Vintages L.T. Piver: A Story of 240 Years

L.T. Piver: A Story of 240 Years

07/30/14 22:54:57 (21 comments)

by: Miguel Matos

L.T. Piver is one of the oldest fragrance makers in France that are still active. The foundation of the company is contemporary with Lubin, Houbigant, Guerlain, E. Coudray and Oriza Legrand. It was in 1774 that the French perfumer and glove maker Michel Adam opened his boutique A La Reine des Fleurs in Paris, around the time he was launching L'Essence Vestimentale, a lavender-based fragrance.
The opening of the shop happened due to the success he had after being named the main supplier of perfumed products for the Royal Court of Louis XVI. Today his seminal work is still alive under the name of L.T. Piver, an important element in French perfume culture.
 
 
R. Adam, son of Michel Adam, took hold of the business in 1799 but he died six years later, leaving the house to his German cousin Pierre-Guillaume Dissey. The name by which we still know and wear the creations from this manufacturer comes from a partnership Pierre-Guillaume Dissey signed with Louis Toussaint Piver in 1813. The company was then named Dissey et Piver.
Some years later, Dissey died and Louis Toussant Piver, despite his grief, got full control of the house and ran it with great success, under the name L.T. Piver. Boosting the company's sales, King Charles X named L.T. Piver as supplier for the Court. In 1825 the Duchess of Berry gave him the same privilege making A La Reine des Fleurs the most famous perfumery in Paris, selling not only fragrances but also cosmetics. Soon this boutique became insuficient for the demand and in 1826 L.T. Piver opened a factory with the latest technologies.

In 1832, Louis Toussaint, tired of the troubles due to the political and economical problems in France, sold the company to his friends Messier and Amavet. But it is in the hands of Louis Toussant's nephews, Alphonse Dissey and Alphonse Honoré Piver, who remained working in the house, that the full potential of the brand came to be a big perfume business that crossed the frontiers of France. They managed to save money to repurchase the company in 1837.  In an article published by the Osmotheque's magazine, Nouvelles de l'Osmotheque, Jeannine Mongin describes this duo as having “an extraordinary courage and faith in perfumery.” But unfortunately Alphonse Dissey died in 1842, leaving Alphonse Piver alone with the destiny of the house. Never giving up, he managed to run the company alone and later on, with the help of his wife, Victorine Delayen, who became his right arm and gave him a son: Lucien Toussaint Piver.

 
 
Every powerful man and woman in France loved L.T. Piver and during the Second Empire, Piver became the supplier for the Emperor. As told by Annick Le Guérer in the book Le Parfum, Des Origines a Nos Jours, Napoleon III loved Piver's lettuce soap and the Empress Eugénie was fond of L'Essence des Fleurs d'Andalousie. Prizes and other distinctions were not scarce in the company's portfolio. 1867 is the year Alphonse becames Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur and the company received another medal.
 
 
Lucien started to run his father's company in 1881 and soon enough, from just an office in Paris, L.T. Piver opened five shops and sales offices in Brussels and London. According to the brand's official website, “by the nineteenth century L.T. Piver had over one hundred branches around the globe, including England, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Russia and Brazil. In Paris, a number of shops were opened to cater to the company's growing clientele, the most loyal of which included the Bonaparte family and in later years, Sarah Bernhardt.” The next step was the opening of a factory in Grasse for the extraction of flowers and another one in Aubervilliers for soap manufacturing and the production of essences. L.T. Piver wons more prizes and awards in London, Paris and Porto. Lucien Tousaint Piver became vice-president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Parfumerie.
 
 
 
But the really important step for the L.T. Piver brand came in 1896, when Jacques Rouché (Berthe Piver's husband) became director. He had published a revolutionary article called "State of The Art of the Perfumery" in France and had a multinational business vision  for the company, but he also wanted to keep and even elevate the artistic value of the house by hiring the best perfumers for the creation of a vast line of fragrances, some of which are still in the market today. These were Pompeïa (1907), Rêve d'Or (1927) and Cuir de Russie (1939), now named just Cuir. These were the scents that started the golden age of L.T. Piver and they represent the time when the expansion of the line took place throughout the world.
 
