Interviews History of Lubin: Interview with Gilles Thevenin

History of Lubin: Interview with Gilles Thevenin

02/21/11 18:48:25 (8 comments)

by: Elena Knezhevich

Gilles Thevenin is the actual owner of Lubin, who, with the support of former owners and perfumers who reorchestrated their old formulas, rescued the house from bankruptcy and opened a new page in its history in 1998.

The founder of the Lubin house and the great perfumer of his time, Pierre-Francois Lubin was born in 1774. He learned perfumery from the age of ten in Grasse, and at the age of sixteen Lubin left Grasse for Paris to complete his training under Jean-Lous Fargeon, the official perfumer to Queen Marie-Antoinette. In 1798, Lubin opened his boutique "Au Bouquet de Roses," which he named in honor of Marie-Antoinette's favorite flowers and perfume.

The creations of the young perfumer were very well-accepted by the fashionable public. Lubin's perfumes were worn by Empress Josephine (the wife of Napoleon I) and Princess Borghese (Napoleon's sister). With the renewal of the Bourbon dynasty in 1815, Lubin's business was supported by the only surviving child of Queen Marie-Antoinette after the revolution, Marie-Therese of France, and her husband and cousin, the Duke of Angouleme, son of King Charles X.. He prompted Lubin to rename his boutique "Aux Armes de France" (Royal Coat of Arms). Lubin was a favorite perfumer of many royal houses of the 19th century, and in 1821 he became the official supplier to George IV, King of England, as well as to Tsar Alexander I of Russia, two years later. During the reign of the last king of France, Lubin finally obtained the title of Official Perfumer to the French Royal Court.

In January 1844, the House of Lubin came into the hands of Lubin's spiritual heir, Felix Prot, who had trained under Lubin. Prot constructed a modern perfume factory in Cannes in 1873. His son, Paul Prot, a very educated man, worked on international connections and the image of Lubin.  He also built a modern facility in Courbevoie, a suburb of Paris, which was the largest perfume factory at the time. His sons, Marcel and Pierre, took over the house during the 1920s. Nuit de Longchamp was launched and had a great success. It was the golden age for Lubin in the States, until the Great Depression.

Marcel's and Pierre's sons, cousins Andre and Paul, got the company after the Second World War in 1945. They launched several famous perfumes, including Gin Fizz (1955), L'Eau Neuve (1968) and L de Lubin (1975). Then, Lubin was sold to an industrial group and started a period of slow decline. By 1998, Lubin was on the brink of bankruptcy, but Gilles Thevenin, with a group of private investors and the support of two of Paul Prot's sons, managed to save the historical perfume house.  (from 'The Lubin Story')


Idole was the first perfume by Lubin under the new owners. It was officially launched in 2005. It bears the same name as the old one (1961), but is it the same?

Gilles Thevenin:

"The old 1961–1962 formula has nothing to do with the new version created by Olivia Giacobetti. As a principle, Olivia never works on a formula that she didn’t create anyhow. The old version of 1962 was a flowery fragrance, but it had a weakness: it couldn’t stand transportation, the formula was fragile and not stable enough. It all started that I spoke one day with Olivia end of 2003 about the smell of the Indonesian markets, and my numerous trips to south east Asia. I have been living in Indonesia, in Jakarta, between 1981 and 1983. I could speak the language quite fluently, and therefore could travel all the country (actually, several thousand islands!) easily.

One day I went to Ujung Pandang (formerly Macassar), in the Celebes, to meet some old European people who had been living there for ages, who had known the pre-war period. And I went to see the harbor and the markets, and went onboard the local wood vessels. That’s what I was telling Olivia, to mention how smells the hold of those vessels, transporting spices, rubber, wood logs, and many other things. The discussion went on with Olivia evoking Zanzibar spice markets, where she had been, hence the title: 'from Zanzibar to Macassar, the maritime spice road.' Then there was the story of me collecting Asian antiques and she started saying, 'You are a smuggler, a pirate! You deserve rum in your next fragrance…'
At the end, there was never anything written before the fragrance was completed and bottled , only one long conversation with Olivia, who has a great sense of humor and is very witty. Idole was presented in 2004. We had produced a pre-series of 300 pieces, because I was not sure that the bottle would be accepted. It was actually rejected by many people. Some people, like me, love and collect African art, but many dislike it very much. But I launched it anyhow. I agree, the bottle, a creation of Serge Mansau,  is gorgeous: it’s a tribute to the African 'Masai' culture from Kenya, which is quite  fascinating."



While Idole is a completely new fragrance, there several perfumes in the line that were rebuit from the old formulas: Nuit de Longchamp, Gin Fizz, L de Lubin and L'Eau Neuve.

L'Eau Neuve was created in the spring of 1968 by Roger Broudoux, and actualized by Lucien Ferrero in 2008. Those free-spirited men and women wearing this fragrance from Katmandu to San Francisco had no idea Lubin's Eau Neuve was not simply a nod to this new generation, it was also a tribute to a much older eau de toilette called Eau de Lubin. It was created in 1798 and was a favorite eau de cologne of Empress Josephine. Gilles said L'Eau Neuve is almost identical to the original one (1968) from the olfactive point of view, as well as L de Lubin. Lucien Ferrero created L de Lubin in 1974, and he was invited in 2008 to actualize it to meet modern health regulations.

