Jacques Fath is considered one of the three most influential couturiers of post war France. The others being Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. At 25 years old, the self taught designer started his business in a small studio at 32 Rue la Boétie. Fath’s rise to fame came about after Vogue spotted his wife, Geneviève Boucher de la Bruyére, a former secretary to Coco Chanel, wearing one of his designs at the Grande Nuit de Longchamps. He remained in Paris during the German occupation, designing tartan tunic dresses and peasant skirts to mock the German soldiers. In 1944 he set himself up at 39 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie. During his career, Fath hired Hubert de Givenchy, Guy Laroche, and Valentino, all of whom would go on to found their now iconic design houses.
Chasuble, launched in 1945, was the first Fath perfume, but it was Iris Gris, launched a year later that became the stuff of legends. Considered a “unicorn” by fragrance collectors today, bottles on eBay sell for thousands. Fath would see seven perfumes launched before his untimely death in 1954.
His wife Geneviève kept the couture house running until 1957 before discontinuing the collections and turning the focus to perfumes and accessories. Looking at the historical catalogue of their perfumes, it looks as if the license to produce fragrances under the name “Jacques Fath” traded hands more times than loyalties in eight seasons of Game of Thrones. There were some notable releases too - Ellipse in the early 1970s, followed by Expression in 1977 composed by Raymond Chaillan and a relaunch of 1953’s Fath de Fath in 1994 composed by Mark Buxton.
Panouge purchased Jacques Fath in 2008, and it was put into the very capable hands of creative director Rania Naim. In 2015 she relaunched 1947’s Green Water with a new formulation composed by Cecile Zarokian who also made the three other perfumes that accompanied it.
“I was very flattered and pleased that la Maison Jacques Fath Parfums proposed to me the project of renewing Green Water but also was a little anxious to address such a reference in perfumery… I remembered the time I was studying this classic – Green Water is one of the precursors of the family of Aromatic Citrus and a great success at that time. I exchanged and worked in close collaboration with la Maison Jacques Fath Parfums and also with l’Osmothèque in Versailles: we studied the 1946 fragrance and worked accordingly. I then submitted my trials to Mr. Jean Kerleo, perfumer and founder of this unique institution. He gave me additional details about the original perfume and its story. In order to keep up with its distinctive freshness I used lavish quantities of neroli to ensure a qualitative result, among other ingredients.” Cecile Zarokian
For the second volume of perfumes, released in 2017, Naim collaborated with Italian perfumer Luca Maffei. Maffei is an independent perfumer, born and based in Milan, with his own studio – Atelier Fragranze Milano. Two of his creations, Acca Kappa’s Black Pepper & Sandalwood and Néa by Jul et Mad, were awarded winners of the prestigious Institute of Art and Olfaction Awards in 2015 and 2016 respectively. For the four volume two perfumes he created, Maffei developed four distinctive accords - The Kir Royal, Gold, Violet cream and Rose macaron.
“Jacques Fath was the mentor of the couturier Valentino. I’m therefore proud today to renew the link of the past: the French Jacques Fath’s style ‘joie de vivre’ with the Italian know-how.” Luca Maffei
While she was overseeing the launch of the two volumes of perfumes, Naim was busy bringing together a plan she had been working on since taking the role of Fath’s Creative Director - relaunching the legendary Iris Gris.
Naim recalls in Vogue Arabia, “I couldn’t have the pretense to determine the perfume alone. I needed to surround myself with historians, critics, and perfumers, in order to create what I would deem a responsible reedition. I contacted everyone, starting with Luca Turin—the first to write about Iris Gris—to help me and bring together a team of judges.” Meanwhile, The Institute for Art and Olfaction’s founder and director Saskia Wilson-Brown heard the rumours of the project in Los Angeles and wanted to document the process on film. The scene was set and five perfumers, among them one industry giant, were offered samples, access to the Osmothèque, ingredients, and nine months to produce their respective works. The winner would be selected by way of blind testing.
And the winner? A 25 year old perfumer who hadn’t even received his diploma at the time. He is Patrice Revillard of Paris’s Maelstrom perfume studio which was founded in 2017 with fellow perfumer Marie Schnirer and Creative Director Yohan Cervi.
“I could have said, ‘He is too young. Iris Gris is a grand perfume.’ But I said yes, and the judges were unanimous,” declares Naim.