Intellectual Dishonesty and Creed - What's it Like to be Royal?
by, 31st March 2011 at 11:26 AM (9381 Views)
The house of Creed isn’t fooling anyone. That’s the word on the street.
However, there’s a strain of logic that overshadows the Creed skeptics’ core argument that is deeply and irrevocably flawed. The logic in question is as follows:
[B]Since Creed refuses to provide evidence in the form of vintage bottles, sales receipts, and royal warrants explicitly commissioning perfumes since the days of King George III and onward, one can safely conclude that they’re fabricating most of their perfumery history from 1760, up until the late 20th century. [/B]
I’m going to present some information that I took from a Forbes magazine article dating back to 1999 (which you can read for yourself here: [URL="http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1999/1011/6409434a.html"]http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1999/1011/6409434a.html[/URL] )
I have to illustrate why this particular article is so important. It’s one of several relatively rare pieces on Creed that magnifies the nature of Anglo-French royal exclusivity. As the article states, “All but two of Creed’s 32 over-the-counter perfumes started as exclusives, including the Royal English Leather scent it made for King George III.”
The article goes on to discuss the multiple-month appointment waiting period to meet with Olivier Creed, among other things. In other words, even within Creed’s tightly-knit VIP club of custom fragrance clients, there’s a solid line that the fragrance house won’t let you cross.
In 1992 I was in Hyde Park in London, taking a casual stroll, when I happened across a part of the park that seemed a bit more developed than the rest – there was a brick building, some walkways, a place for cars, all comfortably adjacent to the green fields and trees. The strange thing was that I couldn’t approach the building – there were horse-mounted men and women in traditional English civilian riding uniforms, barring pedestrians from coming within a few hundred feet of it. My curiosity now piqued, I waited near a pair of the riders, who were conversing in very hushed tones, with the female rider periodically touching her ear as though listening to something. After about thirty minutes, a procession of polished vehicles rolled up to the building, which had an odd velvet cloth covering a swath of brickwork by the front door, and stopped. Seconds later, a large entourage of police officers and suited men exited the building and lined up to face the motorcade. Seconds after that, from the vehicle at the heart of the procession, stepped Queen Elizabeth II. From a considerable distance, but still able to hear quite clearly what was said, I watched and listened as she greeted the people in the line, and noted that none of them spoke until spoken to. After all hands had been taken, she permitted one of the officers (presumably the chief – I can’t quite remember how he introduced himself) to announce that this was an opening of a new police station. With that, the Queen pulled a little tassel, which opened the velvet to reveal a bronze placard memorializing the opening date. In under thirty seconds, she had exchanged departing words with the constable, and was whisked back into her car and off towards Buckingham.
You might think, given the importance of relocating the Hyde Park police station to Londoners, that the event would have been publicized beforehand. But this wasn’t about the people of London. It was about the Queen taking an hour out of her day to grant royal approval to the opening of a public service within a local municipality. She was granting the establishment the royal approval to operate as a police station, and judging by the profuse thanks the people in the greeting queue gave her, this was all that was needed. There were no more than thirty civilian onlookers behind the invisible barricade put in place by the undercover officers on horseback – in fact, on that rainy and gray summer day, there were probably no more than a hundred people in the entire park.
I contrast that experience with the time that I met Mary Robinson one year later. She was, at that time, the President of Ireland. I happened to attend a speech she gave at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Afterward she mingled briefly with a few civilians, and I was lucky enough to shake her hand and exchange a few words. She was very cordial, extremely friendly, and I was struck by how easy it was to get within three feet of her. Of course the requisite security team was in place, and no one was allowed to linger beyond a few seconds, but the meeting struck me as the polar opposite of my long-distance proximity encounter with the Queen of England. People were notified of the speech date, invited to attend, and encouraged to be there when she was finished speaking. Ireland, as it turns out, isn’t interested in royalty and class systems.
These two stories converge on one point: royalty, and those who serve it, doesn’t share stuff. They operate on a level that prevents them from announcing when the Queen herself will be granting permission of operation to a public service.
Do you really think they’re going to share what perfume they wear? And if their perfumer goes into detail about which perfumes they provide, do you think they’d be allowed to keep doing business with these extremely wealthy and private clients?
Couple the hyper-private nature of the British Royalty Family with the fact that, as Forbes clearly shows, the house of Creed is currently well positioned to serve them and devoted to client confidentiality, and you have something that is operating beyond the realm of commercial enterprise ala Guerlain, Chanel, Prada, and Yves Saint Laurent. Extrapolate the divide between British Royalty and its people to the rest of European royalty (fairly easy to do), and you see how this narrative holds.
Some basenoters are under the impression that searching the royal archives in London should unearth evidence of Creed’s operation in the 18th and 19th centuries, if they indeed operated in those times. It’s a fair assumption, but it’s not likely to yield much, if anything. When my family purchased land and built their home in County Sligo, Ireland, the municipal government required us to conform and document everything, from the size and type of wall dividing our half acre from the road (required), to the number of trees we had (legally predetermined), to the type of siding our house had (subject to documented disclosure by both the architect, builder, and us), and how well we’ve tended the landscape (for the purpose of looking like our property fit into the local surroundings). These had to be publically filed in the county archives by our architect and eventually by ourselves. Imagine the millions of files out there – and these are just for [I]private[/I] residents. Private businesses are very likely, when considering taxes and tax conformities, a veritable maze in the archives.
I’m not purporting to know whether or not Creed created perfumes as far back as 1760 for King George III, or even for Queen Victoria. But I’m going to be intellectually honest here. I’m going to state that, in this matter, I can’t say one way or the other whether or not they created perfumes back then. I’m also unsure if they existed as a coherent business entity back in the 18th century (although I’m entirely confident that they did). I know from personal experience that the world immediately surrounding British royalty is one that is closed to the public, and the odds of seeing a bottle of perfume made for Queen Victoria or the Empress Eugenie are unsurprisingly slim to none, about the same as seeing a tube of either woman’s toothpaste. It’s clear to me that privately commissioned fragrances are made for their clientele, sold to their clientele, and the notion of keeping bottles for historical verification – which aren’t mass produced, and therefore likely to be unlabeled – is a pipe dream. Creed doesn’t release the names of its perfumers – why should we expect it to turn over 200 year old bottles of its perfume? It’s been a fairly consistent house – with its own stumbling, no different from all companies – that has provided more evidence in the form of its warrants than most royally-commissioned companies bother to. Anyone see a string of Penhaligon’s warrants and royal invitations lately?
I enjoin my fellow basenoters to avoid falling into the same habit as our network news pundits and politicos by just saying anything that wells up from their guts like it’s fact. These days it’s fairly obvious that standards for facts have been lowered, and when people say something and stick to it, it becomes accepted as fact. No one knows the whole story behind the house of Creed. Griping about their supposed inability to provide evidence (as opposed to a deliberate choice not to) doesn’t mean you’ve hit the nail on the head with the history of the company. They might be lying about their age, they might be lying about their involvement with perfumery, and then again, they might not be. The only thing we can say with total certainty is that, barring some groundbreaking development that puts the Creeds in a completely different place at a completely different time in the archives, much of Creed is controversy, and conjecture – very little is known fact. I wrote this blog post not because I’m a shameless Creed lover (read my mixed reviews), but because I’m tired of the intellectual dishonesty – the kneejerk statements and assumptions with no merit in factual foundation – the armchair historians who do some bookwork and wield credentials, but haven’t personally approached Creed with respectful concerns. The standard of honesty that we apply to Creed is the standard we should apply to all perfume houses. But let’s make sure it’s honesty, not hyperbole.