Vintages Bourjois Mais Oui: Perfume, Flacon and Ads

Bourjois Mais Oui: Perfume, Flacon and Ads

01/05/15 06:32:41 (11 comments)

by: Sergey Borisov

Until yesterday I was almost ignorant about Bourjois. Well, the company makes inexpensive cosmetics. The owners of Bourjois, the Wertheimer brothers, are better known as the men who bought the name Parfums Chanel from its owner, Mlle Coco, for a measly 10% of the profits. Their main perfume hit—Soir de Paris Bourjois— was created by Ernest Beaux, Chanel's in-house perfumer. That's all, folks. But since I got a rare and beautiful vintage half-bottle of Bourjois Mais Oui in my hands, I had to rummage around in search of the history of the house.

The story of Bourjois Paris started in 1862. Right in his Paris apartment on rue d'Hauteville, actor Joseph-Albert Poncin invented for production of theatrical makeup a white base ointment called “Blanc de Perles” and face paints “Bâtons de Grime.” Young Sarah Bernhardt was among the first clients. Poncin was either modest or unsure of himself, and decided not to compete with the great surnames Lubin, Guerlain and Houbigant. So, when Alexander Napoleon Bourjois joined the company, he invested his sonorous surname in the capital of the company, together with the technology for baked eyeshadows.

Real money for the development and expansion of the business was introduced by Emile Orosdi and, at the turn of the century, Ernest Wertheimer.

The first mention of a Bourjois perfume collection appears in 1890, with three perfumes dedicated to violet, the most popular smell in the second half of the 19th century: Prima de Violette, Quintessence Violette, Violettes de Parma. However, Bourjois from there started dozens of perfumes: Chypre (1890), Extrait pour Le Mouchoir (1900), and numerous floral perfumes such as Oeillet Sauvage, Lilas Blanc, Royal Muguet ... Throughout its history, the Bourjois company has produced more than 120 perfumes.

In 1910, Bourjois Inc. registered in the United States. The sons of Ernest, Paul and Pierre Wertheimer have run Bourjois since 1923. They approved the playful Parisian Babette as a symbol of Bourjois products. She represents the emancipated girls of the Roaring Twenties: she smoked, cut their hair short and wore perfume Mon Parfum, "made from natural flower essences only!" In 1928, Evening in Paris, created by Ernest Beaux, made a sensation in the United States. A year later, in 1929, the success story was repeated in Paris under the Soir de Paris name. Bourjois and Chanel were connected not only by Beaux and the Wertheimers: the Soir de Paris design was developed  by Jean Helleu, the father of the legendary Chanel art director. “Luxurious perfumes for 9 francs only!” said the slogan which was built for middle-class wannabes. Ten years later, in 1938, the advertising said “to you who are ever alert for the new—Bourjois presents the heady, flirtatious sparkling new fragrance.” That was fragrance named Mais Oui ("But yes!").

My half-ounce perfume bottle labeled Bourjois New York was made in the 1940s, according to the Canadian seller. I think this dating is based on the package and bottle design created by Leonard: both correspond to the 1939-1945 advertising posters. The black-lettered perfume label was changed to paper-made, as pictured on the 1947 ad poster.

I cannot believe my luck, that a bottle so old comes to my hands so well-preserved. And when the fan-shaped glass stopper came out from the bottle, without any effort and friction, as though well-oiled, I realized that my luck is even better. With just some shaking and up-ending and the stopper could have fallen out, and I would have a very smelly package with an empty bottle in a delivery box. 


What kind of perfume is Bourjois Mais Oui? I think it is the perfume of rose-scented soap, the smell of a freshly-washed body of antique proportions and ... if not an outright sexual affair, then a certain natural appeal, expressed in the musky-haired, animalistic base notes. “Every precious drop of perfume is an invitation to the intrigue!”


Lovely provocateur that awakens the animal instincts, Bourjois Mais Oui was advertised in US magazines under the slogan "the frankly flirtatious new fragrance." Posters promised “Sooner or later every woman who wears it, has delightful evidence of its appealing charm.”

The perfume history of the twentieth century is written by advertising illustrations. In the first advertising posters, printed in just one rose color (Leonard, 1940-1945) a young women looks at the reader with one eye only, hiding the rest behind a pink glove or handbag, then a pink umbrella or hat.

But the main theme is a pink fan, as the bottle stopper is fan-shaped, and the fan is so convenient for hiding any facial expression and so convenient for throwing a playful look from behind.

