L’Artisan Parfumeur is a French fragrance house founded in 1976 by Jean Laporte (d. 2011) and is considered by many industry experts to be the first modern niche perfumery brand. Like many of those who have gone on to be perfumers, Laporte originally trained as a chemist and studied botany extensively on the side. Legend has that his first fragrance came about as the result of a challenge from a friend, who needed a scent to match a banana-themed costume for a cabaret.
Laporte was intensely frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of artistry in mainstream perfumery, and created his brand as both a monument to exquisite craftsmanship and an antithesis to an industry shackled by the whims of the market. His first collection was a modest six fragrances, each presented in a weighty, six-sided glass bottle with only a slim colour-coded label to distinguish between them. Among those first six was Mûre et Musc - a striking combination of musks and tart blackberries. Perhaps as a testament to the clarity of Laporte’s vision for L’Artisan, it still smells refreshingly modern and remains a bestseller nearly forty years after its creation.
Laporte remained with his company for only seven years. In 1983, it was sold to Cradle Holdings, a private American firm who also owned Penhaligons at the time. Although L’Artisan has long since expanded beyond its first shop on the Rue de Grenelle, Laporte’s mission to elevate perfumery into an art form remains at the core of the company values. Working with some of the best noses in the business has earned them a reputation as innovators, bringing the new and unexpected to the market light years ahead of the high street. Before there was Womanity, there was Premier Figuier, Olivia Giacobetti’s masterful conjuring of a fig tree beneath a burning sun. And it was Jean Claude Ellena who wove the aroma of coffee into his masterpiece L'Eau du Navigateur nearly twenty years before A*Men hit the shelves.
In recent years, L’Artisan has experienced significant changes at the heart of the company and began downsizing both its range and its real estate holdings, resulting in the closure of the boutique in London’s Covent Garden Market. In 2015, it was bought by the Spanish fashion and beauty firm Puig as part of a deal that also included Penhaligons. It now sits in a portfolio that includes Paco Rabanne, Nina Ricci and Carolina Herrera. Perhaps most visibly, the iconic bottles were given a makeover. Although the classic shape remains, the colour coded labels have now made way for smokey grey glass, ushering in a more uniform brand aesthetic.
L’Artisan still sells both personal and home fragrances in stand-alone shops and department stores around the world.