Family of French perfumer Guerlain embroiled in bitter legal battle

The partner of Jean-Paul Guerlain accused the famous perfumer's son of waging a "harassment war" against her and of threatening her on several occasions.

Family of French perfumer Guerlain embroiled in bitter legal battle
The Guerlain boutique on the Champs-Elyees in Paris. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Stephane Guerlain, the only son of Jean-Paul Guerlain, was summoned to court in Versailles, outside Paris, by Christina Kragh Michelsen, his father’s companion. However, he was not present and was represented by his lawyer.

The hearing was the latest judicial episode in the battle between Kragh, a 64-year-old French-Danish woman, and Stephane Guerlain, son of the man who ran Guerlain – one of the world’s oldest perfume houses – for almost half a century.

Jean-Paul Guerlain, 85, one of the richest men in France, now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Kragh has been with him since 2005.

Kragh was acquitted last autumn by a court of “neglecting a person incapable of protecting himself”. The public prosecutor has appealed against this acquittal.

The woman’s lawyer said that Guerlain’s son is driven by his hatred for his client and wants to “break her down” by waging a “permanent harassment war”.

When Stephane Guerlain “arrives in the house, he follows me everywhere”, said Kragh. He takes unilateral decisions such as “turning off the heating” in their property in a Paris suburb, she added.

Kragh has no “financial interest” in staying with Guerlain senior, but is doing so “out of love”, said her lawyer Frederic Belot. She has “lost sleep, lost a lot of weight” and suffers from “psychological problems”, he added.

Stephane Guerlain’s defence team described their client as “an extremely tired man who has been trying for 10 years to protect his father’s interests”.

The court listened to a recording in which Stephane Guerlain, a lawyer, called Kragh a “bitch” and a “scumbag” and threatened, according to her, to “put her head in a haystack”.

Kragh is seeking €70,000 in damages.    

The public prosecutor’s office did not agree with the plaintiff, noting that several of the claims were unsubstantiated.

The court will deliver its decision on Friday.

French luxury giant LVMH took over the Guerlain brand in 1994. Jean-Paul Guerlain remained as master perfumer until he retired in 2002.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French firm pioneers green tech to recycle clothes

A company in south-west France is at the forefront of the challenge to reduce pollution and waste in the fashion industry

French firm pioneers green tech to recycle clothes

The vast waste and pollution caused by the fashion industry has made recycling clothes a top priority, but only now are simple tasks like pulling the sole off a shoe being done by machines.

CETIA, a company in the Hendaye, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, is finally offering some mechanical solutions to the challenges of recycling clothes.

Its research team has developed a machine that uses artificial intelligence to scan garments, identify hard elements like zips and buttons, and use a
laser to cut them out.

It has also built a machine that grabs shoes in a large mechanical arm and yanks off the soles.

In a world of space travel and vaccines, that may seem a relatively rudimentary piece of technology, but it had simply never been done before.

“It was a chicken-and-egg question. No one was recycling soles because we couldn’t separate them from the shoe, and no one was separating them because there was no recycling,” said company director Chloe Salmon Legagneur.

Previously, recyclers had to bake the shoes for many hours to melt the glue and then pull the sole off by hand.

“There’s nothing spectacular in what we’ve done,” Legagneur said. “But we’ve done it.”

Currently, barely one percent of textiles in Europe are turned back into new clothes. Most end up as housing insulation, padding or asphalt for paving roads.

That is because clothes are usually a complex mix of materials that must be separated carefully to keep the fibres in good condition if there is any hope
of respinning them into new garments.

Usually done by hand, CETIA says its AI-laser machine can do this at a much faster rate that is rapidly evolving as it perfects the technology.

It also has machines that can sort clothes by colour and composition at a rate of one per second.

EU rules

The reason these inventions are finally emerging is that tough new European rules are imminent that will force clothing companies to use a set amount of
recycled fibres in their garments.

CETIA’s work is backed by big retailers like Decathlon and Zalando who are urgently looking for industrial-scale solutions.

There are also political incentives. The French government sees the potential for new manufacturing jobs if recycling technology allows it to deal with some of the 200,000 tonnes of textile waste currently being shipped abroad each year.

CETIA’s focus is on preparing textiles for reuse. Other companies must now start melting down separated soles and turning them into new ones.

But it is an important first step.

“As long as we do not have systems to prepare materials for recycling, we will not have a recycling sector in France,” said Veronique Allaire-Spitzer,
of Refashion, which coordinates waste management.

It injected €900,000 into CETIA with a similar contribution from the regional government.

“None of this is a magic idea. It’s just common sense,” said Legagneur. “But it’s about putting together the engineers and the financing and the companies who need these solutions, and it’s only now that these things are coming together. Ten years ago, no one wanted it.”