Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to ignore Mon Guerlain and unless you’ve been hiding under a (rather fragrant) rock for the last month or so, it’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll have not seen or sniffed it. This is a Guerlain launch unlike no other – it is literally everywhere and the brand has gone balls to the wall (for want of a better phrase) in terms of promotion. Not only have they chosen Oscar-winning actress, director and human rights campaigner Angelina Jolie as the Mon Guerlain muse (an excellent choice IMHO), they’ve also worked with director Terrence Malick on the accompanying film. Not to mention the huge push in terms of press that the launch has had, which overshadows any other offering from Guerlain in the past. It really is a huge launch.
This post isn’t going to be a review of Mon Guerlain. I’ve already put together my thoughts on the scent, in isolation from its concepts and history for my Escentual column, and you can read those thoughts here. I stand by the fact that I really like how it smells. To me, Mon Guerlain is a novel take on lavender, one that amps up the material’s natural burned sugar notes and folds it into delicious butter candy and musk. It really is lovely, commercial yes, but undeniably lovely and made with top notch materials too. It’s also very Guerlain as well, especially seeing as the house is well know for being the utter dons at making gourmand treats for the nose. Mon Guerlain is no exception and it smells great.
So if this post isn’t a review, what is it? Well, Mon Guerlain is such a huge launch and such a game changer for Guerlain, I wanted to explore the commercial context in which it has arrived and what it may mean for Guerlain going forward. From a house that brought us Jicky, Shalimar, Mitsouko, L’Heure Bleue, Vol de Nuit and Chamade (I really could go on and on, and on) with little fanfare, Mon Guerlain says that Guerlain has finally arrived to play with the big guns like Chanel and Dior. And guess what? They mean business.
Let’s talk advertising because Mon Guerlain really feels like a change of tack for Guerlain. The house seldom uses celebrities in their campaigns, with the stars they’ve employed previously being slightly more subversive and a little bit edgy. So the choice of Angelina Jolie, a mega-celebrity if I’ve ever heard of one, is a stroke of genius. Jolie is a name that everyone knows. She’s an actress with an edge, a Hollywood wild child with tattoos and an unconventional career. Angelina Jolie is strikingly beautiful and she has worked tirelessly to highlight human rights abuses, working as a Special Envoy to the UN, having fronted campaigns to end sexual violence in war zones. The scent celebrates Jolie’s famous ink and the brand are calling it an “invisible tattoo” as well as “a tribute to today’s femininity – a strong, free and sensual femininity.” Physically, ethically and intellectually, Angelina Jolie is a superb fit for Guerlain
But why the big change here? Why create something so big with a star so famous? Well the answer to that is simple: Guerlain wishes to expand and expand they shall. Guerlain’s CEO, Laurent Boillot has stated that the brand intends to open 100 boutiques over a ten year period, so it stands to reason that to achieve this aim, they need to be better known and whilst we all love and adore Guerlain, they’re not as famous amongst mainstream consumers as the likes of Chanel, YSL and Dior are. So Mon Guerlain the campaign feels just like the start of Guerlain really pulling out all of the stops to reveal itself to the world – to those that may have passed their counters in store and those who may have forgotten the classics their mothers and grandmothers wore.
In terms of its olfactory profile, Mon Guerlain is entirely of its time, but it does also possess an element of Guerlain’s illustrious history, specifically with its flacon which, for the first time, presents the famous 1908 quadrilobe bottle (famously used for Extrait concentrations of fragrances such as Jicky) in a sprayable version and as the vessel for a mainstream launch. With this launch it very much feels as if Guerlain is showing the world what they can do – saying to those that don’t know their name, “Hey, sniff this, it’s good right? By the way, did you know we’ve been making perfumes since 1828 and we’re pretty damn good at it, let me show you what we do”. Mon Guerlain is the new gateway drug that will bring a new generation of consumers to Guerlain. First they’ll start with Mon Guerlain, then they’ll dabble with La Petite Robe Noire before picking up Insolence and then BOOM, it’s a non-stop express all the way to Shalimar town, baby. Aren’t you a bit jealous that they get to discover these beauties for the first time, just like we did all those years ago? I know I am.
Initially I was feeling rather grumpy about the fact that Mon Guerlain shared a lot of its olfactory composition with 2015’s Mon Exclusif (which I very much enjoyed, BTW) and I was left questioning whether the scent really could be inspired by Angelina Jolie if it is essentially a repackaged and re-tweaked version of an existing scent? A fair point of view I feel. That was until I read those recent comments from Guerlain’s CEO, Laurent Boillot who revealed that Mon Exclusif was essentially a test of the new pillar fragrance, which makes sense when you think about it. If Guerlain is going to pump a huge sum of money into a mainstream launch that is going to get them recognised on an international scale, they’re going to want to know that it’s going to be popular. Testing it as a boutique exclusive is a sensible way of doing this and it explains why Mon Exclusif came without a name (one could name it themselves) or a unique bottle. So it all makes sense to me now!
Tried and tested is a good approach, and that’s definitely the way that Mon Guerlain appears to have been created. To me, it feels reminiscent of Samsara which was reportedly the first Guerlain fragrance to be created in line with a marketing brief and was launched to be Guerlain’s answer to the atomic florals and orientals of the 1980s, allowing the brand to take a slice of the Opium/Poison pie. It did this without being a clone of these icons, much in the same way that Mon Guerlain is in the style of the likes of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle and Armani’s Si, the darlings of today, without being a smell-a-like. Whilst many Guerlainophiles regarded Samsara as an imposter within the house’s catalogue, it resonated with mainstream consumers and is now regarded as one of the classics. Perhaps Mon Guerlain will follow the same path?
Mon Guerlain is a fragrance indicative of the climate of the fragrance industry, where brands have to balance commercial interests with artistic ones. It smells like an on-trend feminine due to its sweet nature, but at the same it it smells like a Guerlain so it’s definitely a case of the brand having their cake and eating it too. Will I wear it? Probably. I like lavender and I like gourmands so it’s quite likely that Mon Guerlain will get some good skin time. Is it my favourite Guerlain? No, it isn’t but not every single new launch is going to be and if Guerlain need to make something this commercial to keep creating their more artistic scents, then I’m all for it. What’s more, if this new campaign brings more attention, and ultimately more noses, to experience the wonder of Guerlain then that is nothing but good.
Mon Guerlain is available 30ml (£44), 50ml (£67) and 100ml (£95) Eau de Parfum. A matching Shower Gel (£35.30/200ml) and Body Lotion (£39.50/200ml) are also available.
Sample via Guerlain. Images are my own.