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Au revoir, Jean Patou

Au revoir, Jean Patou

Editorial

Au revoir, Jean Patou

As you probably already know, Jean Patou fragrances are no longer in production. Sure, this is a bit of old news by fashion standards.  Many fragrance lovers all over the world have mourned JP’s passing over the last few months already. But what does this closure mean in practical terms?

JEAN PATOU in a dapper look on transparent background
  • will JP frag prices skyrocket now that LVMH placed a permanent(?) stopper on the iconic brand?
  • will we ever see JP come back to life? (this has been known to happen in the frag world)
  • what are we really missing without new JP flacons being produced?
  • overall, what is the big deal anyway?

The most elegant man in France.

Say it ain’t so!

As if everything else this year wasn’t difficult enough to digest, LVMH, the evil corporate blob that is slowly devouring fashion, apparently decided to crazy-glue a cork in one of the most iconic fragrance brands ever. Jean Patou is no more, thus making LVMH the ultimate killJOYs. 

There are some interesting questions left surrounding what’s left of the Jean Patou stock and its legacy. Below, we present a few thoughts on the subject. 

Firstly, should you even care?

If you are the biggest Patou freak, then yes, absolutely. If, like most people on the planet, you were lukewarm on the brand for the past decade or so, you may not lose a second sleep about it. 

If you are a fraghead and an avid collector missing a few of the classic Patou scents like Joy, 1000 or Sublime, is now the time to panic, double-mortgage your house, and buy up whatever leftover stock you can get your hands on?

Well, probably not. And here’s why: Jean Patou perfume, once representing the most expensive fragrances in the world, haven’t exactly commanded high prices recently and the demand for them was flaccid in the new millenium. 

It’s not like LVMH is retiring a lively brand early out of spite for the classics. The truth is, these frags have long been outdated (if that’s at all possible for scents) and it’s the low demand that killed Jean Patou perfume. LVMH just failed to keep it on life support.

So, don’t expect a huge rush on the existing stock. There may be a seasonal uptick before the holidays, but it will level off in the following months. Just take a look at the Google Trends comparative graph for searches for the ‘Patou perfume’ key phrase vs similar phrases for its competitors (see below). This does not guarantee the prices won’t go up – they probably will – but it will only stave off the final dwindling of the last bottles of JP stock for a little while longer.

Jean Patou sitting, wearing a hat and holding a cane

Did you know?

In 1925 Jean Patou released the first specialised scents for different types of women:
– Amour Amour (floral bouquet for light skin)
– Que Sais-Je? (fruity chypre for darker skin)
– Adieu Sagesse (gardenia soliflore for redheads)

Jean Patou released Le Sien in 1929 as his first unisex perfume

JOY was voted Scent of the Century by the public at FiFi Awards in 2000, beating Chanel No. 5

It is our guess that there will still be lots of bottles on the market for you to grab and lock away in your treasure chest. At prices that will be higher around holidays and as stocks take a dip at retail stores, but will likely remain as reasonable as they were in recent memory for such artful creations. 

JOY by Jean Patou - bottle of vintage juice
LIFE magazine, 1933

“Most expensive of Patou’s perfumes is “Joy” which commands $35 for two- thirds of an ounce. The selling argument behind this walloping price is that each customer who orders it is entitled to have a special label bearing the legend, “Made for…”

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Gone forever?

Is this the last we will ever see of Jean Patou?

You may think us silly for even asking this question.
’Hello, the brand is dead, that ship has sailed, stop dreaming, give up already!’
However, stranger things have happened in the fashion world and ‘Fragland’ in particular.

Just ask Houbigant, a brand that all but disappeared for nearly 40 years in the latter half of the 20th century before being resurrected in the 1990’s, bringing back some of its venerable classics like Quelques Fleurs (a pioneer multiflore which Patou’s JOY became a descendant of), Lutece, and later in 2010 – the Fougère Royale – a re-release of the original Fougère from 1882 which started the homonymous olfactory family.

Another example of a zombie perfume house coming back to life is Crown, now sold under Clive Christian brand. It was once a storied brand created in 1872 (hence the ‘1872’ in Clive Christian perfumes). It then disappeared, ‘gone forever’ as JP now is, in 1939 after the death of its founder William Thomson Jr.

Lo and behold, 1993 came around and the brand was revived, selling its most successful fragrances out of a London boutique. Picked up by Clive Christian (the Crown boutique sold in 2000) along with its eight most successful fragrances, its scents are now a marketing success (again).

