PERFUMERY MAGAZIN DE FELIX HOUBIGANT - CHARDIN No one should leave Paris without visiting that spicy Araby of sweet odours the Magazin of the Sieur Felix Houbigant -Chardin in the Rue St Honore. I passed an hour there this morning in an atmosphere that penetrated to the very imagination and sent me home with ideas as musquees as my person. There is a philosophy in odours if one knew how to extract it attars and essences apply to the mind with considerable influence through the most susceptible but capricious of the senses."
On the left: a circa 1840 invoice
Gabillot joined Pierre Lemoine, a year older than him to operate an eau de vie distillery and grocery store. This longtime grocer kept both names shown as "Lemoine-Gabillot". The earliest record I have found of this name is 1832. Pierre's son Guillaume Pierre Lemoine married Charles Nicolas' daughter Marie Adélaïde Gabillot in 1822.
Elected notable merchant and honorary deputy, Gabillot's father decided to retire after 42 years in a comfortable apartment situated above the perfumery before going to end his old age at 2 rue du Marche-d'Aguesseau. In 1846, management of perfumery has therefore given over to his son, Pierre Gabillot.
Like the First, the Second Empire is also passionate for dances and parties for not loving the refinements of dress and odors. At the Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851, Houbigant-Chardin was awarded a prize medal for their scented gloves.
Pierre Gabillot took as partner Monsieur Domage (also reported as Dommange), in 1860. They retained the name "Houbigant-Chardin" (P. Gabillot et Domage, Successeurs) until 1879.
Later, the Emperor Napoleon III in 1870 appointed Houbigant as his royal perfumer.
In 1890, the house receives the badge of distinction be appointed perfumer named to the Court of Russia by Tsar Alexander III, strengthening the Franco-Russian alliance
By 1872, most of the products from the House of Houbigant were sold to the French aristocracy, nobility, clergy and the best known names in France. Other notable patrons were the Countess of Saxony and Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Mathilde, of Battenberg's Duke of Moucy, Lev Tolstoy, and Guy de Maupassant are just some of the personalities who preferred Houbigant fragrances. Houbigant perfumes were also favorites of Queen Mary, who contributed to the success of the name in Europe.
Javal & Parquet:
In 1881, the company was acquired by Alfred Javal & Paul-Marie Parquet, who was one of the first to use synthetics in his perfume creations. From 1879 and 1882 only the Paul Parquet name appears as owner of perfumery. Mr. Javal then became co-owner.
The Houbigant perfumery was so well developed (with branches all over the world, especially in New York) that from 1880 the manufacturing of products is no longer made at 19 Faubourg Saint-Honoré, but in Neuilly sur-Seine which had been installed large laboratories. In 1892, Alfred Javal bought the building in its entirety. After the company goes global, its plant in Neuilly-sur-Seine located at 141 Avenue du Roule was abandoned after the second World war.
Cassell's Illustrated Guide, 1884:
"EAU D'HOUBIGANT. The hygienic qualities and the delicious perfume of this Toilet Water has caused it to be universally appreciated as the most agreeable adjunct for the Toilet, the Bath, and the Handkerchief. HOUBIGANT, Perfumer to H.M the Queen of England and to the Russian court."
Parquet was the creator of the first fougere fragrance called Fougere Royale. With his use of coumarin in Fougère Royal, juxtaposed to lavender, citrus and woody notes, he revolutionized perfumery in being the first perfumer to ever use a synthetic fragrance material in his creations, and in conceptualizing a scent that was not an imitation of a natural smell, as ferns (fougère is French for fern) are basically odorless. Until its disappearance from the market in the late 1960s, Fougère Royale was often imitated and became the most typical representative of a whole family of related fragrance, the so-called fougère perfumes.
"If God gave ferns a scent, they would smell like Fougère Royal"- Paul Parquet
During this period, Houbigant stretched out its commercial arms around the world. Under the direction of the Paris office, offices were established in the United States, England, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Poland, Romania. Connections were made in Havana, Buenos-Aires, Rio-de-Janeiro, Australia, Japan, and China. The New York office had its own manufacturing facility distribute Houbigant goods to "all parts of the country."
At the 1900 Paris Exhibition, Houbigant introduced a special perfume, Coeur de Jeanette in honour of the exhibition, this scent was created by Paul Parquet. Le Parfum Ideal, also a Parquet invention and considered the first true composite perfume, was also presented at the exhibition and was so successful that many imitations were created by competitors. Ideal was presented in a Baccarat crystal bottle and packaged in a fabric covered box that replicated an Oriental patterned rug that Javal had remembered seeing. Houbigant participated in all major exhibitions and presentations ranged from luxury to low-priced.
The perfume bottle for the 1903 perfume Les Violettes was designed by the master glassmaker, Emile Galle. Violet perfumes were very much in vogue during that time, and in 1906, Paul Parquet created another perfume, which he christened Violette Pourpre.
