Friday, May 18, 2012

Josephine Catapano: 1918- 2012

Joséphine Catapano, a long time perfumer with International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) and one of the few celebrated women perfumers in the business, passed away last Tuesday at the age of 93.

Catapano was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993 and the Cosmetic Career Women's Award in 1980. She is considered one of the truly greats and Sophia Grojsman, herself a veteran, considers her her mentor. Among Joséphine Catapano's scented creations is the classic Youth Dew for Estee Lauder (working alongside Ernest Shiftan) and the equally classic if considerably less known Norell (circulating under Revlon for many years), as well as the first Shiseido Zen and Fidji for Guy Laroche. Alas, her name never made headlines like perfumers today; in an era when perfume was shrouded in mystery, the true creator was never revealed...

photo via yesterday's perfume


  1. Thanks for this write-up. Youth Dew is such an amazing classic... and still pretty damn spectacular in its current formulation.

  2. noetic owl22:35

    Wow! I did not know that this woman was the creator of some of the fragrances of my past-Youth Dew, Norell and Fidji! Many years ago we were not privy to the geniuses behind some of our beloved fragrances (as well as the notes!). Nowadays everything is pretty much an "open book" and it is actually fun for me to research the notes and the perfumers behind the over 400 fragrances I have worn thus far ( I'm really not that old but I became a perfumista at the age of 6 and my mother enabled my obsession with perfume by sharing all of hers with me:) !!)

  3. MariaA10:53

    Wow she was the creator of Fidgi?! Now I am touched.. I spent half my adolescence wearing this (the other half with Loulou) and I was clueless !! + Youth dew .. these days perfumers were not rock stars like today!

  4. D,

    it is. It's a funny thing how up till a few years ago (before the boom of the blogosphere) the tale at Lauder was how Estee had composed it herself. She did have a great eye and a good mind to choose it (and others) over specimens sent to her to choose, though, didn't she.

  5. Noetic,

    yeah, it does seem that today the audience knows a lot more (or at the very least can find out a lot more should they wish to). I wonder whether this knowledge however sometimes instead of freeing perception ends up reining it a bit. It's a thought.

  6. Maria,

    lovely choices, both of them! I like Fidji to this day, though it seemed lusher in older bottles, didn't it?

    By now, I kinda have gotten bored with the perfumers=rockstars notion I have to say. It's been used as a tool to promote anything else but the work done. It's gone over their heads and over their fans' heads; that's the feeling I get sometimes. Could be just me...However I have to admit it's gratifying that the true craftsman is recognized for the often amazing work they do. :-)

  7. MariaA16:26

    It's true Fidgi does seem a bit watered down but still it is really nice!! As far as the rock star perfumer topic goes, yes it did go a bit over their heads many times but I actually prefer this attitude (only of course if the quality of one's work remains the same) rather than the companies taking the praise for the work done!

  8. I don't disagree with that! It's always best to get proper credit where credit is due.


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