 
Rouché hired a highly skilled mathematician and chemist, Georges Darzens, professor at the Faculté de Sciences de Sorbonne and his discoveries in the field of organic chemistry allowed a revolution in perfume making. He isolated isoamyl salicylate, a chemical ingredient that smelled sweet grassy like clover. This breakthrough permitted the company to produce Trèfle Incarnat in 1898.
 
L.T. Piver states that their Trèfle Incarnat, was indeed “the first perfume to contain artificial essential oils”. It was the first fougère, according to Jeannine Monguin and the Osmotheque. However, these claims seem highly improbable, since Guerlain introduced Jicky in 1889 and Houbigant created Fougère Royale in 1882. In 1903 Darzens discovered another important synthetic material: methyl nonyl acetaldehyde.
 
 
Following all the success L.T. Piver had, a number of branch offices were opened throughout the world and sales got a big increase in the French colonies as well as other territories in Africa and Indochina where their soaps were among the most popular perfumed products. By the beginning of the 20th century the trends in grooming were heading towards hair and the fashion for men was straight hair. The house of Piver immediately understood the potential of this market and started focusing on hair products like lotions and greases, that were sold in hairdressers'. Even today we can still find wax and grease scented with Rêve d'Or.
 
 
Business was doing well until the occupation of France. In 1939 the war forced Piver to close all sales points and even the factory in Aubervilliers stopped producing. Other big houses of the time like Lubin and Pinaud suffered from the hard times of war and started to decay. Jacques Rouché left L.T. Piver and his daughter Jacqueline André became the manager. After the forced interruption due to the war, the priority was to speed production and distribution in France as well as invest in exportation. L.T. Piver became very attached to the hair products market and developed new lines. Piver continued to sell in and out of France, basically anchored in three lotions: Rêve d'Or (important in the Muslim countries where it played a traditional role in wedding ceremonies), Pompeïa and Héliotrope Blanc (very successful in the Caribbean as part of their traditional rituals). The importance of these products in exotic places stems from the colonial times. Piver introduced their lotions in exotic French colonies with such success and acceptance that it remains part of the peoples' culture, even today.
 
 
Cuir, Lavande des Princes and Vétiver are fragrances that figure among Piver's bestsellers. “Rêve d'Or and Pompeïa have a very interesting history," points out Sylvie Dumontier, export manager worldwide at L.T. Piver and Coudray in Paris. “Even today, Rêve d'Or is sold in the Caribbean, Africa, Indonesia, India, Cambodja ... They began to wear it because of the factories we had in those countries at the very beginning of the company. These populations began to think that Rêve d'Or was a positive white magic product, so they use it for weddings and to bring good luck. In Cambodia, for example, they use it to clean the Buddha in the temples. In Africa and the Caribbean, Pompeïa is used as a lotion for kids and older people. These are products we can never change. If we changed it, it would be a curse for us. And Pompeïa has over 320 different ingredients so it's hard to comply with the IFRA legislations,” says Sylvie.
 
 
In the 1960s hair care collections with lotions and shampoos like Magic and Capilo made the brand's reputation as hair specialists. That's why even to this day, in Paris, some hairdressers still sell L.T. Piver products and fragrances. By 1967, the house was receiving awards like the Croix de La Légion D'Honneur for the quality of their products and the company's longevity. But the company could never manage to recover its wealth after the war and it was sold in 1972 to Sogemic, later being integrated within the Rhône Poulenc brand portfolio. But the brand continued to sell. In 1989 the L.T. Piver company was recapitalized and it finally got hold of the heritage through the passionate hands of Eric Amouyal, who is giving it now the care and attention it deserves.
 
