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François Coty and the House of Coty

The House of Coty was founded in Paris, France by Joseph Marie François Spoturno, later to be known as François Coty. To launch his new business, he chose a new name. It is said that he wanted a name that would evoke elegance and beauty to consumers around the world. Inspired by his mother, Marie Adolphine Coti, François changed the “i” of her maiden name to a “y”, and with that Coty was born. Other accounts say that he changed his last name after getting married because he wanted it to sound more French as his father was of Italian (Genovese) descent, whose descendants founded Corsica.

François Coty was first and foremost a French Perfumer. Later in his career, he branched out to become a businessman, newspaper publisher, politician, and patron of the arts. He was firmly against communism after his stocks and funds were confiscated by the Bolsheviks during the 1917 Russian Revolution. Consequently, he spent vast sums of money in his later years to combat socialism and communism in France. 

After his military service, François Coty met Raymond Goery, a pharmacist who made and sold perfume at his Paris shop. Coty began to learn about perfumery from Goery and created his first fragrance, Cologne Coty, which was not a success. Prior to this, he had met a man named Emmanuel Arène who would become his mentor, Arene was a politician and a writer and it was through Arlene that Coty met Leon Chiris in Grasse, France whose family were longtime distributors of perfume. Coty then set about learning perfumery in earnest and in 1904 his first success was a fragrance called La Rose Jacqueminot. Legend has it that he went from boutiques, to barbershops and to department stores trying to sell his perfume but was unsuccessful until one day, he inadvertently dropped a bottle of La Rose Jacqueminot on the counter in Paris’s highest-end department store Grands Magasins du Louvre, and it shattered. The smell of the perfume filled the air and within a few minutes people were clamoring to purchase it and he sold out of his stock. This led to him being given a counter to sell his fragrance. La Rose Jacqueminot flew off the shelves and made Coty a millionaire, establishing him as a force and major player in the fragrance world.  

In 1908 he moved his headquarters to Suresnes in the western suburbs of Paris. Of course, back then this was “way out of town.” He created a compound that would be called  “La cité des Parfums” which consisted of laboratories, and a factory for manufacturing Coty products. His company grew to employ some 9000 workers and manufactured 100K bottles a day to meet demand in France and across the world. Before World War I Coty was the top perfumer across the globe. In 1910 he opened the American division of his company in Delaware and smartly imported the raw materials to make fragrances from France and assembled them in America which allowed him to forgo the high import duties of ready-made luxury products. By side-stepping import duties, he was able to offer the American woman a very high-quality and coveted product at an affordable price point. 

Though La Rose Jacqueminot was sold in a Baccarat bottle Coty also realized early on that packaging was a tremendous part of a fragrance’s appeal and the bottle the perfume came in was just as important as the fragrance itself. This led him to form his most famous collaboration with the famed ceramicist and jeweler Rene Lalique. He designed the bottles and the labels for Coty’s subsequent perfumes Ambre Antique and L’Origan which were also tremendously successful. 

Coty not one to rest on his laurels expanded his operations to London, New York, and even Moscow. After World War I, was over he was one of the wealthiest men in France because he made a wise choice in bringing perfume to all the classes at many price points as opposed to only the wealthy few who were the only market for fragrances at the time. He pioneered the use of synthetics to lower the cost of manufacturing in order to be able to serve these mass markets. Coty also was the catalyst for the fragrance set or gift box that are just as popular today as they were one hundred years ago. His mantra was simple and is still very viable today. “Give a woman the best product to be made, market it in the perfect flask, beautiful in its simplicity yet impeccable in its taste, ask a reasonable price for it, and you will witness the birth of a business the size of which the world has never seen.”

World War I was over in 1918 and American servicemen who were stationed in France brought back Coty perfumes for their, wives and girlfriends. Coty then expanded his product line by manufacturing cosmetics and skin care products and by 1925, over 36 million women worldwide were using Coty products. 

This tremendous wealth allowed him to purchase works of art, real estate, and from a political standpoint to gain control over the media at the time which was the daily newspaper Le Figaro. Throughout the rest of his life, he funded right-wing causes to combat the rise of socialism and communism in France as well as founding two other daily papers in 1928. He was so well known and respected that he was elected senator of Corsica (his birthplace) and was the mayor of Ajaccio (his town of birth) on Corsica from 1931-1934. 

Coty passed away on July 25, 1934, at age 60 far less wealthy because of a divorce, the depression, and his funding of causes to combat left-wing agendas which included his newspaper empire. 

Today, François Coty is considered the founding father of the modern perfume industry and Coty is an American-French multinational company that owns more than 77 different brands. They manufacture fragrances, cosmetics, skin and nail care, and hair care products for retail consumers and professionals. 

Mme V. Fontaine (Fashion Blogger for ChicChicChic.com)

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