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November 1, 2006

"An open letter to Mr Harf" By Luca Turin

"An open letter to Mr Harf" By Luca Turin

Dear Mr. Peter Harf, Chairman and CEO, Joh A. Benckiser, GmbH, and Chairman of Coty Inc.:

A strange thing happened recently, which you may find interesting: Lancôme released La Collection, a set of five classic fragrances restored to full glory. Lancôme, a second-rank name in fragrance, had so far shown no interest in its past. It had no need to. But when it did, the result was wonderful. My immediate thought when I smelled them was this: Why not Coty ?

Coty today is owned and run by the German private-equity company Benckiser. In 1905, the firm was started by the greatest perfumer who ever lived, François Coty. All who care about perfume know his masterpieces, which changed the world: L’Origan, Ambre Antique, L’Aimant, Chypre, Emeraude, etc. Yet all have vanished except Emeraude and L’Aimant, and the survivors smell nothing like the real thing. Let us be frank, Mr. Harf: Coty fragrances have been crap for twenty years.

There was one missed opportunity to fix this problem. Some years back I met Coty’s nephew, Stéphane. Because of his surname, he was allowed to sell "Stéphane Coty" fragrances without fear of retribution. He planned to reissue the Coty greats under different names. That was the good news. The bad news was that the impossibly handsome and charming Stéphane Coty had no sense of smell. He smoked forty Gauloises Maïs a day. What the perfume suppliers sold him was what the French call fonds de cuve, which had probably been sitting in a warehouse for thirty years. He was also a delightfully inefficient businessman: he once delivered a bottle across Paris in his sports car to a friend of mine who had failed to find it in the only place that stocked his products, the Bon Marché. He soon went bust.

Mr Harf, it is now up to you to restore Coty’s greatness.

You must reissue Coty classics in the original formulations. Do not let anyone tell you it can’t be done, because it’s done already. As it happens, I have before me four smelling strips of the “confidential” Coty reconstructions done by perfumer Daphné Bugey at Firmenich last year. They are Emeraude, la Rose Jacqueminot, L’Origan and Jasmin de Corse. They are all in full conformity with IFRA rules, and could be on the market in short order if you say so. How do they smell ? Heavenly. They will be an object lesson to all those who hide behind modern regulations to deface the great monuments of fragrance. Spare no expense in this labor of love. Neither will your customers.