Heritage has become an over-traded term in niche perfumery. Some houses (no names mentioned) even invent it to give themselves more credibility.
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Le Jardin Retrouvé is not one of those companies. Founded by Yuri Gutsatz in 1975, the Paris-based brand can justifiably claim to be one of the pioneers of niche perfumery, along with L’Artisan Parfumeur.
Born in 1914 in St Petersburg, Russia, Yuri eventually settled in Paris, where he met legends such as perfumer Jean Carles (creator of all-time classics such as Dior Miss Dior, Dana Tabu and Carven Ma Griffe) and Louis Amic of Roure Bertrand Fils & Justin Dupont.
He was chief perfumer at the French company for three decades but became frustrated with the increasingly commercial demands (and limitations of) perfumery. He was also one of the original founders of the global scent archive the Osmothèque.
When Yuri founded Le Jardin Retrouvé in the 1970s, he emphasised the importance of quality ingredients. It’s one of the reasons why the family business became a cult favourite over the next few decades. After his death in 2005, the maison declined and eventually ceased to operate.
Realising the treasure trove they had at their disposal, Yuri’s son, Michel, and his wife, Clara, relaunched the company in 2016. Much to the joy of previous fans and a new generation of consumers. They chose perfumer Maxence Moutte to recreate fragrances from Yuri’s original formulas.
I spoke to Michel and Clara about brand founder Yuri Gutsatz, the importance of heritage vs contemporary relevance and the company’s new look.
In what ways was the founder of Le Jardin Retrouvé, Yuri Gutsatz, a pioneer of niche perfumery?
Michel: For 30 years Yuri worked as a Chief Perfumer at Roure Bertrand Fils et Justin Dupont.
This was the company that created the business model for perfume brands that still exists now, whereby there are “noses” in each company who create fragrances using a palette of ingredients. The perfumes that are produced are largely driven by marketing briefs, prices, availability of ingredients, etc, and not by creation.
Yuri became dissatisfied with this model. So at the age of 61 he decided to launch Le Jardin Retrouvé, which was the first perfume brand to not follow this model and therefore the first niche perfume brand. He believed that creating perfume is an art and that a perfumer has the power to create true moments of beauty.
In creating Le Jardin Retrouvé he distanced himself from the mass production of perfumes and had the chance to create beautiful perfumes without restrictions.
How did you relaunch the brand while striking a balance between heritage and contemporary tastes?
Clara: When we relaunched the brand, we had a choice of about 30 perfumes. Guided by our customers and perfume experts, we chose seven perfumes to launch.
We have an active Facebook group which is full of perfume lovers of different nationalities.
When we launched our limited-edition fragrances (Jasmin Majorelle, Bois Tabac Virginia, Oriental Sans Soucis) we asked our Facebook group to vote for the most popular.
Based on their tastes, we decided to launch three out of the four perfumes we offered.
Why did you choose Maxence Moutte to recreate Yuri’s perfumes?
Michel and Clara: A long time ago we were at a wedding and Maxence was there. He is the brother of a good friend of ours.
As a professional perfumer he knew about Yuri. He came up to us with lots of questions about him and also said he’d love to see Yuri’s laboratory.
When we relaunched the brand we immediately asked him if he wanted to be part of the adventure and to our delight, he said yes.
“Eco-responsibility” is very important to you. How do you ensure this is not “green-washing”?
Michel and Clara: When we relaunched the brand in 2016, we made two major decisions:
- We decided we would only use refillable bottles (as they originally were in 1975) because we were really angry at the huge amount of waste generated by the perfume industry through the use of crimped bottles. Finding uncrimped bottles was quite a feat, because the industry suppliers were not open to that. We went as far as to silk print the bottles to not use paper labels.
- We invented the Le Nécessaire concept, a box (cardboard FSC printed with water ink) containing two empty refillable glass bottles (15ml and 50ml) and one 125ml full aluminium bottle – customers could fill and refill the bottles at their convenience using a beautiful glass funnel. We were pioneering “home refill” and needless to say, at that time, it was not (yet) popular.
As you can see this is not green-washing: we have values and as a small family brand we try, day after day, to respect the environment and move one step at a time.
This is why in 2021 we decided to take the “road to clean” by getting rid of a few ingredients that were not biodegradable, for instance, or could potentially have health hazards.
Is Le Jardin Retrouvé a vegan brand?
Michel and Clara: It certainly is and it has been since 1975. Yuri Gutsatz formulated using almost no ingredients of animal origin and we made sure that none are used today.