 
There are different lines of distribution for the current L.T. Piver fragrances. Rêve d'Or and Pompeïa, for example, are very inexpensive cult scents. The packaging is still great but they are not seen as high-end products. They are not considered niche fragrances and it is possible to buy them at hairdressers, hair product stores and even esoteric shops in Paris (there is still a wonderful Rêve d'Or perfumed hair wax in the market) and other cosmetic shops around the world. But Héliotrope Blanc is considered to be on another level and it can be found in niche boutiques like Jovoy in Paris or La Rinascente, in Milan, just to name a couple. The line composed by Cuir, Epices, Musc, Vétiver and Cèdre is also considered niche quality and sold only in carefully selected points of sale at a higher price, still managing to be affordable. For the future, L.T. Piver is planning on expanding the niche line with new woody-leathery fragrances and maybe a new eau de cologne.
 
 
Vintage L.T. Piver ads from Hprints.com
Vintage bottles were taken from the Afonso Oliveira Collection
 
 
 
 
L.T. Piver fragrances:
 
1774 – L'Essence Vestimentale, A La Reine des Fleurs
1887 – Mascotte, Corylopsis du Japon
1889 – L'Essence Mysterieuse, Rêve d'Or nº1, Deodoro de Fonseca (created in hommage to Brazil's first President).
1893 – Sublime Parfum, Select Parfum, Bouquet Fin de Siècle
1894 – Violette de Parme, Toison d'Or, Chrysanthème de Tokyo, Bataille de Fleurs, Myosotis des Femmes de France
1895 – Parisiana, Griselda, Gismondia
1896 – Violette Ducale, Millenium
1897 – Iris Blanc
1898 – Trèfle Incarnat, Ambre Ducal, Gui Nouveau
1903 - Esperys
1905 - Floramye
1907 – Pompeïa, Azurea
1908 – Astris
1910 – Dolme
1911 - Scarabée
1912 – Ilka
1913 - Velivole
1921 - Mismelis
1922 – Ambre Duale, Aventurine, Rosiris, Safranor, Vivitz, Violette Duale, Volt
1923 -  Misti, Valée des Rois
1925 – Gao
1926 – Fétiche
1927 – Rêve d'Or, Rocroy
1928 – Carminade, Mascarade
1959 – Bacara, Ciel d'Été
1995 – Eau Pour Homme
1998 – Clarté, Inclination
2000 – Clarté for Men, Eau de Piver
2011 – Musc
 
Miguel Matos is a Portuguese journalist obsessed with art and perfume. He is the editor of the art section at Time Out Lisbon and directs his own cultural magazine, Umbigo, besides contributing with texts for museums and art galleries. He collects perfume and is especially fond of vintages. He is a Fragrantica writer, translator and editor of Fragrantica.com.br

 



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migueldematos
migueldematos

@canadianpetite I smelled an old bottle of Floramye in the factory and it smelled like violets and iris. Love your name!

Nov
20
2016
canadianpetite
canadianpetite

When I was born, my parents wanted a unique name but could not come up with one. My grandmother suggested Floramye, her favourite scent. As a young girl, I did not appreciate the attention it garnered. As I got older, I quickly realized that it was a natural conversation opening. It seems that L.T.Piver is not a well-known company outside of the fume community so I appreciate every info that I can find - thank you! I long to be able to travel to Europe and visit the factory. Does anyone know how I can get a hold of a bottle of Floramye in hopes of getting a general idea of how it smelled??

Nov
20
2016
Marco<3
Marco<3

migueldematos, thank you!

Aug
25
2016
migueldematos
migueldematos

Marco<3 The lotions can be used both as perfume and for the hair. They have less alcohol and are formulated to be used safely on hair and skin.

Aug
25
2016
Marco<3
Marco<3

Hallo, I have a question but the lotions of these fragrances are for hair or to wear as a perfume? Thank you! <3

Aug
25
2016
jolieshirley
jolieshirley

J'aime cette maison à l'exceptionnelle longévité, je possède ses incontournables à petit prix, Pompeïa, Héliotrope blanc et Rêve d'or , et j'ai offert Épices à monsieur. Article sympathique, j'ai apprécié les illustrations.

