The luxury industry has evolved from an art craftsmanship world to a leading business in the world. The global luxury goods industry, which includes cars, jets, drinks, fashion, cosmetics, fragrances, jewellery, and handbags, has increased in value for many years. Although the technical term ‘luxury good’ is independent of the goods’ quality, they are generally considered to be goods at the highest end of the market in terms of quality and price. According to statistic.com, the luxury business represents a total value of USD 281 billion. Therefore many important groups like LVMH have developed a true empire across the years. From building brands, acquiring brands and sometimes killing brands, groups like LVMH have evolved towards a financially driven machine which sometimes forces them to make complex decisions, no matter if such decisions would re-write history. Here is the sad case of Jean Patou, probably one of the most beautiful stories in fashion and fragrances that is just going to vanish in the dirty sands of finance.
1914 – 2018: the Jean Patou saga
When LVMH acquired Jean Patou in 2018, we were few people dreaming of a rebirth of the legendary brand. This amazing story started 106 years ago. When Jean Alexandre Patou created his luxury house in 1914 it was quite a strong success almost from the start. He marketed dresses without corsets, shortened skirts, launched a sports line designed to be worn in town and a monogram with his initials.
He stood out from his competitors, Jeanne Lanvin and Gabrielle Chanel, his great rival, by being all the more visionary. For example, he made tennis champion, Suzanne Lenglen, his muse, designing long dresses with low necklines on the back when the boyish style was in vogue. His eye paid off: between 1919 and 1924, the house’s revenue increased thirtyfold. Celebrities of the time, such as Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker and Mistinguett, were all seen wearing his dresses.
The 1929 crisis impacted the house, just as he was opening New York. Jean Patou created “Joy”, the most expensive perfume in the world, to relaunch his brand. His death in 1936 from a stroke brought the adventure to an end. After the shock of his passing, Madeleine Patou, his sister, and Raymond Barbas, her husband, took over the reins of the house.
Without its founder, the Jean Patou brand lost its aura. Marc Bohan took over the artistic direction in 1954. Following his lead, the house has seen some of the greatest names of fashion at its helm: Karl Lagerfeld, Michel Goma, and under his direction, Jean Paul Gaultier made his debut there, followed by Angelo Tarlazzi and Christian Lacroix. After Christian Lacroix left to start his own house, the Jean Patou house ceased its activity.
Perfumes can keep a name alive. “Joy” has remained a reference fragrance, one of the great commercial successes of the perfume industry. The Procter & Gamble group marketed it from 2001 to 2011, before the English group Designer Parfums took over.
Jean Patou was acquired in 2018 by the LVMH group – which signed a strategic agreement with Designer Parfums to take over the clothing division. Sidney Toledano has appointed Guillaume Henry to the artistic direction, entrusting him with the task of relaunching his women’s ready-to-wear lines.