In 1924 Paris, capital of the arts, of literature, of all that is elegant, dancing the Charleston, being introduced to jazz and succumbing to the charms of The Ballets Russes. The Casino de Paris, set alight by Mistinguett; the champagne that flowed every night; the sinuous swaying of Josephine Baker; these and all the other uninhibited celebrations of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ helped to draw a veil over the atrocities and the absurdities of the Great War, as Parisians set out to live life at a hundred miles an hour in order to make up for lost time. In response to the expectations of a new generation of writers, musicians and artists, André Breton scandalized Paris society with his Surrealist Manifesto. Women shrugged off the weight of nineteenth-century conventions to transform themselves into ‘flappers’, with modernity and sophistication as their new credo.
Fashions and perfumes merged in a new aesthetic language aimed exclusively at seduction. The modern woman now bobbed her hair, smoked long cigarettes and exhaled clouds of Virginia tobacco, drove a car, swung her legs with ease as she walked, cast off her corsets and wore make-up with pride: an iconic vision perfectly embodied by the seductive actress Louise Brooks or the vampish painter Tamara de Lempicka.
It is in this bubbling context that the Isabey perfumes saga was born which in their excellence and creativity were to leave their mark on French perfumery – a new perfumery that was now facing not only fresh aesthetic and industrial challenges, but was also raised to new heights by the olfactory palette available to perfumers who combined natural raw ingredients with synthetic oils.’
Vice President of the Jury of Class XXIII Perfumery Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs, Paris, 1925
Baron Henri James de Rothschild, a descendant of the English branch of the illustrious family, was a brilliant philanthropist, doctor and playwright, passionately interested in the work of Pierre and Marie Curie, whose research he sponsored. Aware of the commercial potential of the rapidly growing luxury perfumery sector, Henri James de Rothschild understood that perfume was a specifically French art de vivre that could be exported throughout the world. It was with Rothschild’s support that the Société Parisienne d’Essences Rares & de Parfums was founded on 5 March 1924, to be registered on the Paris business register on 1 April 1924.
Isabey refers to the eponymous French painter and miniaturist. Several of his works had been acquired by the Rothschilds during the 19th century. A name with a beautiful resonance, refined fragrances presented in artistic bottles and boxes, this is what was needed at all costs to be able to participate in the long-awaited International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts in Paris in April 1925.
During the International Decorative Arts Exhibition in Paris, the brand-new company ISABEY presents six fragrances created in the space of 15 months: Le Lys Noir, La Route d’Emeraude, L’Ambre de Carthage, Cyprus Celtic, Sir Gallahad, and Jasmin of Isabey capture the attention of the elegant lady visitors.
Intoxicating scents, artistic bottles and jewel-style boxes signed by Isabey are the subject of praise. T he magazines Fémina and L’Illustration convey the image of the fragrance house.
“Le Collier d’Isabey”, a large half-moon-shaped luxury presentation case containing six Perle bottles arranged like a row of pearls. The jewellike Perle bottle was the creation of master glassworker André Jollivet, who perfected the technique of applying lacquer to blown glass.
This masterpiece won a gold medal for its originality, a major recognition for the skills of a perfume house that was still in its infancy.
Boosted by its success with customers, Isabey opened a shop at 20 rue de la Paix, a wholesale outlet and a London boutique. To complement its heady perfumes with their romantic and evocative names with appropriate packaging, Isabey called on France’s finest practitioners in the decorative arts. Acting as true ambassadors for the perfumes they contained, the bottles of this era display an intoxicating level of creativity.
The phenomenon of stars and muses from the worlds of cinema and theatre endorsing perfumes is not a new one. Isabey joined in with Parfum d’Yvonne Printemps and Parfum de Sacha Guitry, named after two big stars of the Paris stage. Natalina Cavalieri, whose fame and legendary beauty are of interest to the world of perfumers and cosmeticians. By creating her Beauty Institute, Lina Cavalieri signs under license with Parfums Isabey a line of skincare products and her perfume Monna Lina, a name chosen in a nod to the famous portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonard de Vinci.
In the 1930s, Isabey perfumes were becoming more discreet in Europe but made some pretty fragrances especially for the American market: Tendres Nuits (tender nights), Garden of Love or even Prends-moi (take me). In 1932, Parfums Isabey was brought by the Société Parisienne de Parfumeurs. The House has to close its doors in early 40’s, due to historical events.
Brought in 1999 by Panouge Group Company, the saga of Isabey Paris, the legendary House of Perfume continues today: The mythical lines are presented in one of its timeless past bottle and coffret. The unique art-deco bottle of Bleu de Chine and the sophisticated coffret of Trésor Caché have been ideally combined to create a contemporary design.