On October 29, 2021, the first edition of the Cottan House's biannual booklet, Legato, is coming off the presses of our favorite printer. We would like to share with you an overview of its philosophy and contents.
An editorial ambition
For a well-ordered presentation, let's start at the beginning, with the origins of this name of musical origin, and thus as often, Italian!
Legato, légato \le.ga.to\: 1. adverb. Music: To play in a linked, continuous way, without detaching the notes within a musical phrasing, opposite of staccato. /2. noun. Linked passage.
And here is our editorial ambition, in connection with this unusual name:
To connect ideas across centuries, people and works, the Legato booklet presents twice a year the testimony of a talented guest on one of his/her favorite subjects.
We hope to offer you a superb collection of publications, over the months, to make this Legato, a future collector!
Jean-Claude Le Joliff, special guest
For our first issue, we were fortunate and honored to have as our guest the master formulator Jean-Claude Le Joliff, who has accompanied us through some of the key stages of the resurgence of Cottan, as a member of our Strategic Committee.
Founder and President of the Cosmétothèque first conservatory of knowledge and techniques in cosmetics, he reveals to us through his testimony, the extent of the contributions of the know-how of the "elders" to invent tomorrow's beauty.
In this post, we wanted to share with you some excerpts from this publication, which you can find in its entirety in our coffret inaugural on the Arsène Collection.
Introduction : A bet, since 1840
by Ganaël Bascoul (2021)
It is the story of an adventure, that took me by surprise one winter evening, far from the marked paths, towards a buried treasure, and that allowed me to see the world of cosmetics on the shoulders of a giant, with astonishment.
This giant was named Jean-François Arsène Cottan, avant-gardist beauty entrepreneur, in the middle of the XIXth century, alongside Guerlain or Molinard. And this treasure was a house, the COTTAN house who, up until the interwar period, had found its place in the routine of French women, with its evanescent or kalodermal creams, its beauty vinegars, or even its softened soaps….
Like any treasure, it had to be discovered, by diving into the national archives, with the help of two genealogists and a historian, to grasp and rebuild the work and methods of this pioneer. From the very first finds, and then upon discovery of each product, it was impossible not to fall under the charm and modernity of his work, and to recognize with humility that it was, indeed, a piece of our history, unjustly fallen into oblivion.
So began the crazy project of reviving this house, and rewriting, while respecting their nature and spirit, the formulas of its beautiful products; as a tribute to this “new art of formulation”, an expression that is dear to us, and with which we decide to adorn the blazon of the COTTAN house.
During this adventure, I was fortunate to encounter the support of people wiser and more learned than I am, and who lifted me to the right weight of vision such as Jean-Claude Le Joliff, our guest for this first Legato. His vision, his historical hindsight, and his scientific requirement were compulsory to rebuild a house of this scale.
The Cosmétothèque’s maxim, reminds us that "Beauty is eternal, know-hows are forgotten. The Cosmétothèque preserves them". As for us, we hope to keep these skills alive and vibrant, for the pleasure and the beauty of today’s women.
Such is the challenge of the COTTAN house, since 1840.
First pages by Jean-Claude Le Joliff
"The glance at History, the recoil to the past period gives you perspectives on your time and allows you to think more about it, to see more the problems that are the same or the problems that differ or the solutions to bring"1... These are perhaps the thoughts that Ganaël Bascoul had while thinking about the creation of a cosmetic brand. In any case, this is what we told ourselves at the Cosmétothèque when he expressed his intention. Already involved in cosmetics via a product range around shaving, Monsieur Barbier, with who the Cosméthotèque has already collaborated, the proposal was immediately exciting.
1. Marguerite Yourcenar
The first step was to find an old brand’s specific elements and then by extension participate in its re-edition based on the collected elements. Applied to cosmetics, this can lead to researching formulas, products, ranges, brands, or people that have contributed to the construction of this very industry... [...]
Among these, the Société Hygiénique Cottan et Cie is particularly interesting. Dr. Cottan, during his career, had noticed that certain preparations supposedly indented to the beauty and freshness of the epidermis hardened it by drying it out. These observations made him decide to create a company that would only deliver products with truly hygienic properties, free of all inconveniences that preparations containing harmful substances could present. Thus, in 1840, La Parfumerie de la Société Hygiénique was born at 5, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau in Paris. To reach his goal, Cottan, and his collaborators made a complete study of all the available substances and created products which, far from harming the various parts of the body to which their use applies, « give them and keep them fresh and healthy ».
A product catalog focusing on these themes has been built, including certain hygienic products such as soaps qualified as “diluted” for soft soaps, without substances of animal origin, with among other an “exfoliating” soap, vinegars, widely used at the time, partly forgotten nowadays, as well as skincare products such as creams and lotions.
What is astonishing about this approach is that several concepts of modern cosmetics will be stated. Thus, the role of the epidermis is at the center of the approach, and in this sense, the role of epidermal renewal. It is now well established that skin aging is accompanied by an alteration of quality at the skin’s surface leading to a form of retention of skin cells associated with the hardening of the stratum corneum. This is now one of the main targets of cosmetics..
Quelle belle idée que de faire revivre cette “nouvelle” Maison Cottan, en alliant l’Art Nouveau avec l’Art formulatoire, l’histoire passée avec la modernité du présent, la sensorialité et le soin dermo-cosmétique avec l’élégance des produits (Flacon du vinaigre, tube de crème, forme du savon). Une magnifique formule qui fait rêver… Tous mes voeux de succès pour cette re-naissance.