Aug
25
2016
migueldematos
migueldematos

While revisiting this article that I proudly wrote, I see a nasty comment by a colleague of mine...

Aug
24
2016
matty64
matty64

Thanks Miguel, I love any stories about the history of perfume. Personally, I could care less how Cossacks removed mud from their leather boots though. I understand they were considered the finest made in that time period. Didn't they make a boot scraper to go with them? You know, buy two pairs and get a free boot scraper? (small chuckle)

Feb
22
2015
Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

What a lovely and informative article, such long and glorious history Piver has, it would be interesting to see the new launches of the company while keeping the spirit, quality and tradition of the past. I would love to try the Reve d'or too, seems like a breath of fresh air from all the modern 'gourmand' candy floss that s been flogged around lately (those old bottles are amazing too...)

Feb
22
2015
sweaterfreak
sweaterfreak

FABULOUS WRITING AND STUNNING PHOTOS & ADS!

Aug
09
2014
smauricius
smauricius

Very informative article. There's a lot of research here. Congratulations. I must say I love Heliotrope Blanc very much. This is a very interesting house to explore, indeed!

Aug
09
2014
debush
debush

I really enjoyed reading this article, keep up the good work!

Aug
01
2014
chayaruchama
chayaruchama

Lovely !

Aug
01
2014
cumulnimbus
cumulnimbus

Beautiful article. Thank you, keep them coming like this one, please.

Aug
01
2014
Planet_X
Planet_X

Dear moonfish67
The leather like you just described - THAT leather with birchtar - was an ispiration for Chanel's Cuir de Russie, as for L.T.Piver one - look at the picture of dancing guys on old bottle - as a booze they drank specific honey-sort of alcohol, so those who expect in L.T.Piver Cuir to find birchtar-y leather - look in another house, L.T.Piver's leather is honeyed boozy shiny happy leather, with hints of tobacco and herbs. Banquet and dances.
Also you dont need to be unconscious to rub leather boots from the mud against a tree, all men do that even while hunting, its bloody men's favourite habit - use rock - or tree for getting ride of the mud, they dont take a piece of shiny material from the sleeve together with box of birchtar and clean it sitting on the bench, they always on the go:P

Aug
01
2014
moonfish67
moonfish67

dear Miguel,
please, check your sources.
"a perfume inspired by the habit that the Russian cossacks had of rubbing their leather boots against birch trees in the forest, whenever they were muddy and dirty" - this is VERY NEW and TOTALLY WRONG explanation!

Cossacs were never been so unconscious about nature and their free time - try to rub your boots against any tree in order to get mud off! :))))

Cuir de Russie is the traditional Russian waterproof leather used for boots (including military boots, for cossacs, officers, etc) - the smell of it was due to mixture of birchtar and seal fat used for treatment.

Jul
31
2014
raw umber
raw umber

I used to own Heliotrope Blanc and was not too crazy about it, though the artistry of the packaging and advertising for L.T. Piver is beyond beautiful. I love it so much... it looks like magic.

Jul
31
2014
Planet_X
Planet_X

Love L.T.Piver House and their juices, hope to see more of same and better quality
They are not similar with any others, thanks for the article!

Jul
31
2014
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Finally! An extremely informative piece on L.T. Piver - a company that has completely mystified me ever since we first 'met' with Pompeia. :)

Many thanks to Miguel for enlightening us!

Jul
31
2014
9-na
9-na

Mister Matos, thank you for the article, simply loved the information in it. Looking forward to trying more Piver scents, hopefully, that's going to happen sometime. I've got a vintage Rêve d'Or (1950ish), it is quite nice, I enjoy wearing it.

Jul
31
2014
sophywt
sophywt

Great, an article about LTPiver finally!

I really hope that LTPiver bring back some their classics, not scent itself but also the package and bottle design.

Jul
31
2014

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