Exibition from june 7 to september 30, 2013
French perfumery has always made the world dream…
Rooted in tanning, hand-crafted at the beginning and later industrialised, perfumery has overcome obstacles, resisted constraints, undergone mutations and adapted to the circumstances of the time. Like other decades, the past thirty years have been subject to profound changes. But the exceptional know-how of the people of Grasse in the area of natural products has enabled the perfume industry to survive economic turbulence over time. What applies to people applies to regions… We owe a great deal of respect to this heritage, which has been exceptionally fortunate for our area. The opening of the new International Perfume Museum and the structure which accompanies it in 2008 represent an important milestone for the perfume industry in our region. They offer the Grass heartland and its inhabitants a new vision of perfume and of the perfume industry, the heritage of past generations which is our duty to transmit to future generations.
Once again this year, the summer exhibition dedicated to Paul Poiret, the first designer of both fashion and perfume, participates in revealing and promoting this heritage. By joining the world of haute couture to that of perfume, Paul Poiret was a visionary who revolutionised perfume in the twentieth century. Even today, our perfume designers, our industries in Grasse and our growers continue to work with the most famous design and perfume houses within the tradition of this great personality.
A true jewel of our region, the International Perfume Museum – which was awarded the «Musée de France» label and is dedicated to the memory of perfumery – provides a look at the past as well as the present. This twenty-first-century museum helps expand the influence of our region and plays a key role in the development of cultural tourism. For more than two centuries, the people of Grasse have worked directly or indirectly in this industry, from father to son, from family to family. We hope that each of you will find great pleasure in visiting this exhibition and learning more about Paul Poiret, an essential figure of perfumery in the twentieth century.
Jean-Pierre LELEUX Senator from the Alpes-Maritimes Department Mayor of Grasse President of the Azur Provence Centre Urban Community
Paul Poiret, «THE MAGNiFiCENT» known for his boldness, Paul Poiret (1879-1944) was a French designer who was considered as a precursor of the Art Deco style. In 1899, he started an apprenticeship in fashion design in the workshop of Jacques Doucet.
In 1901, he joined English designer Charles Frederick Worth, who had opened a house on Rue de la Paix to make made-to-measure dresses for a wealthy clientele. It was the beginning of haute couture.
In September 1903, he opened his own fashion house at 5 Rue Auber in the Madeleine district, with Gabrielle-Charlotte Réju (alias Réjane) as his ambassadress. She was a young stage actress. Paul Poiret loved women, life, parties and harmonious lines. He hated corsets and would thus rapidly banish this accessory and create a truly new style for women. As depicted in the drawings by Paul Iribe and Georges Lepape in the albums they put together for Paul Poiret, the new woman stands straight or with a slight curve, her waist is slightly suggested under her breasts, and her body is hinted at under a supple tunic which reaches the floor. Poiret’s style was singular: shoulders became the point which supported the silhouette. He thus designed a new line and emphasized a new area of the body.
In October 1905, Poiret married Denise Boulet, a young woman who would test his first innovations. His wife, who later gave birth to five children, would soon become one of the queens of the new fashion. Gradually, the Paul Poiret style imposed itself on the world of haute couture and attracted the elegant women of Paris, who were captivated by his new ideas. As a result of growing success, the house moved to a private mansion at 37 Rue Pasquier in 1906. There, he welcomed the leading ladies of the time, in particular Lady Asquith, wife of the British Prime Minister, who told him: «I want every woman in England to know your dresses.» For this reason, she opened her salons on Downing Street to the designer so that he could show his models. Although this was a controversial move and Lady Asquith was accused of having betrayed the cause of English trade, this is how Paul Poiret became known in London. In 1910, with the triumph of the Ballets Russes in Paris and the craze for everything oriental, Poiret bought colourful fabrics from the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna and began to collaborate with them. He spearheaded the Art Deco style and was the one who popularised the aigrette-adorned turban which his wife wore proudly to Parisian evening events. A lover of vivid, tart colours, Poiret also reintroduced violet, royal blue, orange, apple green and red in his creations.
Paul Poiret, fashion and perfume designer the House of Poiret was one of the most famous of its time. An avant-garde designer who freed women from the corset, Paul Poiret also marketed great perfumes.
In 1911, he launched «Parfums de Rosine» and «Ateliers de Martine» in honour of his two daughters. During this period, he moved to a private mansion in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, on Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, which he transformed and decorated. In these rooms, he also organized sumptuous parties which had a notable impact on his contemporaries, in particular the «Thousand and Two Nights.» Paul Poiret created some forty different fragrances with evocative, exotic names like Arlequinade – Le Balcon – Borgia – Aladin – Nuit de Chine – Toute la Forêt – Sa Chambre – Avenue du Bois – Fruit Défendu – Coupe d’Or – Maharadjah – Coup de Foudre – Pierrot et Tant d’Autres. The first perfumes from 1910 and 1911 were created by Schaller, who was a glassmaker and bottle designer. But most of Poiret’s fragrances were the work of Alméras, whose most well-known creation is «Joy» by Patou, still a favourite. With his creations, Paul Poiret inaugurated the dynasty of fashion and perfume designers, who symbolised social change in the first half of the twentieth century. His aura flooded Parisian high society and artists – Robert Delaunay, André Derain, Kees Van Dongen, Henri Matisse, Picasso, Marie Laurencin and Raoul Dufy – had eyes only for Poiret and collaborated with him on bold prints. World War I disrupted the status and taste of the modern woman and, after fifteen years of success, Poiret’s image began to fade. In 1923, the House started to experience financial difficulties. The crisis of 1929 would vanquish his ardours and swallow up his activities.
The following year he published En habillant l’époque (Dressing an Epoch), an invaluable look into the world of perfume and Parisian life. In the thirties, the history of fashion did not always continue along a splendid path. In 1944, Paul Poiret died, alone and ruined.
A chronological approach
Paul Poiret was the first fashion designer to create his own house of perfume: by adding the immaterial dimension of fragrance to feminine outfits, he became the leader of twentieth-century fashion and perfume designers. The exhibition presents the “Parfums de Rosine” in chronological order, within the broader context of Paul Poiret’s creations in fashion and the decorative arts. This precursor considered perfume to be an integral part of the wardrobe, thus opening a new world of creation, first to couture houses and then to the luxury industry. In his eyes, fragrance conveyed the poetic essence of his house of haute couture and was thus intimately tied to his fashion creations. Themed inserts address his different sources of inspiration, such as exoticism and orientalism, the theatre and myths and legends. Paul Poiret surrounded himself with prestigious «collaborators» such as artists Paul Iribe, Raoul Dufy and George Lepape, perfume designers Maurice Schaller and Henri Alméras, and bottle designers Georges Dumoulin, Julien Viard and Mario Simon. Focus points give information about their careers through their most significant works.
Exhibition catalogue Paul Poiret, fashion and perfume designer 22 x 28 cm / 144 pages / 130 illustrations Catalogue price : 25 € Available at the Museum boutique
Opening hours: 4 pm to 6 pm
Rate: €6 – Free for ARMIP members
Information and reservations:
International Perfume Museum (MIP)
2 bd du Jeu de Ballon – 06131 Grasse Cedex
Tel. +33 (0) 4 97 05 58 02