The colors were later changed in the other illustrators' works. For example, in the optical illusions by Pat Xanti (in which a woman's face appears in the floral arrangement, in flowing ribbons, in autumn leaves, in birds and butterflies on flowering branches) that were clearly inspired by the work of the Surrealists, and there are more high society spirits, romantic moods and femininity in the posters by Raimond and Maurice van Moppes.

I do not know whether these advertising texts tell us more about the perfume itself or about advertisers' methods: "'Mais Oui' by Bourjois is for the 100% modern American girl who knows a winner when she sees one. She's bright, she's alert, and she's gay as a lark" or “a breath-taking perfume, spicy and lively, Mais Oui Bourjois beloved for piquant enchantment.”

The rose-scented soap of Mais Oui Bourjois has noticeably soft and fatty aldehyde notes in the start, some light lovely buttery rose with civet, a little indolic flower side to connect with the animalic part of the drydown. The gorgeous orchid (dry spicy salicylate note) and the beautiful rose that extends in the heart of the perfume were even honored to appear on Leonard posters as flowers in the hands of the coquette girl. A warm, woody-musky and animal-fur sillage, which is clearly made of (in descending order of smellable) cedarwood, civet, costus, musk, honey, styrax, tonka bean and moss. Many sources commented that Animalis (Synarome) base was used as Bourjois Mais Oui's base and its warm, fur-like and honey-like animalic sillage is especially noticeable after 36 hours of perfume development, when all the other notes have all evaporated. People usually considered it a leather or animalic musk drydown.

In my opinion, Bourjois Mais Oui Bourjois is an heir of classic aldehydic flower perfumes Chanel № 5, and Jean Patou Joy (aldehyde rose and jasmine), and Dana Tabu (spices, cloves, Animalis, tonka beans) and a parent to contemporary fragrances  La Nuit de Paco Rabanne (fatty and animalic rose perfume for furs) and Guerlain Chamade (peach powdery rose). In an overgrown steroidal version the honey animal rose was embodied by Vero Kern in her recent Vero Profumo Rozy. But I like the discreet magnetism of the aged Bourjois Mais Oui better—the perfume in my bottle has aged so beautifully.

 

 

Serguey Borisov

Serguey Borisov has been known in the Internet world of perfume under the nickname moon_fish for more than 10 years. Now he writes about perfumes for GQ.ru and Vogue.ru, and contributes on the subject for glossy magazines.

 

 

 

 



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celticelle
celticelle

Wonderful vintage perfume review and history!

Oct
05
2015
Gigi The Fashionista
Gigi The Fashionista

The cap on the flacon of Bourjois in the black and white ad is very similar to the shape of the bottle of Elizabeth Taylor's Black Pearls. I wonder if she or the nose who created the fragrance for Liz Taylor had seen the Bourjois Mais Oui ad and used the same sea shell like shape thinking no one would even knew anything about Bourjois or wouldn't notice.

Oct
05
2015
greydove
greydove

Interesting ads...

Jul
25
2015
veda
veda

Amazing article, thank you so much for all these infos!!

Jul
25
2015
BetsyMeszaros
BetsyMeszaros

Thank you so much for this article on Bourjois. You are so lucky to have been gifted the Mais Oui. It was wonderful to learn so much. Bourjois is definitely underrated.

Jan
06
2015
jennifer60656
jennifer60656

Thanks Serguey for adding this wonderful perfume - I have about a half a bottle with the blue cap (shown in the last advertisement). It is really terrific smelling! Great stuff! I also have a full bottle of Fiancee by Bourjois as well - not as sexy (a little more demure) but still great!

If you can find this brand at the flea market or antique shop for cheap (or not so cheap!?) grab it immediately - you won't be sorry.

Jan
05
2015
Kiku
Kiku

Thank you for this article. Bourjois created some wonderful fragrances. It's time this underrated perfume house got some recognition.

Jan
05
2015
CastoR&Pollux
CastoR&Pollux

what a brilliant article - thanks for that

Jan
05
2015
AmberLove
AmberLove

Thank you for such an informative article...really enjoyed reading the history of Bourjois!!! Very well done!!!

Jan
05
2015
Yayatan
Yayatan

Aww. If only I could go back in time to buy one of those perfume sets!

Jan
05
2015
Sherihan
Sherihan

I would love to find one me too

Jan
05
2015

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