Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quelques Fleurs - Classic, Timeless, Floral

Is there anyone over 40 who hasn't worn - or at least tested - Quelques Fleurs? Introduced in 1912 and translated as "Some Flowers," Quelques Fleurs Eau de Parfum is a blend of soft, sensual florals that has over 250 different raw materials and more than 15,000 flowers in each ounce.

Its continuing popularity was brought home to me last week when I was hanging around with Loyd at Saks in Chevy Chase, looking at Armani's new holiday sets (more on those later). A woman approached and wanted to know if he could help her find Quelques Fleurs for her mother. She also asked about value sets. Take heart, shopper, I found a set at Neiman Marcus, and an online search turned up plenty of sets at discounted rates! My fragrance counter expert at Nordstrom is expecting to get sets for the holiday season, and she's taking reservations. They're that popular!

Jean-François Houbigant (1752-1807) launched his perfume business in Paris in 1775, originally selling gloves, perfumes, and bridal bouquets. His business grew to cater to royalty and the wealthy class. Fast forward from that rich history to the year 1912, when Houbigant perfumer Bienaimé picked up the ball and introduced Quelques Fleurs, one of Houbigant's all-time great fragrances. Unfortunately, during the 1990's, the company filed for bankruptcy, changed hands multiple times, and it's not at all clear to me that Bienaimé's Quelques Fleurs is the exact fragrance sold today. However, I have read that the fragrance is being manufactured today under the original specifications.

I'm a little confused about what some refer to as "Vintage" Quelques Fleurs vs Quelques Fleurs L'Original. Maybe one of you can help out? It appears that sophisticated noses detect a difference. I have asked countless fragrance experts, and I have not received a consistent answer. Most of them say that Quelques Fleurs L'Original is the real deal. So, comment please if you know!

Here's what we do seem to know. The top notes are orange blossom, green notes, tarragon, bergamot, and lemon. The middle notes are carnation, tuberose, orchid, lilac, orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, and rose. The base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, and oak moss.

So many fragrances come and go, driven out of the market for any number of reasons (they "stink," they aren't distinctive, their celebrity namesake went to jail...so many reasons). Quelques Fleurs' longevity and timeless popularity are indisputable.

You can find it at hundreds of sources and at wildly varying prices. Do your homework if you're looking for it. And if you want one of those value sets from your local department store, get on the list!

Photo courtesy of Fragrance.net


Unknown said...

I remember smelling this scent and not liking it much (but then I am not a floral fan, rather citrus and gourmand scents fan). When I worked at a fragrance counter we had some people request this perfume and after testing they seemed to be satisfied with the scent. Most of the buyers were quite older so I assume they would know if the original was re-formulated.
I think I liked the Quelques Violettes version a little better, and they also have Roses version as well.

Charlestongirl said...

Anna, we are going to have to make you our official fragrance historian! Thank you for the information.

I keep asking, and the most consistent answer I can get is: L'Original is the real deal. May not be right, but it's consistent.

Next, I'll have to ask if any of the Quelques Fleur customers are under 70! :)

Unknown said...

I stumbled across this blog while I was looking for information on just that--the reformulation, that is.

I am absolutely 100% sure that the fragrance was reformulated in the late 1990's/early 2000's. I don't know if it was reformulated for the 1980's re-release, though.

To be quite honest, I really abhor the current Quelques Fleurs--I actually stopped wearing it around 2001 (that's when I ran out of my last bottle and discovered that I couldn't find the true scent ANYWHERE).

I had heard something about legal troubles--I know Houbigant Paris went out of business in the late 1990's. There were some legal troubles throughout the 90's when they licensed the rights to some of their other scents to another company that reformulated them(Quelques fleurs was with an entirely different manufacturer at the time).

Long story short, from what I gather, Houbigant went out of business in 1999, but I have no idea who was producing the scent between 1988-1998 and if there was some change in manufacturing companies after Houbigant went out of business in 1999.

I've been trying to dig up information on who manufactured it from 1988-1998, just because I want a bottle--I have no idea where I might be able to find one manufactured during those particular years. If you have any thoughts, please let me know!


Charlestongirl said...