After all, it’s the nature of fashion to ebb and flow, most future trends building on what was chic once before. Is it then not entirely conceivable that such a great name with meaning and history should inspire some future mad aficionado with deep pockets and a thirst for adventures in alchemy and fad-forging to resurrect the brand and all its olfactory treasures?

The scents may not rivet audiences into buying the relicky concoctions now, but a new day may still dawn on the great fashions of old. 

Houbigant Fougere Royale in 1882 and in 2010 releases

Did you know?

Patou’s couture label died in 1987 – yet it is alive and well again in 2020 as LVMH bought it in 2018, revived and renamed it PATOU and is currently promoting new collections

Will Jean Patou fragrances follow the same fate?

 

1995 JOY by Jean Patou in limited edition translucent crystal snuff bottle by Baccarat
JOY, 1929 – 2020

Mid-2020 LVMH decided to permanently stop production of all Jean Patou fragrances, including JOY. The name JOY is now borne by an insignificant Dior fragrance. You can read our extensive review of Jean Patou’s JOY here.

We’ll miss you! (or will we?)

Which brings us to the third important question: with Jean Patou gone (for the time being) –  just what are we going to miss?

This is a hard one to answer, due to the subjective nature of olfactory experiences.
Universally, our world will be deprived of a few living legends among fragrances. Say what you will, but JOY will never truly be replaced, if for the expensive and complex logistics of the manufacturing process alone. Past experiments have shown that compromises there led to average results – just ask the brains behind P&G moving the scent’s production to England, which is arguably where JOY’s stellar reputation for quality was lost forever, despite best efforts to revive it later on by bringing production back to France.

We will miss 1000 (Mille), Vacances, Eau de Patou, Sublime, Chaldee and quite a few precious wonders of the fine perfumery world. Eventually, their stockpiles will run dry and you will only be able to find vintage collectors’ items at horrendous prices. But that is still years down the road.

Why should an average consumer of perfumed water care about another dinosaur brand going extinct?

Probably the scariest thought about Jean Patou fragrances being discontinued is that this could spell the beginning of a trend that will take down some of the other iconic perfume houses.
Can you imagine a world without Chanel (No. 5 was indeed only the runner up to Jean Patou’s JOY for Fragrance of the Century)? What a ghastly vision, wouldn’t you say?

It is, after all, slightly ironic that the current trends in fragrance are similar to what in Jean Patou’s time was the initial impetus for his scents’ meteoric rise to fragrance stardom.

Did you know?

Jean Patou (1887 – 1936) was the first to make sportswear for women and include complementary accessories for his clothes

A short history lesson to get you caught up, if you’re not familiar with the story behind the story. 

Jean Patou started as a couturier in the early 19th century and developed his own perfume house to make the luxury of his brand more affordable in times of the Great Depression. This was the trend started by houses like Chanel, Poiret and Lanvin.

His fragrances were extravagant back then and avantgarde, much like the mixtures purveyed by the niche brands of today. He was one of the first to break into the specialisation groove, producing fragrances to match particular hair and skin types, and specific applications (remember that Huile de Chaldee was the first suntan lotion ever produced). Before that, perfume was pretty much all universal, one-size-fits-all florals and unisex affairs.

Isn’t it ironic, that the current trend in fragrances is leading us back to unisex again, with specialisation of scents a key to so many new brand offerings of recent times. Creativity, originality, specialisation, customisation and unisex are all trends forming a major shift in how fragrances are consumed these days.

It is harder and harder for the major designer houses to sell consumers on the heritage of elegance bottled in their classic flacons as justifiably expensive trophies of luxury.

These days, the more nimble houses unburdened by tradition and free to explore the global olfactive links between the East and West (and anywhere in between) are the ones which carry the aura of exclusivity and panache. Consumers know this. Traditional brands struggle with it. Will this struggle costs us more iconic houses? If Jean Patou’s demise is any indication, it very well may.

Did you know?

Patou was also the first maker of suntan lotion Huile de Chaldee and among the first couturiers to include perfumes as part of a collection

Jean Patou 1930's Haute Couture Ballroom Gown

It’s not ‘Good bye’

Oh, don’t worry though. LVMH still owns the rights to JP perfume, there is still the original 1930’s formula of JOY in the archives of the Osmothèque, donated by Jean Kerléo. And the name Patou is still alive in the fashion house run by LVMH. So, perhaps one day that very fashion house will want its fragrance line back to represent it.

With this in mind, maybe instead a ‘Good bye’ to Jean Patou, will say ‘Au revoir’ for now.

Doutzen Kroes Joy ad Jean Patou
1974 JOY by Jean Patou advertisment