François Coty: the father of modern Perfumery. (Part 1)

What is the link between the pharmacy and perfumery, between Eau de Cologne and L’Origan, between perfume considered a luxury and perfume considered a consumer product? The answer is Joseph Marie François Spoturno, known as François Coty. A twoering figure of the perfume industry without whom, the world of perfume would not be what it is today. Today all perfumers work under his auspices: François Coty is widely considered to be the father of modern Perfumery. 

 

Born to an old Corsican family, great-grand-son of Napoleon’s cousin, Isabelle Bonaparte, his flattering family tree was an early indicator to his historic destiny. To be sure however, his successes can not be attributed to the league of his families heritage, but thanks to his own resourcefulness, his determination and talent. Born in 1874 in Ajaccio, François Coty lost both parents at a very young age. Subsequently educated by his great-grandmother and her grandmother, he set sail for Marseille early on, where he began work at the port, before beginning medical school. This taste for the sciences would prove to decisive for his future.

His meeting with another Corsica also had repercussions for his career: The politician and writer Emmanuel Arena became his mentor, encouraged him to come to Paris, where he started working for him. In the capital, François Coty befriended the pharmacist Raymond Goéry who was to teach him much about Perfumery as he sold them in his Pharmacy. Fascinated by the chemistry equipment, he tried his hand at the creation of a cologne. His first attempt proving convincing results, the first links between Coty and perfumery were woven.

On the advice of the pharmacist friend, François Coty heads to Grasse, the perfume capital. Intrepidly, he immediately contacts Chiris Antoine, the head of one of the largest perfumery companies in the world, whom he had already made contact with through his mentor Arena. The Industrialist Chiris is fascinated by the Coty: tall, thin, red-haired, with a lazy eye, François Coty grew over his strange appearance by wearing red suits and shoes, signs of his flamboyant personality and creativity. Chiris takes immediate friendship and introduces him to his general manager, so that he may have all the equipment and raw materials he needed. François Coty spent an entire year in Grasse learning the art of perfumery. Rising every morning at 5:00 to pick jasmine before sunrise. He learned the techniques of enfleurage and distillation. He also discovered absolutes: extracts from solvents, which allowed the creation of concentrated naturel scents from flowers or roots. Whilst Guerlain avoided absolutes, finding them too strong, Coty was enthralled by them. Perhaps mirroring his own flair. He departs for Paris with his absolutes and, thanks to their sales, buys a boutique, both workshop, laboratory and perfumery salon. Thus launching his new life as a Perfumer.

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