Mona, here is some information I found after I wrote this post. I can't vouch for it, but you might find it interesting.

Elfkincatcher wrote this comment on Quelques Fleurs at fragrance.net.

"Too often this is called simply 'QUELQUES FLEURS' and is retailed as such but it isn't! This perfume 'QUELQUES FLEURS L'ORIGINAL' bears little resemblence [sic] to Quelques Fleurs which was created a couple of years after L'Original. Both are by Houbigant but whilst L'original has been resurrected (reformulated?) and is available retail, Quelques Fleurs is only available in the 'vintage' market! L'original is quite a heady floral perfume but there is something not quite right about it - whether this is the reformulation I don't know as I have never smelled the REAL L'Original. It improves greatly after a few minutes so if testing it WAIT and don't rub it!!! BUT believe me it doesn't even come close to Quelques Fleurs! That is just scentsational! It is like falling asleep in a flower garden on a hot summers day - a died and gone to heaven fragrance - youthful but not young - it is a perfume that any woman can wear at any time of the day. L'Original just doesn't have the same qualities. They stopped making Quelques Fleurs back in the 70's I think - or at least they retailed it in UK only in Harrods in an attempt to raise its profile to where it originally was - I think they made it for the USA market for a little longer. My mother introduced me to it in the late 60's - it had been one of her favourites. I have both Quelques Fleurs and Quelques Fleurs L'Original - I have given it the thumbs up as L'Original is lovely ....BUT..........."

I also learned from Web research that after Houbigant declared bankruptcy, the company's formulas and manufacturing changed hands multiple times.

I have drawn the conclusion that the "vintage" Quelques Fleurs was different from what has been sold as L'Original, but I can't find anyone in retail to back up that opinion.

I have seen multiple auctions on eBay and other auction sites for "vintage" Quelques Fleurs.

Charlestongirl said...

And here is some more information from the Web. Source: www.perfumeprojects.com/museum/marketers/Houbigant.shtml

In 1993 Houbigant filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York listing liabilities of $52.5 million and assets of just $23 million. Part of the losses were blamed on a French manufacturing facility which was not proving to be profitable.

In 1994, Houbigant give a license to a start-up company, Renaissance Cosmetics, Inc., to manufacture and market twelve Houbigant fragrances using the Houbigant name. Formulae for the fragrances were included in the deal.

Renaissance itself filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999.

The years between 1994 and 1999 saw much litigation which included complaints by Houbigant that its fragrances were being "watered down" and its name was being used in ways not contemplated by the licensing agreement. Ultimately, when these complaints were settled, Houbigant litigated with Renaissance's insurers over the same claims.

The watering down accusation presents something of a puzzle because Renaissance clearly stated that its goal was to sell fragrances to mass merchants — drug store chains and discounters — rather than Houbigant's elite 19th century clientele. The days of marketing to royalty were over. Not only did Renaissance need the famous Houbigant brand names, they needed affordable compounds that could be sold profitably in a market that allowed only the thinnest of markups.

When the dust finally settled, Renaissance had vanished, Houbigant was no longer a perfume maker, and the Houbigant name became legally attached to fragrances that had come a long way from their original formulations. With the notable exception of Quelques Fleurs (which had been committed elsewhere), a company ... and then two companies ... called "New Dana" emerged with the legal right to use the "Houbigant" name in connection with a number of Houbigant fragrance trade names on fragrances they manufactured themselves. Houbigant had ceased policing its classic fragrances for compliance with the originals.

Charlestongirl said...

Sorry for breaking this up into so many comments, but if you Google "vintage Quelques Fleurs" you will find leads on sources. And keep checking the auction and antique sites!

Ragan said...

Mona is absolutely right! I was a flight attendant and smelled Quel Que Fleurs on a passenger and begged her to tell me what it was. I bought it and wore it in the early 90's...I think 91, and 92. It was hard to get (no ebay etc) then, so when I flew somewhere that had a Neiman Marcus or if I was in NY I went to Bergdorf's and got it there. I had a friend comment that it even had a "pipe tobacco" scent back then...now it seems more citrus or something. NOT the same! My concern is if I can find the one I wore then...age will change the scent also. I desperately want my perfume back!