Joy is the kind of fragrance you pledge your allegiance to; the kind with a real history. It’s what Mum wore, it smells like home, and now, the return of the French house and their signature scent signals the return of an icon, a celebration of all that was, and a welcoming of how things should be.
Jean Patou – a haute couture designer turned perfumer – created Joy in 1929 as a gift to his clientele still reeling from the Wall Street crash and living through the Depression who still so desperately wanted to wear Patou.
There is a romance to the opulence of the fragrance: in each ounce, there are more than 10,000 jasmine flowers and 28 dozen roses. This seemingly simple combination makes Joy, says Escentials Brands and International Perfumer, Monsieur Thomas Fontaine, “the most important fragrance”, and not unlike a Rorschach test, people take from it what matters most to them. They draw their own associations and make their own memories – yes, a warm Parisian night, an early morning chance encounter, or the space left by a loved one, but also more than that, something inherently structural. “Some people see it more jasmine, some people see it more rose,” he explains. “Even I sometimes see it more jasmine, sometimes I see it more rose, depending on my mood maybe.”
More than 80 years since Patou and his team first created the fragrance, Fontaine has quite the task – the “archeology of perfumery,” he tells us – in ensuring Joy is on the mark. He admits he often calls on Patou’s veteran perfumer – with four decades in service to the scent – for a “telephone analysis” to ensure the scent is true to form: “He’s a very nice guy, very handsome, and I call him quite often. ‘Jean, I have a problem with the aromatics of yours, do you have any idea what it was?’ And he is like, ‘Oh that was done like that, by that and it works like this’.” Among other things, Fontaine is now “working on re-launching old fragrances that have disappeared”.
Joy is an undeniable classic but its resurrection wasn’t born of commercial interests or consumer testing – instead it was about a care taken and a respect paid to a classic. “We don’t think about the market,” says Fontaine. “We are in the position that we (offer) to the market. That, for me, is the real luxury strategy.” Joy is made for those who “love it”, he explains. “We are not in mass distribution … We don’t need to sell a certain number of bottles per year. There are not many brands like Patou.”