This website is an extension of a guide I created on my perfume history site Cleopatra's Boudoir. On this site, I will discuss the history of the perfumes presented by Rosine, the perfumery by designer Paul Poiret of Paris France. He was the first fashion designer to establish a perfume company.
Notions and Fancy Goods, Volume 50, 1916:
Paul Poiret, Paris, October 1925. © Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Paris En Images.
Les Parfums de Rosine were established in 1911 by designer Paul Poiret with his wife Denise in conjunction with Dr. Midy, at 107 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore in Paris. Rosine sold perfumes, toiletries and cosmetics as fitting accessories for his avant-garde fashions.
Paul Poiret shop c1900. image: lula.pl
Poiret commissioned Edgar Brandt, the premier Art Deco ironworker, to design the grillwork doors and interior staircase for his atelier at 1 Champs-Elysées Round Point, 1925.
The Risone boutique © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
The Rosine perfumery on the side of the street. © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
Paul Poiret’s studio, 1925. © Roger-Viollet. Paris En Images.
Paul Poiret's studio.
Entrance to the Rosine perfumery © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
Entrance to the Rosine perfumery © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
Inside the Rosine perfumery © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
Interior of the Rosine shop.
Poiret’s coat-kimono. Paris, 1922. © Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Paris En Images.
Poiret dress, 1925. © Lipnitzki / Roger-Viollet. Paris En Images.
The company was named after Poiret's eldest daughter. Many artists and illustrators worked for Rosine. The perfumes were distributed by Maurice Levy, Rosine's sole agent in the USA.
Paul Poiret used to blend scents for his own use, some were used for his own person, some were sprayed in the salons to refresh the close air. Then his customers would ask him to create scents for them as well, soon all of his friends and customers wanted perfumes and he decided to start selling them, rather than partake all of the costs involved with making the fragrances himself. A perfumery case was installed in the salon.
Paul Poiret in his perfume factory c1920s. Image: lula.pl
Originally a representative for perfumery glassware, M. Schaller was invited to run Paul Poiret's perfume department. Maurice Schaller then took a keen interest in perfume technology and helped create some of Poiret's perfumes as well as other successful perfumes for other companies such as Revillon (Carnet de Bal). Later perfumes were created in part with Henri Almeras.
The perfume names evoked the exotic with names such as Le Fruit Defendu (The Forbidden Fruit), Borgia, Nuit de Chine (Night in China), Le Balcon, and Sakyamouni. Nuit de Chine was created by Maurice Schaller and was originally called Nuit d'Orient.
The perfume Coeur en Folie was introduced at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris.
American Cloak and Suit Review, Volume 7, 1914:
"PAUL POIRET MAKES SOME CORRECTIONS. PAUL POIRET of Paris writing in Harper's Bazaar has the following comment to make. The articles written about my trip to America have been shown me now upon my return to Paris and I am quite aghast at what I am supposed to have said. Happily for me, I hope that the public will judge by my work and not by my words, for the latter have, in most cases, been singularly distorted. The only statement in all these articles which I wish to repeat again and again, is that all styles are admissible, provided they suit the women who wear them.
Eclectisme is my watchword. But I never said that trousers or trouserettes should be generally adopted. I never said that slit skirts were the correct skirts to wear. I never said that women should dress in loud colors. I
never advocated the use of heavy perfumes. I never said that small hats were more attractive than large ones. Those who understood me to make such statements mistook my meaning entirely. I said that a woman should wear whatever is becoming to her, and nothing that is not becoming. That is my first last and only principle."
Theatre Magazine, 1922:
You all know Paul Poiret as the great designer, the great artist in costume. But we wonder how many of you know him as a master creator of perfumes as well. Yet he is as incomparable in this metier as he is in that of frocks and their bye products. M. Poiret has created marvellous scents, odours to enhance the charm of women.
