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The Origins Of The American Fragrance Candle…

Timothy Sullivan - Sunday, April 18, 2010

fragrance candle originWhen I lived in New York, the undisputed figurehead of New York High Society was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. From the moment she first came to the public’s attention as the wife of the handsome young senator from Massachusetts, she began to set trends.  However, when she became First lady, everyone woman in America wanted to be her and to dress like her.Her famous inauguration Oleg Cassini taupe wool dress was imitated everywhere and she topped it all off with a genius display of style – when she tipped her Halston pillbox hat on the back of her head. From the moment she wore that “crown” until she died she remained a fashion and style icon. And it is with this remarkable lady that the roots of the American fragrance candle can be found.

While she accompanied the President on an official trip to France in the 1960’s she was introduced to the Rigaud Candles being made by Madame Rigaud. The legend is that Mrs. Kennedy, even though she was a smoker, had a strong aversion to the smell of tobacco smoke that was extremely prevalent at that time (have you seen an episode of Mad Men recently?). She found that the Rigaud Green Cypress Candle was the perfect antidote to the tobacco odor. Bringing them back to the US, she burned them in the White House. The combination of the elegant scent of the candles combined with the incredible redecoration of the White House left a strong impression on all the visitors and people began to talk about Mrs. Kennedy's famous "dark green candles".

I first heard about them from my friend Jimmy Mitchell, who was the PR man for the famous El Morocco nightclub in New York (it was much harder to get into than 54!). An incredibly suave and handsome man, he was always at the most fabulous events with the most glamorous ladies and men of New York High Society. He was a regular visitor to Mrs. Kennedy Onassis’ (as she was then) Fifth Avenue apartment for cocktail parties and the like. It was after one of these parties that he had a candle burning in his apartment and I “flipped” when I first noticed it in the room. It was a fragrance like no other…so warm and inviting so enveloping. That’s when he told me about that “dark green candle”. Not long after this, Saks, the famous New York Department store, made the fragrance candles available and the grand dowagers of New York lined up around the block to purchase them! I became a huge fan but, years later when I stopped smoking, I felt that the scent was too overpowering and searched for the perfect, softer alternative.

As so often happens in this life, when other people can’t get something right, you have to make it yourself. My quest to find the perfect candle, led me to creating my own store and finally I created what I like to think of as the heir to Mrs. Kennedy’s “dark green candle”. I worked with a Hungarian perfumer who had the perfect nose and was brilliant at creating many fragrances. Our “child” is a candle I called Celadon, which, since I first introduced it, has been extremely popular especially with people familiar with the history and development of the fragrance candle and the more sophisticated “noses”. celadon fragrance candleWhile all my candles use a high concentration of fragrance,  (I use a 12% fragrance level – which is higher than a lot of candles available today) in order to achieve a rich atmosphere, the scent is not overwhelming like the original Rigaud (I still have a few at home). My Celadon is my tribute to a remarkable lady whose absence is still strongly felt by all those who look back with longing to a more elegant time.  Oh and by the way, I now count Saks as one of those clients who asked me to create a Private label candle and I hear that some dowagers lined up to buy mine.

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