You launched Mousse Arashiyama in 2021. It’s beautifully mossy. Oakmoss has become a tricky ingredient due to IFRA restrictions regarding skin allergen concerns. How did your perfumer Maxence Moutte work around that?
Michel and Clara: As Yuri used to say, “When the ingredient is of excellent quality, you don’t need high quantities.” This mantra helped Maxence stay within IFRA compliance rules and proportions and go on using our beautiful oakmoss.
He even went further with the “road to clean” process (excluding all ingredients from the Credo Dirty List that we may have had and in that sense going beyond IFRA). We even decided to use only organic alcohol that costs way more than standard alcohol.
It took several months and up to 17 trials per fragrance to preserve the olfactory beauty that was bequeathed to us by Yuri. Mousse Arashiyama was conceived that way by Maxence.
The brand was given a new, more modern look last year. How did that come about? Was it an easy change?
Michel and Clara: We owe to our shareholder brand designer Centdegrés the beauty of our new look, from bottles to identity.
Truly, we needed a new perspective because when you “inherit” a brand, loaded with family souvenirs as well as beautiful formulas, it is sometimes difficult to focus on what might be more obvious to others. Centdegrés helped us clarify what’s important.
Our brand identity is focused on the enchanted garden we all have in our mind: our fragrances each have a distinct persona, each one is linked to a well-known garden in the world and our bottles (as our symbol) have the shape of the door to this enchanted garden.
This has led us to develop an extraordinary poetic imagery that all can see on our Instagram and will be the guideline of our Esxence booth.
Does the store in Montmartre still offer the unique experience of the “Wall of Emotions”, timeline, experience room, etc?
Michel: The rue Montmartre store doesn’t exist anymore. But the concept that Clara created is still there: making fragrance a multisensorial experience, taking each fragrance into its unique garden experience, and linking fragrance to memories – hence the Wall of Emotions where people write their emotions when they smell our perfumes.
Using this concept, we have created pop-up stores in China, and we are applying it to our forthcoming booth at Esxence (come visit us, it will be a unique moment!).
However, Clara is really looking forward to recreating such a space, maybe in a different manner in a future flagship store.
What other releases can we expect from you this year?
Maxence is working on his new perfume, which will be released at the end of 2022.
He also is working to extend one of our best-selling perfumes into a home fragrance.
We are working on a new collaboration with an extraordinary Danish glassmaker and designer for a limited edition of our candles.
Where can we find Le Jardin Retrouvé products in the United States?
3 Le Jardin Retrouvé Products To Try Now
Inspired by a walk in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, Tubéreuse Trianon is a personal favourite of mine. I’m always keen to try fragrances containing the white floral and this EDP is one of the best I’ve smelled so far.
It opens with an unmistakable waft of tuberose. Fresh and luscious, it’s complemented by notes of jasmine and ylang-ylang, without smothering them. Hints of raspberry, coconut and coriander add another dimension to the scent.
It’s on the sweet side, but in a most sophisticated way. I’ve been wearing this beauty in the recent sweltering heat here in Johannesburg. It’s the ideal weather to reveal its complexity.
Taking its cue from the Jardins du Trocadéro (Trocadéro Gardens) in Paris, the intro features the green, softly fruity hues of blackcurrant.
The rose itself is all about the petals and the best rose absolute is used to create this effect. It’s beautifully natural smelling with lots of greenery. Which should come as no surprise – Le Jardin Retrouvé means “the garden refound”. Clove can be a bossy note, but here it adds just the right amount of contrasting and complementary spiciness.
The drydown – musk and a hint of honey – completes the nostalgic mood.
As with most Le Jardin Retrouvés, Rose Trocadéro is a personal and quiet experience. It’s one to wear when you want to keep a rose all to yourself.
The brand’s most recent release invites you to lose yourself in the beauty of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Kyoto, Japan. With an olfactory welcome this evocative, it’s an irresistible proposal.
The opening is all about the woody, almost citrus-y nuances of lentisque (also known as mastic).
In the background and gradually becoming more prominent, notes of fig leaf and fig accentuate the freshness.
Maintaining the forest walk illusion, an oakmoss note (“mousse” = French for moss) creates a damp, earthy ambience, with support from patchouli.
I don’t wear fragrances for compliments, but just so you know, this EDP gets me several whenever I wear it.
Richard Goller is a fragrance and grooming blogger. His blog is called Fragroom. A senior editor with 20 years' experience, his blog allows him to combine two of his passions: engaging content and the always-intriguing world of fragrances. When he isn't blogging, you'll find Richard indulging in his newly found passion for balcony gardening.