In 1907, French comedian Ernest Coquelin, sent a letter to Mr. Javal, thanking him for sending a perfume, unfortunately today, we do not know which fragrance this was.
Pacific Pharmacist - Volume 1, 1907:
"Fernand Javal of Paris, son of the proprietor of Houbigant's, one of the largest perfumery establishments in the world, came to Los Angeles to investigate the possibilities of this section with a view to opening a branch of the Parisian business."
Chemist & Druggist, 1908:
"Monsieur Parquet proprietor of the Parfumerie Houbigant Paris, has been nominated a Knight of the Legion of Honour for services rendered in connection with the last exhibition at Milan."
Chemist & Druggist, 1908:
"In the centre of the avenue are several perfumery exhibits including that of Monsieur Houbigant of 19 Faubourg St Honore Paris, whose display of soaps, perfumery, etc, has been purchased by the Army and Navy Co operative Society. Particularly striking is the get up style of the Mes Delices perfume and the Royal Houbigant soaps which are boxed in tablets of three wrapped in paper of delicate art blue."
In 1909, another perfumer joined Houbigant, Robert Bienaime, who became the assistant to and protege of Paul Parquet, created the classic perfume Quelques Fleurs. Often regarded as the first true multi-floral scent, Quelques Fleurs was the springboard for this type of perfume.
The 1911 fragrance La Rose France was created by Paul Parquet and named after the variety of rose which enjoyed great popularity during this time.
Paul Parquet died in 1916 and Alfred Javal in 1912 and the son and the latter's son Fernand Javal continued what his father started until the 1980s when the business was liquidated.
Paul Schving, a well qualified chemist, also joined Houbigant and created Au Matin and Essence Rare. Paul Schving passed away unexpectedly in 1929. Other perfumer's joined Houbigant to help fill in the space left by Schving, namely: Paul Leroux, Raymond Kling, André Copaux, Degont Desplanques, Marcel Billot and other less notable.
In 1966, George A. Tisserand was appointed chief perfumer of Houbigant, Inc., New York. he succeeded Albert Dahan, who left the company. Mr. Tisserand had been with Antoine Chiris Co., New York, for nine years, and before Houbigant, he was with Colgate-Palmolive Co., New York, as a research perfumer for eight years. I believe that he helped to invent a gas chromatograph with human sensor for perfumers in 1962 while working for Colgate-Palmolive.
"Paul Schving, chief perfumery chemist and director of the factory in Neuilly for Houbigant, the Paris perfumery house, arrived in New York on the Savoie recently. Mr. Schving is the gentleman who is responsible for the modern creations of his firm with Mr Bienaime and he is well qualified for the work. He is a graduate chemical engineer from Ecole de Physique et Chimie Industrielle of Paris and during the war was engaged in the production of lethal gases working with M. Kling in the government laboratories. In this work he was particularly successful as some of the discoveries which were utilized by the Allies were due to him. Before the war he was connected four years with the Societe Anonyme des Etablissments Justin Dupont and acquired valuable experience in synthetics and other raw materials Immediately after the armistice he joined the Houbigant staff."
The American Perfumer & Essential Oil Review, 1922:
"Robert Bienamie of Javal & Bienamie, proprietors of the well known firm of Houbigant Paris, sailed for home June 18 on the Savoie. He expected to remain longer in this country but was obliged to curtail his visit on account of the illness of his partner."
The American Perfumer & Essential Oil Review, 1922:
"Houbigant, Inc perfumes which was established to conduct the American business of the Houbigant Co of France has retained N. W. Ayer & Son as its advertising agency. The American business of the Houbigant Company was previously conducted through an exclusive agency in New York."
The American Perfumer & Essential Oil Review, 1922:
"The House of Houbigant Paris, on August 1, will occupy the entire building 16 West 49th street, as offices for the United States for distribution of famous perfumes extracts toilet requisites, etc. Park & Tilford were the first American representatives of Houbigant and have been sole agents in this country for years. The business of Houbigant has increased year by year until it has reached such proportions that it was decided to make a separate and distinct corporation in America for the sole distribution of Houbigant products. Mr. Charles S. Welch has been elected vice and general manager of Houbigant Inc USA, and will have entire charge of the business in the new quarters. Mr. Welch came to New York from Rochester where he began as a drug clerk, and for many years was identified with Wm. B. Riker & Son Co. retail druggists in this city. In 1910 he entered the Park & Tilford organization as general manager of the druggists sundries section of which Houbigant was an important part. Mr. Welch has exceptional business qualifications and possesses a wide knowledge of perfumes toilet requisites, druggists sundries, etc. He is probably one of the best known executives in the trade, and it is due to his exceptional qualifications gained by years experience in this line that he has been selected become the American representative of Houbigant."
