History of Lucien Lelong

“The only time a woman should change her perfume is when she is using some other perfumer’s product and changes to mine.” - Lucien Lelong 




Lucien Lelong  (Le-lawn, the n muted) belongs to an elite pantheon of French designers who, in the early 20th century, became instrumental in shaping the world of haute couture for decades to come. Among his contemporaries were Chanel, Worth, Patou, Lanvin and Schiaparelli, each of whom has left an indelible mark on fashion.

Lucien Lelong was born in Paris on October ll, 1889, the son of Arthur and Valentine ( Lambelet) Lelong.

Lucien Lelong learned the finer points of luxury, style and sophistication from his father, a thriving textile shop owner. At the age of 22, Lelong attended the Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris, and by 1914 had designed his first complete collection. He then was called to duty in WWI, where he earned the Croix de Guerre. He returned in 1917, then he joined his father's dressmaking shop in 1918 and although it remained open, the coffers are empty. He married Anne-Marie Audoy in 1919 and had a daughter name Nicole in 1920. The name of the dressmaking shop was transformed into Lelong & Fried (the name of his partner) that year as well.

In 1921, the house becomes Lucien Lelong. Collections in 1921, 1922 and 1923 receive a good reception from the press and customers. Showed his first designs under his own name in 1923. Success seemed to come overnight. In 1924, he left the Madeleine district to settle at 16, avenue Matignon and file the articles of his perfume company.

Believing perfume to be an essential part of a woman's dress, the designer in 1924 established the Société des Parfums Lucien Lelong, experimenting with fragrance using very modern, luxury presentations. The inspiration for his perfumes came from his designs and the individual, enigmatic traits of the women who wore them. Initially, the man who would become known for his elaborate, collectible bottles and flacons, made no attempt to decoratively package his unique scents. However, when requests for his perfumes started coming in from as far away as America, Lelong became inspired.


Oakland Tribune, 1927:
"Among accessories, what is more important than the perfume? Once assumed, it cannot be laid aside like a scarf or a pair of gloves. Personally, I have experimented until I have succeeded in producing three perfumes, each pungent yet each of a distinctive character. I have not given them fancy names; I call them only A, B, and C," says Lucien Lelong."





In 1926, he launched his ABC trio of perfumes in the skyscraper bottles manufactured by René Lalique . A year later, he released three new scents: Jasmine, J, and N for Natalie (his second wife).



He opened a shop in rue Gardères Biarritz , this is where he was acquainted with the family and Natalie Paley became a model for his house. In 1928, he opened a branch for his perfumes in Chicago.



During one of the Charity Bazaars her mother gave every year, Princess Natalia, age 21, met Lucien Lelong,  who offered her a job in his fashion house. She began to work initially in the perfume department moving soon to model the house's designs. Lelong had inherited his famous fashion house from his father. A hero of World War I, he was then married and the father of a little girl.

With her aristocratic background and her delicate features, Natalia was an asset for Lelong's business. His first wife, whom he divorced on 16 July 1927, was Anne-Marie Audoy. Shortly after, he divorced his wife and asked Natalia to marry him in 1927. Lelong was known for his homosexual affairs, but he offered her wealth and security. Against her family's opinion, who considered the union a misalliance, Princess Natalia and Lucien Lelong married in a civil ceremony on August 9, 1927. A religious ceremony took place the next day at the Orthodox church Saint Alexander Newsky. Theirs was a white marriage, a union without intimacy.






Lelong's reputation grew with the help of his wife whose taste was exquisite. Ethereal and glamorous, Princess Natalia would not follow any fashion trend, but would dictate her own. Hats and gloves were her signature. With deep-set gray eyes and pale blond hair, she became a sought after model establishing an image for herself in the Parisian elite becoming a well known socialite.

Natalia Paley worked as a model during the late 1920s and early 1930s. As a model, she appeared in many magazines including Vogue. She was a favorite model for the great photographers of her time: Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Andre Durst and George Hoyningen-Huene.



Though they shared the same infatuation for the arts and fashion, the marriage of Princess Paley and
Lelong was not a success. Too involved with his work and in love with one of his famous models who was doomed to die of tuberculosis, Lelong never grew to understand his wife's languor, or her frequent outbursts of temper when she was out of the limelight. On her part, Natalia began a two-year affair with dancer Serge Lifar. Their relationship ended when she began a passionate but platonic relationship with Jean Cocteau who like Lifar, and most men she was attracted to, was homosexual. Cocteau wanted to marry her and have a child with her, but Princess Natalia declined the offer. Their affair ended in the fall of 1932. She bought an apartment on the Esplanade des Invalides where she entertained society and prominent artists. She continued to work as a photographic model in connection with Lelong's fashion house.
After divorcing Lucien Lelong on May 24, 1937, Princess Paley married John Chapman Wilson on 8 September 1937 in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Within a few years, Lucien Lelong had become undeniably influential in the Parisian fashion industry. Aside from serving as the President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture for many years, he was widely recognized by his peers for his keen intuitive understanding of fabrics and their integral importance in the creation of a dress. Lucien Lelong's couture house would eventually become the training ground for fashion luminaries like Jean Ebel, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy.

Lucien Lelong's first perfumes were succinctly named A,B,C,J, and N and were intended to evoke a sense of mystery and romance, much like Chanel's numbered versions. Early labels featured clever phrases like: Tout Lelong (All Lelong- tout le long means "all along").