He has captured them from plants, from trees, from fruits, from sources which until his originations, were supposed incapable of being transmuted in this fashion. And the results have been a series of perfumes with a subtle quality. a fascinating novelty and modernness hitherto unknown.
We interviewed M. Poiret at the Ritz the day before he sailed nine thirty of a wild and stormy September morn. And already at that brisk hour, we were third on a list. M. Poiret had been seeing people since eight o'clock. Let no one tell you the artist is an unbusinesslike person, impractical diffuse in talk, unpunctual to engagements. In many instances, we have found him more businesslike and efficient than even the so called professional business man. That is at least, the big artists.
Our interview with M. Poiret for example, was as smooth, as suave as utterly time-saving, as the best efficiency expert could wish. It flowed in a beautiful curve from the moment when M. Poiret opened the door of his suite for us himself, swankily clad in brown and scarlet cravat, to the end of the half hour when the door closed on us again, the exact measure of gracious courtesy from M. Poiret that the occasion demanded not a superfluous phrase in the telling of his story. Here it is as he gave it in his fluent and excellent English, delightfully tinged with French idiom and accent.
"To begin with," said M. Poiret, "I have had a very definite purpose as parfumeur... I have tried to create a new aesthetique with my perfumes, as with my clothes, to teach a new way of perceiving odours and scents in general, a new technique in smelling. It occurred to me when I was in the country, and I sleep on the grass, and I smell the verdure, the foliage around me, why is it that people always make perfumes from flowers?... Why not from these things as well? Surely, they are as stirring, as thrilling... these scents of the damp earth, and the leaves, the pine trees, the salt marshes, as those of flowers...much more so to some of us. So I make a perfume from the grass...You know how fragrant it is when you crush it in your hands...And from the boxwood.... And from the ivy... And from the moss... I have made a perfume even from the plants that grow deep in the sea... They have a sharp a bitter smell... how you say amer? Yes, pungent. And when I do use a flower, I take an unusual one like geranium, for instance.
"I have made a very wonderful perfume from ivy leaves and geranium leaves combined. I will show you I have some on my dresser."
M. Poiret makes a swift dart into another room and returns with a small, round bottle with dark, ivy colored stopper. "Mea Culpa is its name." We are urged to put some on the fur collar of our coat, where we are assured it will linger a long time. A French trick evidently, this mingling perfume and fur. We remember it was the manner in which Vorska perfumed us with the divine Sarah's favorite odour... Which reminds us to ask M. Poiret whether he believes in one perfume for a woman, that is always to be identified with her, that lies in the scent of her glove, her handkerchief, that lingers in a room after she has left it... But no, he agrees with us that we are more complex nowadays... A woman needs many scents... But she must choose only those that reveal herself...
"Some days she is good tempered", twinkled M. Poiret, "and some days she is bad tempered," modifying this momentary lack in French gallantry, with one of the two smiles he permitted himself during the half hour... "So that she must have scents for each mood... and she should have the same diversity for each costume...Just as you say, Madame... But these scents, whether they are six or twelve, all will be in the same tone the same key...They must harmonize with her personality."
And did M. Poiret believe in any scent for men? We know the Latin thinks differently from our men about that.. The usual American feels that he is not a 100 percent, red-blooded male if he uses any scent, except possibly a touch of eau de cologne, or lavender water after shaving... But why should he not, if he likes perfumes, why should he not wish to use them.
"There is no reason at all," answers M. Poiret quickly. "But my perfumes are best of all for him, because they are not from flowers, they have a tang..what you call over here 'pep'.. they mingle well with tobacco.. With some of my bottles I have a glass stopper, and with that, one may perfume one's cigarettes. We cannot buy them already perfumed in Paris, since the government owns the tobacco, and we must buy the kind of cigarettes he makes himself.
"I start in making perfumes first as an amateur, for my own amusement and pleasure.. I make them in my own house... And then my friends like them so much they ask me to make some for them... And then I make so many I must ask people to pay... And finally I take up the making of perfumes seriously and now I have my own factory I am happy to see so many of my perfumes in the stores here, too... I have a perfume that is made from old leaves, that rich, damp smell of the woods in autumn... There is one made only of fruits...' Forbidden Fruit' I call it...
