Fragrances by Volnay

The story of Germaine Madeline and René Duval began on an ocean liner in the middle of an Atlantic voyage bound for New York – luckily not the Titanic. René was the commercial director for the famous perfume manufacturer Francois Coty, and Germaine was a strong-willed, adventurous women working as a model for French fashion house Lanvin, still in its infancy. The two met and quickly fell in love. From their marriage that combined marketing genius and a bold, sophisticated vision of elegance and prestige, the Volnay Perfume House was born in 1919.

The Roaring Twenties was a decade of buoyancy not only in the United States but in most countries across Europe. Economies prospered and the arts flourished. Art Deco in particular, with its rich and eclectic designs, took flight across the world, representing the luxury and glamour of the period. On a social level, the strict stratification and conventions of the Victorian era gave way to new styles and freedom: women cut their hair in trendy bobs, wore knee-length skirts, smoked cigarettes and embraced their social independence. It was during this time that Volnay rose to prominence and was quickly loved by the vogue generation.

Inspired by Art Deco and the avant-garde trends of the Twenties, Volnay produced fragrances that became known as the embodiment of French chic, eagerly pursued and talked about by patrons of high-end beauty establishments. The original crystal flacons were engraved in the Art Deco style by famous glass artist René Lalique, making each perfume a work of sculptural as well as aromatic art. Throughout Europe, North America, Canada and even as far as Australia, Volnay gained both public and press recognition. They were described as, "The most luxurious perfume in Paris in the most beautiful flacon in the world."

Tragedy struck in the mid 1930s when, suffering from the sharp economic downturn, René Duval died of a heart attack. Despite Germaine Madeline's resolute efforts to keep Volnay afloat, the company fell into decline and vanished soon after WWII. The perfume house that had once captured the hearts of so many was forgotten for long decades – until one day, in the early 2000s, one of Lalique's perfume bottles, Volnay's Ambre de Siam, appeared on auction in Geneva. Sitting in the audience was none other than Germaine Madeline's great-granddaughter, Muriel Madeline, who took an immediate interest in the work and the company of her ancestors. Muriel and her brother Olivier, with the help of perfumer Amelie Bourgeois, have ever since dedicated themselves to reviving the Volnay Perfume House.

What does it take to revive a perfume that is almost a century old? Difficulties include updated regulations, ingredients that are no longer available and trends that have changed. Just as no one wants walk the streets wearing what looks like a costume for the Great Gatsby production, they also don't want to waft the fragrances of their great-grandparents. As Sergio Momo, the perfumer of Xerjoff says, "Novare Serbando." That's Latin for "renew but also conserve" –precisely what Muriel, Olivier and Amelie did.

They discovered that four of the original Volnay fragrances were kept at the Osmothèque, the International Conservatory of Perfumes in Versailles, along with an archive of written formulas. All Volnay perfumes began with the same base formula: Base 4092, a combination of powdery rose, vanilla and clove. Referencing the archives, comparing scents to the samples at the Osmothèque, substituting lost ingredients and, most importantly, adding new dimensions to the old formula, the new Volnay team succeeded in reviving four of the original fragrances: Brume d'Hiver, Yapana, Perlerette and Etoile d'Or. A fifth line, Objet Céleste, is a new creation symbolizing the modern revival of Volnay Paris.

Staying true to the Art Deco inspiration, the flacons are shaped with round, full bodies that are sleek and soft to the touch. Engraved on the backside is a bramble design, adapted from Lalique's works that adorned several of the original Volnay flacons. With an arabesque appearance and representing the powerful, wild and yet protective beauty of nature, they have become the new emblem of Volnay.

In recent years the sheer explosion of perfumes made by fashion houses, designers and even celebrities has produced a competitive market greater than ever before. A new scent may come out one year and be gone by the next. Creating something new that will surprise, entice and mesmerize wearers is becoming increasingly more difficult. Many perfumers are consequently looking to the past and reinventing old formulas. Yet few can claim the quality, prestige and luxury of Volnay, nor the dedication and heart that goes into preserving and honoring their heritage.