The intricately crafted bottles, largely designed by Lelong himself, were inspired by fabrics, garlands, feathers and modern architecture and are still collected to this day.  Most unusual is the bottle for Indiscret, inspired by a dropped handkerchief, and most sumptuous the one for Orgueil, the "pride" of the establishment. Lucien Lelong's bottles were made by Verreries Brosse.

The familiar long necked flasks for the colognes were the latest addition to the Lucien Lelong line in 1933.

In all, Lelong created 27 different fragrances, including Indiscret (1935), perhaps his most famous perfume.




From a 1928 issue of Time magazine:
"Lelong is popular with U. S. buyers. Particularly popular are his three perfumes : "A," for the exotic woman (or the unexotic woman who, acting out of character, is attending an exotic affair); "B," the perfume pour le sport; "C," the delicate scent for the ingénue."





A 1930 advertisement mentioned that Lucien Lelong created Parfums A and J to be worn exclusively with tweeds, tailored fabric clothing, furs and for the outdoorsy, sporty type of woman, the perfume is made up of jasmine and hyacinth amongst other scents. Parfum B, a festive perfume, was made for formal moments, the elaborate dinner, the ballroom, smart gatherings.



In 1936, Vogue described Lelong as an
 "unusual combination of artist and businessman. It is this rare, double capacity; this unusual balance of creative imagination, decision and execution that has produced Lucien Lelong's international success as couturier, parfumeur and business man."

It was precisely this business foresight that prompted Lelong to become one of the first designers to create and distribute a highly profitable ready-to-wear collection.

In 1941, PERFUME NAMES BECOME ENGLISH. Lucien Lelong, Inc., 55 East Washington street, has promised to cease using "Paris," "London" or other terms implying origin.

In later years, Lelong introduced humorous presentations such as Ting-a-Ling (with real bells) and Gyroscope (working model).

In 1948, Lucien Lelong became ill, and acting on doctor's recommendations, decided to close the doors to his couture house. He did not, however, end his perfume venture, which continued to thrive under his direction until his death of a heart attack in May of 1958. Lelong's third wife, who outlived him, went on to marry the French journalist Maurice Goudeket, the widower of Colette.

Cue, 1956:
"For instance, Lucien Lelong found a way to offer fine perfumes at low cost. He simply removed the costly wrappings and presented them in a typical French- without-frills package. Since you can't wear the bottle, reasoned M. Lelong, why pay for it! Lelong’s Passionnement, a newcomer to these shores, was a favorite of Parisiennes for many years though it was originally high priced."




For more than forty years after his death, Lucien Lelong's fragrances remain at the forefront of the beauty industry and the mere mention of his name continues to evoke the feeling of classic elegance reserved for legends.





HAPPI, Volume 34, Issues 7-12, 1997:
"The famed French designer of the early 20th century, Lucin Lelong, originally launched his fragrances in Paris, then introduced them to the States. This year, Parfums Lucien Lelong, now owned by Arnold Hayward Neis of Englewood, NJ, is resurrecting the designer brand in New York's Bergdorf Goodman, with a European rollout slated for next year. Lelong's fashion and fragrance creations were recently the centerpiece of an exhibit at French Institute in New York. The relaunched Lucien Lelong Indiscret fragrance.... 
"Indiscret is back, Parfums Lucien Lelong, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, has relaunched he classic fragrance Indiscret, originally created by Paris fashion designer Lucien Lelong in 1936. When Mr. Lelong approached a glassmaker to produce the bottle for Indiscret, he demanded that it looks like natural folds of draped fabric. The floral fragrance is packaged in a recreation of the original design."

A few years later, the fragrance Lelong Pour Femme was introduced.


Global Cosmetic Industry, Volume 164, 1999:
"January's Package of the Month is Lelong, the new signature fragrance from Parfums Lucien Lelong. Designed to evoke the glamour of Paris' Art Moderne period, the fragrance is said to capture that moment in time "when a woman realizes she's falling in love. Parfums Lucien Lelong has created its first fragrance entry in nearly fifty years, and this floral oriental fragrance and crystal perfume bottle combine in a dramatic packaging presentation evoking a time when perfume was considered  a grand passion, it is a lasting tribute to Monsieur Lelong. The image of the clock, throughout the packaging, , reminds a woman that anytime she wears Lelong Pour Femme something special is bound to happen.  
The packaging is extraordinary and dramatic.  The bottle is topped with a double tusk perfume stopper in trompe l'oeil tortoise shell in the style of the period, and is emphasized by a golden plaque debossed with the Lelong double L logo. The Parfum is a masterpiece embodying an actual timepiece.  
This unique floral oriental fragrance melds bright mandarin and bergamot, which add a sparkling effect to the rich top notes of magnolia flowers, garden lilac and Kadota Fig Intenscent. The timeless beauty of jasmine, Rose de Mai, tuberose, ylang ylang, and iris are highlighted with the distinctive signature notes of Sharry Baby orchid, purple cattleya orchid, and white cattleya orchid. An oriental background of creamy sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, and musk completes the fragrance. Lelong is available in Parfum, 30ml, Eau de Parfum, 50ml or 100ml, and Body Lotion with pump, 250ml."







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