"Just before I leave Paris, I have made a perfume which I shall call 'Bosquet d'Apollon'. It represents Versailles... all the foliage, the verdure there, after a rain, the scent that comes from the grass and the leaves as you crush them underfoot in walking... It will be ready in a few weeks... I like always that my scents become well known before they are actually ready to be sold. A perfume to be right must stand, be matured in the wood some time, like wine, like a true liqueur..."
There we found our time was up. And so fascinated had we been by M. Poiret's descriptions, we rushed forth to a round of the various 'beauty counters' to discover who kept the Poiret perfumes, and what were their various names and odors. Succumbing to their lure, we bought two wicked ones for ourself, and three others for Christmas presents.
The perfume bottles for Rosine were produced by Depinoix and Lefebure as well as Poiret's own companies Atelier Colin & Atelier Martine. Most of the bottles were hand painted at Atelier Martine. the working hours were from 8am til 7pm, the factory workers are served a luncheon and wine each day.
Entrance for Atelier Martine. © Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet
Notions and Fancy Goods, Volume 50, 1916:
"Paul Poiret , perhaps best known to American as the premiere couturier, is also a maker of high grade perfumes, and during the past two years has worked his way up amongst the world’s leading perfumers. Some of his productions, which owing to the high cost of their ingredients are somewhat expensive have nevertheless proven a success wherever shown., particularly the perfume known as Nuit de Chine. This is put up in a replica of an antique Chinese bottle with a blue stopper set in a gold neck and two side handles of blue, enclosed in a gold lined box of gold and deep blue Chinese brocade. This, however, gives but a faint idea of the attractiveness of this package.
The cut herewith illustrates as well as can be done in black and white one of his newest productions. The beauty of the coloring of both the bottle containing the perfume and the box must be seen to be appreciated.
One of his specialties which is not shown here consists of two long cut crystal bottles with square necks and caps, joined together and put in a box of gold and silver canvas paper. It is called Madame et Monsieur. The label on the box is a very clever sketch in silhouette of a gentleman and lady both having evidently reached the age of contentment and happiness. The two bottles are filled with perfume, one being light to match the silver covering, the other being of an amber tint, matching the gold. The label on the perfume called Madame is a little square of silver with a gloved hand holding a single rose, and that of the perfume called Monsieur consists of the same square, but In gold, and with a gentleman’s gloved hand holding a cigarette. As before stated, both bottles are connected; if you remove one from the package, you must remove the other. This is a very clever idea for an engagement or a wedding present, and gives a slight conception of the very original ideas evolved by this very clever man.
This is very interesting line is put out under the name of Les Parfums de Rosine, Poiret not putting his own name on as the manufacturer, but simply a small label on the bottom which states “Les Parfums de Rosine, Sont Approuves Par Paul Poiret.”
The packaging of his perfumes resembled the look and materials of his fashions, with great emphasis on vivid colors, opulent textures and harlequin and Oriental lampshade patterns.
Poiret himself recounted the disdain of his investors: "What is the good of all this useless caprice?...Your flask and your new ideas, we don't want them, they cost too much!"
Poiret lost financial control around 1925 and was evicted from the salon on 21st August 1935 due to The Great Depression, and the business was later acquired by Societe Centrale de la Parfumerie Francais (L. Legrand) in 1930 and managed by Madame Nevarte Cordero. Most of the existing Rosine perfumes were produced until the 1950s in standard presentations.
Les Parfums de Rosine, Inc. was opened at 20 West 37th Street New York.
Re-opened by Bernard and Marie-Helen Rogeon in 1991; she is the great granddaughter of Louis Panafieu who created Eau de Colognes for the Emperor Napoleon III and a famous "Pommade des Mousquetaires" for its lacquer-like-finish moustaches.