Sunday, December 26, 2010

Noir Part I

Many thanks to Katie of Scentzilla and through her, Jill Martin Clements (aka rockinruby throughout Ebay/Internet circles) among others for many of the details and specifics of Weil Parfum history.

Weil Fur Ad 1920

Weil Fur Ad 1920

Weil Fur Ad 1925
Weil Fur Ad 1932

Furriers by trade, perfumers by destiny. Since 1920 Alfred, Jacques and Marcel Weil enjoyed great success as designers practicing in the trade of fur at Les Fourrures Weil. Then in 1927 a wealthy client requested a perfume designed especially to sweeten fur without damaging it and Parfums Weil was born. The brothers hired talented nose Claude Fraysse to create the first Weil parfums. Fraysse had trained at Firmenich; he was considered to be the very top nose at Yardley, which was one of the largest commercial perfume houses at the time. Fraysse was famous not only for his own work as a perfumer but because his talent overflowed into his family tree. Three of his children went on to become perfumers of note, as did at least one of his grandchildren.

Above, Jacqueline's brother Andre Fraysse (1902-1976) in the late 1920s. He became Lanvin's in-house perfumer in 1927.

Early Weil Perfume Print Ad 1928

With the help of his daughter perfumer Jacqueline Fraysse, Claude created the first trio of perfumes offered by Weil in 1927/1928, the so-called fur perfumes: Hermine- a sweet tropical floral scent, Chinchilla Royal- a jasmine/rose blend and Zebeline- a grand floral chypre with deep vetiver/oak notes.

1936 Weil Perfume Ad for Zibeline
1938 portrait of Weil's fur design 'Hermine'

Jacqueline Fraysse must have been a fascinating person. She worked in a male dominated field at a time when most young women stayed home, or if they were adventurous, needy or otherwise inclined, worked in other people's homes. She came of age in the electrifying, emancipating atmosphere of 1920s Paris and New York- the Jazz Age. Yet she lived and worked under the watchful eyes of her perfumer father and brothers. Judging from the quality and success of the perfumes, she flourished even throughout the difficult years of depression and war that followed. In 1934 her first solo perfume- a fruity-floral-woody scent with an exotic Asian/Polynesian theme- was christened: Bamboo.

 1936 Weil Perfume Ad for Cassandra

She followed up with Cassandra, a perfume "anise like... a hint of stryax, fruits and florals" (notes from Perfumed Court), released in 1936. Billed as a spicy feminine perfume light enough for day but bewitching enough for night; the story says that it took Jacqueline two years to perfect the formula. Noir was her third independent release debuting in 1937.

Weil Perfume Ad for Noir 1937

 1939 Weil Fur Ad

It's hard to get a feel for Noir before smelling it because there's hardly anything to go from. Unlike her other perfumes, there isn't anything like a list of notes or even as much as an advertising tag line for Noir.

I believe there are published sources with notes for many of Weil's perfumes (that I haven't got....) but if Noir is there, no one is telling. Yet searching for notes lists of Weil's perfumes on the Internet yields some information. 

Secret de Venus 1933: A woody oriental chypre edp with top notes of lemon, cassis, peach, bergamot and grapefruit, heart notes of jasmine, gardenia and freesia on base notes of cedar, sandalwood and vanilla. Claude, Herbert, Andre or Jacqueline may have composed this one alone or together or with help from each other- I do not know yet I can't help but feel it must be Claude and or Jacqueline. Advertising copy for SdV at the time claimed: "It's the divine perfume oil to be smoothed on after bath or shower and grows more intense the longer you wear it." I cringe at some of the sky-high prices asked for many vintage perfumes but Weil's SdV scent in the SdV oil is worth its price.

Weil Perfume Ad 1942
Weil Perfume Ad 1945
Antilope 1945: A floral-woody aldehyde chypre parfum with notes of tangerine, neroli, galbanum, acacia farnesiana, narcissus, hyacinth, ylang-ylang, May rose, lily of the valley, oak moss, civet, sandalwood and musk. Composed by Hubert Fraysse, in at least one of its versions, it is of a lighter style than the earlier Weil perfumes.  Notes for both of the above perfumes are quoted from Cleopatra's Boudoir and Perfume Intelligence. And so the story of Jacqueline Fraysse, one of the rare early 20th century female perfumers of note, fades away into the mist. 

But after all, Noir is a Weil perfume and Weil has a fascinating story as well.

Marcel Weil died from pneumonia in 1933. In 1940 the Weil family fled the war, closed up their Paris shop and moved to Bordeaux for a short time. The surviving brothers then came to the United States where they bought out their US distributorship and used the space to open their first perfumery/shop. Located on Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, they manufactured two of their perfumes- Cassandra and Zebeline- right there on sight. Jacques even created a new exclusively American Weil perfume in 1941 dubbed Cobra.

Once they came to America, the Weil's developed the Secret of Venus- a unique bath and body oil formula. Around the same time, they created a new perfume called Secret of Venus. To further mystify us, they created versions of all of their scents in the Secret of Venus oil formulation. So you might see a Weil Noir Perfume, and then a Weil Noir Secret de Venus Perfume oil. According to Katie, the SdV oil formulas smell differently than their pure perfume counterparts. She believes they contain ambergris and says they smell warmer, are longer lasting and better then the perfume versions. Having only smelled Secret de Venus in the bath and body oil form, I can't compare them but I agree with her enthusiasm for this intoxicating scent.

Secret de Venus line up: Scentzilla
Weil Perfume Ad 1950
Weil Fur Ad 1957
Weil Fur Ad 1960
Weil discontinued Noir in 1969. As I began work with it, I wondered about the only scrap of information I had about the perfume- it's name... Stay tuned for Noir Part II.

Weil Perfume Ad 1977

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives. 

1925 Weil Furs ad at MsBlueSky Flickr photo stream
All other Weil Print ads, hprints
Andre Fraysse from
Weil Secret de Venus bottles from Scentzilla

No comments: