Steeped in history, and above all mystery, the exact origins of the Maison Dorin have long been the subject of uncertainty. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a Parisian brand called Fards Rouges & Blancs earned a reputation for the outstanding quality of its beauty products.
Marguerite Brunet, or Mademoiselle Montansier, was no stranger to high society gatherings, a formidable lady of theatre and of business with a propensity for pushing boundaries. La Montansier, as she was known, founded her own company and acquired the brand.
In 1780, Queen Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XVI appointed the Maison as a Supplier to the Royal Court of Versailles, in recognition of the quality of its powders, makeup and perfumes.
The appointment was due in no small part to La Montansier’s personal relationship with her close friend Marie-Antoinette, whose love for the theatre she persistently encouraged. Some years previously, the Maison’s owner had been entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the organisation of all the plays, balls and other live shows taking place at Versailles.
The Maison would go on to supply the Court of Versailles all the way up until the French Revolution, which marked the end of the road for the country’s monarchy. Yet La Montansier was not to be deterred by what was a delicate period for Versailles and the wider nobility. The brand continued on its upward trajectory, and in doing so served to mirror the career of its owner, who would go on to manage a number of different establishments including the Théâtre des Beaujolais, the Théâtre du Palais Royal and the Théâtre des Variétés.
The Maison supplied specific products to the majority of the theatre troops in Paris, and became the city’s foremost makeup manufacturer. The beauty of the capital’s finest products could soon be found, in all its splendour, both on and off the stage.
To further develop her business, Marguerite Montansier went into partnership with Jean-Marie Dorin, who would go on to acquire the Maison and rename it after himself in 1819. Blessed with a tireless work ethic and an unquenchable thirst for research, Dorin embraced La Montansier’s penchant for innovation and devoted himself to the manufacture of makeup products that were easy to use and risk-free.
Ultimately, the influence of science would transform the makeup and perfume industry: the Maison Dorin modernised its methods and no half measures were taken in its mission to bring joy to its customers through science. It was during that era that its laboratories – the biggest and best equipped in Paris – became a symbol of the company’s search for ever-greater levels of perfection. Its products justifiably bore the statement “Dorin makeup is guaranteed to cause absolutely no harm”, while the Maison’s motto was fittingly changed to: “Beauty through science.”
In 1884, the then-mayor of the first arrondissement of Paris, Hector Monin, became Dorin’s new director. He instilled the Maison with a more European – and even global – vision and dimension, going as far as to export its products to destinations throughout the American continent. The company set up shop in a room at 27 Rue Grenier-Saint-Lazare before spilling over into the rest of the building and eventually taking over the neighbouring property at number 25, too.
Following several more years of rapid growth, the brand would soon need even more space for its boutique, offices, workshops and stock reserves.
Already boasting a signature rice powder – Un Air de Paris Montansier – that had quickly become the capital’s must-have makeup product, Dorin launched an eponymous perfume that would quickly earn legendary status of its own. A unique scent created by an exquisite blend of iris, mandarin and white peach, with a powdery note, it would soon become the Maison’s most iconic fragrance.
Dorin has a long history in serving the theatre industry and its actors. And with good reason! Louis-Arsène Delaunay, an acclaimed actor for the Comédie Française and lecturer at the Conservatoire de Paris college of arts, gave Dorin the permission to use his name on the products that had served him so well down the years. Those renamed products would carry the slogan: “Artists, help yourself to Dorin’s French makeup.”
The jury at the 1889 World Fair in Paris had the following to say about Dorin: “This Maison owes its reputation to the superiority of its products, which cause absolutely no harm.” The Maison, equipped with the latest technology, was one of the first in its industry to offer innovative products that posed no risk to the health of their users.
Dorin’s stellar international reputation, further enhanced by its subsequent successes at the World Fairs in Moscow (1891), Chicago (1893) and Brussels (1897), was then confirmed by the Gold Medal received in Paris (1900) and Grand Prix awards that it picked up in St. Louis (1894), Liège (1905) and Brussels (1922). In Strasbourg, at the World Fair of 1924, the Maison was granted a place on the jury and was thus declared ineligible for the competition.
A rice powder named La Dorine was born, marking a revolution in the global history of makeup. For practical reasons associated with Dorin’s increasingly mobile clientele, the Maison innovated once more, producing compact powder cases that would contribute to La Dorine’s success all around the world.
L'Exportateur Français, a much-respected business publication of the day, wrote in 1917: “Concerning the universal fame of Dorin’s products, we ask our foreign readers and friends to kindly let us know of any big perfume distributors that have not heard of La Dorine. We’re convinced that we’ll have very few responses. La Dorine was created in 1893 and its popularity has gone upwards ever since. It is found on the dressing table of every fashion follower, and in the makeup bag of every starlet.”
The Maison relocated again, this time to 60-62 Rue de Wattignies in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. By now, its products could be found all over the world. Such was its influence that the word “Dorin” had come to mean “lipstick” in the USA and “white powder” in Japan. Furthermore, with its Pour Monsieur range, the Maison became one of the first brands to create a dedicated line of products for men.
Dorin’s golden period would last up until the late-1930s, during which time it would continue to expand its series of pioneering products. Those included Bas de Soie, a powder named after the silk stockings that it would replace for many people during the shortages caused by the Second World War. However, Dorin would sadly not re-emerge at the end of history’s darkest hour.
Following several decades during which it seemed that the Maison had been lost to the world, a family business would come to the rescue in 1998, when France Excellence acquired Dorin and set itself the mission of waking this sleeping beauty with the remarkable back story.
A new generation of perfume makers have put their skills and expertise at the service of the Maison, determined to write chapters of their own into its history. Our products are still handmade at the Dorin workshops in the Pays de la Loire region of France. They are exceptional products that are designed in strict accordance with the Maison’s traditions, a process requiring raw materials of the highest order and the application of traditional savoir-faire.Today, Dorin’s main premises are located in Chatou, in the Yvelines area of Greater Paris, and include a private museum holding nearly 800 archive items as well as various perfumes and cosmetic products.
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