I was stunned to wake up this morning to news that LVMH, the parent company of Guerlain, has shut down the Monsieur Guerlain website, as well as his Facebook page, Twitter account, and YouTube account. The news was reported by the perfume blog, PerseFume, in a post on its Facebook page. It states that the action was taken without any notice or prior warning by LVMH to Monsieur Guerlain. The news of the shut-down has been confirmed elsewhere.
I honestly don’t know where to begin. Monsieur Guerlain’s pages were nothing but a PR benefit. His unquestionable love for Guerlain fragrances and the brand as a whole was so intense that many incorrectly assumed that he was a paid shill for the company. He provided a community where fellow admirers could share their passion, he worked hard to celebrate the best of Guerlain and even loved most of its crappy modern stuff that, in my opinion, rarely merited such praise. He provided absolutely essential news on things like discontinuations, reformulations, name changes, and new releases.
And all of it was done with the sort of detailed, exhaustively thorough, expert knowledge that made his sites an invaluable resource. I didn’t share his unfiltered, unqualified love for modern Guerlain and I certainly didn’t share his admiration for most of their newest fragrances, but his writings made a difference nonetheless. HE made a difference. Even to a skeptic like me. For example, his posts on Thierry Wasser’s attempts to bring Mitsouko back to its old glory through new methodologies and alternatives to EU/IFRA restrictions on oakmoss made me think it might be worth trying one of the new, modern versions. His detailed knowledge on the finest nuances separating one flanker of Habit Rouge from another was useful not only to me when I was reviewing the new Habit Rouge Dress Code but also to thousands of others who loved the original. Plus, Monsieur Guerlain is a bloody decent fellow. Warm, humble, self-effacing, generous with his time, and kind.
I assume that LVMH claimed trademark and copyright infringement in the use of the “Guerlain” name. This isn’t my area of law, and certainly not any EU version of it, but I’m bewildered by the action nonetheless. How does the PR benefit (and the financial profits that undoubtedly ensued) from his site not outweigh his use of the name? And how does the PR flack and firestorm resulting from their wide-sweeping, eviscerating, brutally thorough action not outweigh any minor trademark issue? Every single one of his sites has disappeared, and who knows if the information is wiped out forever. All those posts, all those photos… gone. I barely managed to dig up an old avatar photo for Monsieur Guerlain. Everything else has been erased as if he never even existed. Is that not like using a jackhammer and military assault rifle to go after a butterfly? (Not a gnat or mosquito, but a beneficial butterfly that made your garden prettier.)
LVMH is a behemoth that Forbes magazine calculates is worth $34 billion. Its chairman and owner, Bernard Arnault, is estimated to be worth $36.1 billion. Forbes ranked him as the 13th richest person in the world in March 2015.
Monsieur Guerlain worked on his fan page as a hobby on the side. It was a work of love. Again, he was not paid but even if he were (which he was not), it would be a pittance and certainly nothing as compared to how much time, energy, and money he spent on his passion. He once told me that even his parents didn’t understand why he invested so much time and energy into it but, I must repeat it again, it was love that drove him. A love that did nothing but benefit Guerlain and, by extension, LVMH and Bernard Arnault, the 13th richest man in the world.
If you have ever benefited from Monsieur Guerlain’s site or if you simply have issues with censorship and behemoths using their power to silence the little people, then I hope you will make your voice heard by speaking up on his behalf. Here are links to: Guerlain’s Facebook page, LVMH‘s Facebook page, Guerlain’s Twitter account, the GuerlainUS Twitter account, and the LVMH contact form. I highly doubt that anyone at Guerlain was behind the move or feels that the decision was a good idea, which is why I think they will share customer reaction or outrage with the specific LVMH individual or individuals who actually are responsible. To that end, I dug around Guerlain’s website and found a direct email address that seems to be for client service or PR contact:
125 avenue du Président Wilson –
92593 Levallois Perret cedex – France
To Monsieur Guerlain, I want you to know that you’re not alone and that many people support you. To LVMH, I say: I think you’re idiots. Stark, raving morons and imbeciles.
[2/9/2016 — An update on the LVMH & Monsieur Guerlain situation, some new information, and why I think the issue might be very different than what many of us originally thought.]