Gin Fizz was first created in 1955 by celebrated perfumer Henri Giboulet, as a tribute to Grace Kelly in the year she won an Oscar for her role in The Country Girl. The name was inspired by a cocktail that was in fashion at the time in the American bars of Paris, and was synonymous with joie de vivre and a fashionably festive lifestyle.

Gilles Thevenin:

"Gin Fizz is quite an accurate and very similar interpretation of the original formula (but once again, between 1955 and 1987, there were 3 different versions). We (actually, Thomas Fontaine) started from the very first original 1955 formula, made a batch of it (using 'forbidden ingredients'), then we let it mature and smell from time to time. And wear, of course, ourselves. Then the idea was to be as close as possible to the original smell, while abiding the law. The architecture is respected, the ingredients that we can use are all there, and what is banned has been replaced by what is usable today. The head is probably a bit fresher than the original one, less verbena, the aldehyde used is a different one, then the lilac accord is slightly less powdery than the original. Altogether we consider the spirit of the original creation respected, and we see the original users from the 1950 and sixties coming to our boutique in Paris to purchase the 'new' Gin Fizz. They are very happy about it."

Nuit de Longchamp was created to celebrate the famous horse race at the Longchamp racetrack in Paris. The fragrance was released worldwide in 1937. The first design of the bottle was inspired by the huge fireworks which were crowning the races.


Gilles Thevenin:

"Nuit de Longchamp is based as well on the original formula, but we can’t get as close to the original one, because some notes are quite impossible to reproduce today. It might be the one that is the least close to the original smell, the most important ingredients being banned. But it’s still a 'vintage fragrance.' Don’t forget that what you smell from old bottles doesn’t correspond at all with what the perfume used to smell when it was fresh. After a few years time, aldehydes turn into vinegar, and many flowery or citrus notes turn bad as well. You might like it because it smells like 'old times,' but ladies 50 year ago were wearing fresh bright musky fragrances as well."


Lucien Ferrero and Thomas Fontaine stand behind the new and revived old perfumes by Lubin. Lucien had already worked for Lubin before, and among his new creations are Itasca (launch 2010) and Le Vetiver (2007). Thomas Fontaine worked on new fragrances Bluff (2009), Inedite (2009) and Figaro (2010).

It's now difficult and useless to compare the previous and the new life of Lubin. Lubin simply continues; it has never died. I appreciate Gilles' enthusiasm in saving Lubin's famous fragrances, but even more I am grateful for the wonderful new scents that came in the last few years. They are remarkable for their complexity and unusual compositions, and they differ from each other, but together make a unique image of the brand.    

Gilles Thevenin:
"Thomas Fontaine is a great perfumer, and we understand each other very well. Our great grandfathers, as we discovered recently, were fighting side by side in the trenches during WW1, in the same battalion, since we are from the same region, in the center of France. We therefore speak the same 'patois' (the French regional languages).
I will definitely keep working with him in the future, and we have several projects cooking. But from his side, he is a free man and likes to compete for projects for other brands. I don’t think an artist, like a perfumer is, can have a 'boss,' or a single 'client.' He needs to be confronted by different challenges, to enrich his experience. It’s never too healthy to be dependent on someone, or dependent on a company, when you are a creator.  And as for myself, I need as well to be confronted by other 'noses,' from different generations and inspirations, to keep moving forward. Our job is mainly based on meeting people and sharing ideas, stories to tell. That’s why I might let from time to time another perfumer create for us. And of course, I hope I will have another opportunity to work again with Olivia Giacobetti, when she’ll be a bit more available."


Please visit the official web site of Lubin
Fragrantica is thankful to Gille Thevenin, the owner of Lubin, for the information he provided.
Images: Lubin


Author: Elena Knezevic (jeca)
Fragrantica Member









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Thanks, Jeca. I'm a perfumery store owner, and I proudly can say that, as my mother, I keep on having Lubin Parfums in my shop and I'm very happy to deal with this wonderful brand.


Came to know about Lubin few months back when I joined Fragrantica but after reading the interview, I can say that I knew nothing about how old house is it. It holds a rich history with it and also how it survived ups and downs. Thanks Jeca!

Wim Janssens
Wim Janssens

I can't wait to visit the new Boutique in Paris!


Thanks Guys! It was a nice discovery for me too ;o) When I saw how interesting and deep the history of Lubin was, I instantly wanted to share it with you, and I love the new owner's clever approach ;o).

Wim Janssens
Wim Janssens

Beautiful! Lubin is such a great House and the creations are absolutely top class!

Mr. Thévenin is an amazing man, who made Lubin back again one of the hottest old Perfume Houses.
Lubin has an amazing heritage and I am a very great fan.

The website is an amazing journey, the creations are a pleasure to wear. I have never seen a person so devoted as Gilles Thévenin and this results in Lubin today!

My mother told me about Lubin, a lot of people of my generation don't know the House and its creations - and the story of the fragrance my mother use to wear in the '70's made me very curious.
It was so nice to present a bottle of "L'eau Neuve", which brought her back to her first perfume she saved up for and cherished like a treasure.

Thank you for the beautiful article and thank you Mr. Thévenin for bringing back my mother's most precious olfactive experience!

Fragrant regards,



I am amazed with honesty and how open is Gilles when talking about old perfumes and nowadays versions. Also it is for admiring how new owners cherish cultural heritage and invest into the future of the brand.


Wonderful history of a nearly lost perfumerie! I had never heard of this house until today. I keep learning more and more about the fine art of perfume thanks, Fragranticans!!!


Jeca, this is a terrific piece. Thanks for all of the info on this historic house!


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