In 1922, Houbigant expanded their company by acquiring Parfums Cheramy.
Drug Trade Weekly: A Commercial Publication for Druggists, Volume 5, 1922:
"PERFUME BUSINESS SLOWLY REVIVING - Fernand Javal of Houbigant's Say Improvement in World Wide Business Conditions Is Reflected in Demand for Luxuries - Revival of business throughout the world bringing with it a demand for expensive luxuries such as perfumes of the better grade has only just begun and is proceeding very slowly in the opinion of Fernand Javal of the house of Houbigant manufacturing perfumers of Paris who is in this country for a short time on business. Mr. Javal said that he believed that the sale of expensive luxuries such as perfumes rouge powder and cosmetics was a good barometer of business conditions.
When the people begin to feel the pinch of hard times one of their first economies is in luxuries of this kind and the sale falls and when better days come and the women are given more money to spend a certain amount goes into the little luxuries of which they have been deprived and with the demand the amount of sales increases. With the revival of business the demand for luxuries is real he said but a fictitious demand may be created and has been by certain conditions prevalent in parts of the world today.
In some countries he said where money has so depreciated as to be almost worthless there is a demand for expensive goods such as the best perfumes because the people feel that here is something which maintains its value as does jewelry and will not suddenly become worthless. Taking the countries in turn for the house of Houbigant has business all over the world. Mr. Javal said that in America both North and South, Japan, France and a few of the smaller countries was it indicated by the sale of perfume the luxury that business was reviving and even in those countries only to a slight degree.
He said that people during the prosperity and high wages of the war period had become used to higher grades of goods including perfumes and that they still demanded these grades. "Their taste is more refined", he explained. In certain countries in Europe, Mr. Javal declared the sale of perfumes of the better grade showed the existence of peculiar conditions. In Russia he said before the revolution there was a very great demand for perfumes. The revolution wiped out this demand but already there has begun a new demand for perfumes. "This" said, Mr. Javal "shows that if a certain class of society is destroyed in its place appears a group which takes on the same tastes desires and wants. Where the replacing group comes from we do not know but it comes."
Jean-Jacques Vignault, who became president of Coty, Inc., related in the in-house magazine, Coty Review:
“One day in 1922, Francois Coty decided to invite Fernand Javal to the Chateau de Longchamp. Javal was the proprietor of the House of Houbigant. During the meal, Coty proposed: “Between us, we have cornered almost the entire perfume market. Why not combine our production while maintaining our individual brand identity and distribution networks? “ Monsieur Javal was incensed, and stormed out of Coty’s chateau.”
After all, Houbigant had been in business for centuries. Before Coty was born, the company had been official suppliers to courts of Europe. Coty tried to take over anything he found to his liking.
"I return to France with happy assurance that financial America at least is somewhat optimistic with France in occupation of the Ruhr", said Mr. Fernand Javal, head the Paris house of Houbigant perfumers just before from New York January 30 on the Berengaria. "Of course I have listened to many contradictory opinions but my two weeks stay in this country has brought me in touch with bankers. They look upon France's action as the only business solution of a situation that resembles very a business predicament that is faced in just the same in every day business in America. What does the American business man do when a owes him money and it not only refuses to pay it but has sent all its cash and securities for deposit to foreign banks. He consults his lawyer. His lawyer tells him that the recourse he has is to attach the debtor's property a that payment will be made. And this is done forthwith American bankers with whom I have talked told me numerous similar transactions that are taking place in your great country." Mr. Javal said that from correspondence received Paris written as late as January 19 there was no indication that the Ruhr occupation was disturbing the run of business. His Paris partner reported that the perfume factories were all active and that orders came uninterruptedly notwithstanding the situation nor the season the year. His visit to this country he explained was the purpose of arriving at plans for enlarging in France and of facilitating transportation to meet an increasing demand in America."
Houbigant was again patronized by the royal set and was appointed parfumeur to Queen Marie of Roumania in 1922 and Queen Victoria of Spain in 1923. Houbigant celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary in 1925.
After the death of Paul Parquet in 1921, Robert Bienaimé became co-partner with Fernand Javal, son of the late Alfred Javal. The Houbigant firm briefly took on the Javal name and then became Bienaimé Houbigant.
In 1935 Robert Bienaime left the company to start his own perfume business, named Parfums Bienaime. Bienaimé also launched a cosmetics company under the name Robel. In spite of considerable activity in support of various industrial processes and other institutions, Bienaimé continued his involvement in his own perfume company until he later died in 1961 at the age of 85.
Despite the shortage of raw materials during the war, Marcel Billot managed to create the soft ambery chypre perfume Chantilly in 1940. The perfume was named for the Chantilly lace that royal brides traditionally used in their bridal veils.
