Friday, September 18, 2009

Fragrance Bouquet Presents Le Jardin Retrouvé (Part 1)

While on my vacation this summer, I received an email by Denis Gutsatz expressing both surprise and lament at the fact that this website, dedicate to perfume, bears no mention or word of his father, Yuri Gutsatz. I’ll admit that regrettably, I had never heard of the name before, but found myself not only intrigued but moreover moved by this first email contact. How noble, I thought to myself, how compelling and stirring to come across a son who makes it his mission to keep his father’s name, memory and life’s work alive. And so I followed the link that came with the invitation to learn more about this man of whom I’d previously known nothing about and discovered not only a perfumer, but also a brand, Le Jardin Retrouvé.

Yuri Gutsatz (1914-2005) was born in Russia but found himself in France at a young age, when his family fled their homeland due to the revolution. Barely out of his teens, Gutsatz became a self-taught perfumer, gradually honing his craft in the laboratories of Maison Mury (for a little more information on the Mury company, please click here for a short guide written by the incredibly knowledgeable Cleopatra’s Boudoir). His employment in Mury might have been self-described as "chance" or "serendipity" but there is no denying neither his affinity for the work nor his instant love for it. After the second world war, Gutsatz, due to another stroke of "serendipity" was offered the chance to study perfumery more formally in Grasse, an opportunity he gladly grasped. He later found himself working alongside Louis Amic, the owner of Roure - the company that innovatively brought fashion houses and perfumery together, by obtaining briefs from couture houses and using its star perfumers to materialize the wonders that brought said houses incredible fame and fortune. He'd later say that it was serendipity again that he found work in Roure alongside Amic, for while in Grasse he'd met none other than Jean Carles, with whom he became friends. When the two met again in Paris, Jean Carles invited him to Roure so that he could introduce him to Amic when he heard Gutsatz was looking for work. Chance or destiny? A serendipitous meeting or fate? And can we really take the recognition of talent out of the equation? I think not. During the years he worked for Roure together with a small group of other perfumers, the company produced almost all the perfumes for the grand houses of Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Carven, Balmain, Balenciaga and Piguet. For Gutsatz those were the golden years of perfumery, and its most bright star his co-worker, Germaine Celier, whom he graciously thought of as "...the most talented of us all."

In 1975, disillusioned with the state of perfumery, Gutsatz founded his own company - Le Jardin Retrouvé. Essentially, Gutsatz built a small perfume brand based on ideals, love and dedication to perfumery and in the interest of following his own instincts instead of briefs motivated by money, at a time when the public had yet no notion of “niche” and indeed at a time when he himself could not have predicted the meteoric rise of niche we witness today. Justifiably, his son - Denis Gutsatz - considers his father, alongside Jean Laporte as the ‘founders’ of what we now perceive as niche perfumery. Yuri Gutsatz, was not only a talented perfumer however. He was also a prolific writer and a polemical one at that. Poignantly, he sensed the danger perfumery was under long before the public ever awoke to the fact and set himself against the industry and its practices by revealing his disgust as he saw his beloved art-form becoming a cog in the grand money-making wheel. He went as far as to compare perfume companies to oil-drilling companies in their disregard for the value of perfume as an art form and their focus on maximizing profits by cutting on quality. He lamented the fact that perfume had become one and the same with marketing and image, in a sense a luxury that we buy with our eyes, instead of our nose. He found himself appalled at the fact that the public was being sold a myth of fabulous, rare and priceless ingredients with a matching price-tag, when the actual cost would be a fraction at best. So was born Le Jardin Retrouvé, a brand that offered (and still does) perfumes in unpretentious, inexpensive bottles, without ostentatious names, no marketing ploys and modest, appropriate price-tags. And how disheartening is it that the issues that so troubled Monsieur Gutsatz in 1975 are still incredibly current and burning today and moreover, that the company that he built in order to counter these operates in obscurity? Is it impossible to garner the attention and the respect of the public without sacrificing your soul to the altar of marketing and money? Are we unable to place as much value in a product that comes in simple, unpretentious glass instead of expensive boxes and sleek design? Finally, did Yuri Gutsatz ever get to see that there is now a growing community with the same burning questions, the same discontent and the same fears that he had? I hope so…

Join me on Monday for Part 2 of Fragrance Bouquet’s feature on Le Jardin Retrouvé, for a presentation of several of the line’s perfumes.


7 comments:

PinstripedZebra said...

Interesting article about an interesting and amazing man. I really like the fact that his son keeps the ideals of his father alive!

The fact her is a self-taught perfumer caught my attention, I wonder how many 'noses' have had formal training and how many have not! Do you have any idea about that Divina?

//Z

Diana said...

I find this post, including how it came to be, incredibly touching. I tried going to the website, but unfortunately, being a 'stupid American' with a learning difference that basically makes learning foreign languages impossible, I only read/write/speak English.

If there are sources in English I could reference (beyond, obviously, your lovely site) could you let me know? I also couldn't find a place I could buy the scents internationally and I'd love to be able to do some reviews, so if there is one, please let me know! :)

Diana

Le Jardin Retrouvé said...

Diana, Once on the website, there is an English flag on right up corner: click on it and there you are !

You can read a lot about us on our forum, almost all articles are translated in English, have a try here: http://www.lejardinretrouve.com/forums/index.php?showforum=5

About international sales, you will find how to place an order here by dl our order form and pay with Paypal: http://www.lejardinretrouve.com/forums/index.php?showforum=16

I hope this will help!

Denis GUTSATZ

Divina said...

Z, I'm afraid I don't have a clue. I am inclined to think that most (if not all) of the perfumers currently creating the perfumes sold in department stores are formally trained. Most formally trained perfumers end up creating scents for household cleaning products, cosmetics and soaps. Most (again, if not all) of niche perfumes sold in exclusive boutiques will also be created by formally trained perfumers is my belief. However many indie perfumers (whether these are creating soaps, candles, oils or alcoholic perfumes) are self-taught.

Divina said...

Hello Diana sweetie! Please take a look at today's post (the second part of Le Jardin Retrouve presentation) to find links on how to purchase from them and how to order samples. As Denis above mentions you can change the language of the main site by using the little flag on the top right. As for the forums, they are a treasure trove of interesting reads (many by Yuri Gutsatz himself) but unfortunately most are in French. There are however some in English and I promise they are SUPER interesting. I have little time while studying, but whenever I take a break, I go and read read read some more. LOL!

Divina said...

Hi Denis, thanks for posting this info while I couldn't!

vicki archer said...

Wonderful Divina...as a great perfume lover I am fascinated with this tale. So happy to have found your blog trough Daily Inspiration, xv.