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.


Williams breaks down barriers between fashion and music at Paris show

Pharrell Williams' debut Louis Vuitton show draws a starry crowd to the banks of River Seine in the French capital

Williams breaks down barriers between fashion and music at Paris show

Paris became a playground for Pharrell Williams and his celebrity friends at his debut show for Louis Vuitton, collapsing the distance between fashion, music and money-spinning publicity.

Williams is the first musician to be put in charge of designing clothes for a major luxury brand, which had an eye-popping €20 billion in revenue last year.

He has experience working with fashion houses in the past, but the bosses at Louis Vuitton were clearly also interested in the guestlist he could put together. And he did not disappoint on Tuesday night with the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna, LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton and many more in the front row.

“We try to speak to different clients,” Louis Vuitton boss Pietro Beccari told AFP just before the show started.

“With the media echoes from tonight, people that have never heard of Vuitton… maybe they’ll push the door of one of those stores and come and see.”

Big extravaganza shows are nothing new – brands have spent millions on lavish set designs and celebrity guests going back to the 1990s and beyond.

But Williams took it up a notch, composing a new uptempo song, “JOY (Unspeakable)” performed by full gospel choir, and ending the night with a concert by Jay-Z at which he also sang, all near the Pont Neuf over the River Seine. 

“It’s a pretty monumental moment. You can rarely predict big moments in fashion but when you have the combination of cultural force like Pharrell and cultural brand like Louis Vuitton you know something interesting is going to happen,” Imran Amed, founder of the Business of Fashion news site, told AFP.

Classic pattern, new colours

Trying to find out what people actually thought of the clothes is tricky.

Fashion sites, heavily dependent on advertising from the brands, rarely question design choices anymore.

But Williams largely played it safe, leaning heavily on LV’s classic Damier check pattern, though putting it in some bold new primary colours.

There were a lot of pixelated looks and some camouflage vibes that Williams has nicknamed “damoflage”.

“By revisiting the accessories and leather goods that have made LV so successful, Pharrell Williams demonstrates that he understands the challenge and the codes of this iconic house,” Pierre Alexandre M’Pele, editor of GQ France, told AFP. 

Some things felt fresh. While gender mixing has become common in fashion, it remains rare in the big labels which have separate artistic directors for menswear and womenswear.

“By parading women for his first collection, Pharrell Williams is blowing a new wind at Louis Vuitton where until then, male and female models were separated,” said M’Pele.

There have been some quiet grumblings among fashionistas that a more dedicated designer was not given the top job.

But Beccari was clear that he needed “someone who had something extra” for the house to complement womenswear director Nicolas Ghesquière – who has been described as a “traditional couturier”.

“It’s a perfect mix for a brand that is present in 72 countries with 450 stores and which not only sells products, but tells great stories,” he said.

The star has studied neither music nor fashion formally, but with 13 Grammys and an Oscar nomination, “everything he touches turns to gold,” said Beccari.

Williams appears to be taking the job seriously, having moved his family to Paris and setting up a music studio at Louis Vuitton’s headquarters to balance his professions.

“His next album was 90 percent composed in Paris in front of his window, facing La Samaritaine”, said Beccari.