Houbigant's factory was bombed during the second world war and the brand never recovered its former glory. During the dark years of the war, Houbigant refused to use alternative products, such as alcohol, and this created a limitation in their production of perfumes. It wasn't until the early 1950s that Chantilly was to receive the grand success since its earlier launch.
In 1970, the Chantilly Collection Royale line of luxury bottles and packaging was introduced to elevate the status of Chantilly perfume and to recapture Houbigant's former glory by using historical bottles such as the ones for Parfum d'Argeville and Essence Rare as shown in the advertisement above.
Houbigant did manage to produce some other mildly successful women's fragrances, the rich floral chypre Ciao in 1980, opulent floral oriental Raffinee in 1982 and the luminous floral oriental Lutece in 1986. All of these perfumes have now since been discontinued.
Long and complicated ownership, Houbigant filed for bankruptcy in 1993, was acquired (along with Dana) by Renaissance Cosmetics in 1994. Renaissance filed for Chapter 11 in 1999; its brands were acquired by New Dana Perfumes, later renamed Dana Classic Fragrances.
The Houbigant fragrances are now being manufactured under the original specifications by LOFT Fashion and Beauty Diffusion of Monaco and marketed in the United States by Exclusive Fragrances and Cosmetics.
- Marie Antoinette of France, 1790
- Empress Josephine of France, 1805
- Princess Adelaide d’Orleans in 1829
- Queen Victoria of England, 1839
- Empress Eugenie of France, 1857
- Emperor Napoleon III in 1870
- Tsar and Tsarina of Russia in 1890
- Queen Victoria of Spain in 1922
- Queen Marie of Roumania in 1923
- 1775: Perfumer Jean-François Houbigant opens “A la Corbeille de Fleurs”, Rue Faubourg St Honoré
- 1790: Appointed parfumeur to Marie Antoinette of France
- 1805: Houbigant was appointed personal perfumer to Napoleon and created a special perfume for Empress Josephine
- 1807: Perfumer Armand-Gustave Houbigant, the son of Jean-François, joins the house
- 1829: Appointed perfumer to Her Royal Highness, the Princess Adelaide d’Orleans, mother of King Louis-Philippe.
- 1838, the French house was awarded the license of “Perfumer to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria of England”.
- 1857: Appointed parfumeur to Empress Eugenie of France
- 1880: perfumer Paul Parquet became joint owner.
- 1882: Paul Parquet creates Fougère Royale.
- 1890: Tsar Alexander III named Houbigant perfumer to the Imperial Court of Russia
- 1912: Perfumer Bienaimé joined Houbigant and created fragrances for the house until he founded his own in 1935.
- 1912: perfumer Bienaimé introduced Quelques Fleurs.
- 1922: Appointed parfumeur to Queen Marie of Romania
- 1923: Appointed parfumeur to Queen Victoria of Spain
- pre-1950 perfumers Paul Schving and Marcel Billot created perfumes for Houbigant
- 1990_ Houbigant relaunched Lutece from prestige department store brand to domestic brand.
- 1980s: Houbigant relaunched Quelques Fleurs.
- 1985: Houbigant launched Duc de Vervins.
- 1993: Houbigant files for bankruptcy
- 1994: Acquired by Renaissance Cosmetics
- 1998: Houbigant launched Quelques Fleurs Royale.
- 1999: Renaissance Cosmetics files for Chapter 11, the company was acquired by New Dana Perfumes (Dana Classic Fragrances)
Behind this remarkable record was influence of the initiator of the business. That influence is as real today as during lifetime Houbigant stood solid for and spent his life improving the quality his goods. No expense has ever been in the whole history of the business might help towards this end. When present head of the business remarked regarding a new perfume. "We have been trying to get that result for nearly a years he said it as a matter of course."
There was nothing said or implied regarding the enormous expenditure of time and labor the endless experimenting and disappointments or the men who had spent their lifetime in a fruitless search. It was all a part of the business all part of the work of creating prestige by maintaining quality. As the business has grown with its reputation so its facilities for growth have been extended. But these have been solely on the old lines. No flaring advertising signs tell the people of Paris of the quality behind Houbigant perfumes; but behind the establishment in the Rue du Faubourg St Honore is a modern laboratory fitted regardless of expense, where modem chemists are maintaining daily the reputation of the firm through perfection in the products of the house.
The knowledge that has grown from year to year on the part of the customer to the effect that here is an absolutely dependable product has alone built up this trade that lasts. People want good things and this house never forgot the fact. The story of the firm of Houbigant is the story of a business founded on quality and widened to international scope on quality alone. It is a lesson to modern business men that quality counts first and foremost in the product and that is better to create a reputation than to buy one. In every country there are great names such as this that are indelibly associated in people's minds with quality. Such businesses are built on a foundation that no competition can shake and that costs nothing but quality to maintain.