Lucien Lelong belongs to an elite pantheon of French designers who, in the early 20th century, became instrumental in shaping the world of haute couture for decades to come. Among his contemporaries were Chanel, Worth, Patou, Lanvin and Schiaparelli, each of whom has left an indelible mark on fashion.
Born in Paris in 1889, Lucien Lelong learned the finer points of luxury, style and sophistication from his father, a thriving textile shop owner. At the age of 22, Lelong attended the Hautes Etudes Commerciales in Paris, and by 1914 had designed his first complete collection. In 1919, Lucien Lelong opened the couture house that would eventually become the training ground for fashion luminaries like Jean Ebel, Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy.
Success seemed to come overnight. Within a few years, Lucien Lelong had become undeniably influential in the Parisian fashion industry. Aside from serving as the President of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture for many years, he was widely recognized by his peers for his keen intuitive understanding of fabrics and their integral importance in the creation of a dress.
In 1924, as Lucien Lelong approached the pinnacle of his career, he began experimenting with fragrance. The inspiration for his perfumes, which he considered to be an integral part of a woman's style, came from his designs and the individual, enigmatic traits of the women who wore them. Initially, the man who would become known for his elaborate, collectible bottles and flacons, made no attempt to decoratively package his unique scents. However, when requests for his perfumes started coming in from as far away as America, Lelong became inspired. The Société des Parfums Lucien Lelong was born and would continue to thrive well after Lelong closed the door to his famed fashion house.
Lucien Lelong's first perfumes were succinctly named A,B,C,J, and N and were intended to evoke a sense of mystery and romance, much like Chanel's numbered versions. The intricately crafted bottles, largely designed by Lelong himself, were inspired by fabrics, garlands, feathers and modern architecture and are still collected to this day. In all, Lelong created 27 different fragrances, including Indiscret (1935), perhaps his most famous perfume.
In 1936, Vogue described Lelong as an "unusual combination of artist and businessman. It is this rare, double capacity; this unusual balance of creative imagination, decision and execution that has produced Lucien Lelong's international success as couturier, parfumeur and business man." It was precisely this business foresight that prompted Lelong to become one of the first designers to create and distribute a highly profitable ready-to-wear collection.
In 1948, Lucien Lelong became ill, and acting on doctor's recommendations, decided to close the doors to his couture house. He did not, however, end his perfume venture, which continued to thrive under his direction until his death in May of 1958. For more than forty years after his death, Lucien Lelong's fragrances remain at the forefront of the beauty industry and the mere mention of his name continues to evoke the feeling of classic elegance reserved for legends.