Houbigant

France France Pronunciation
Houbigant is the oldest French perfume house still in existence and one of the oldest perfume brands ever, with plenty of legends and half- or quarter-true anecdotes surrounding... Read more
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Interesting Facts

Houbigant is the oldest French perfume house still in existence and one of the oldest perfume brands ever, with plenty of legends and half- or quarter-true anecdotes surrounding the great house. The very first: when 23-year-old Jean-François Houbigant arrived in Paris in 1775 to open his perfume store, he brought with him a basket full of flowers from his rural home. He painted this basket of flowers himself on a tin plate, which from then on served as the store sign.

Houbigant created the perfumes that were exactly to the taste of the rich and beautiful at the time, and soon his fragrances were on the skin of nobility and high aristocracy.

Here's the next anecdote: when Louis XVI and his royal wife Marie Antoinette fled the Revolution, they were recognized and stopped in Varennes... the Houbigant legend knows why: Marie Antoinette smelled of her beloved Houbigant perfume. That this beautiful and precious perfume could not be worn by a commoner was smelled and thus saw through the disguise.

Parfums Houbigant survived the Revolution and made no small profit from the fact that luxury consumption now became more democratically accessible (to those who had money), and when the Empire was formed with Napoleon, the business flourished in even greater splendor: Josephine, Napoleon's wife, and later Napoleon III were regular customers. Other European nobility also enjoyed buying from Houbigant.

In 1880, the company, now in its third generation, moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine, where a larger manufactory and a modern laboratory provided space for more staff. Perfumer Paul Parquet became a partner and launched "Fougère Royal" in 1882. Truly a milestone in perfume history: not only was the entire Fougère family of fragrances named after this perfume, it was also the first use of a synthetic ingredient (synthetic coumarin).

Parquet went on to create other successful fragrances, and his successor Bienaimé continued the series as Houbigant's chief perfumer. He introduced the perfume "Quelques Fleurs" in 1912, which is still very popular today (admittedly reformulated several times). In the 1950s, under perfumers Paul Schving and Marcel Billot, other successful perfumes were created, including the classic "Chantilly."

Then it became quite quiet for decades around the great house, which produced only a few relaunches of its great fragrances, but no new developments. In 1993, Houbigant filed for bankruptcy protection and had to sell the name, the recipes and the marketing rights. Renaissance Cosmetics Inc, the company that now represented the great Houbigant products, was not aimed at noble clientele, but rather at marketing in drugstore chains. The parent company Houbigant, which had shrunk to remnants, complained about the dilution and quality degradation of the great old perfumes. In 1999, Renaissance Cosmetics Inc. itself went bankrupt and the Houbigant rights have since been held by another company, which, publicly known as Parfums Houbigant, once again refers to the great history of the name in a very tradition-conscious way, brings out the classic fragrances and tells the beautiful old legends.
Research and text by LouceLouce