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Founder of the natural ingredients company that carries her name in 1983, Monique Rémy passed away one week ago, on Thursday 4 January 2024. Pioneering in what was at the time a very male-dominated world, this entrepreneur worked all her life, in her own words, “for natural products, in all their splendour.” Let’s take a look back at the career of a grande dame to whom the industry owes a great deal.
Monique Rémy began her career as a chemical engineering analyst in the pharmaceutical industry, then at the Unilever research laboratory in Paris. After transferring to their Grasse subsidiary, Bertrand Frères (a respected supplier of raw materials), she established an analytical control and chromatography laboratory although here the testing was purely olfactory. Five years later, the company met with difficulties and she left to manage a similar project at the renowned establishment Camilli, Albert & Laloue. She became the Technical Director and stayed there for 13 years.
With 18 years of experience, she had immense knowledge of raw materials and how they are processed. Fascinated by natural products, their secrets and their complexity, she saw a decline in the sector in conjunction with the quality of products. At Camilli, Albert & Laloue, Monique Rémy fought for purity in natural products, bearing in mind their major role in high-end perfumery.
In 1983, she created her own company, Laboratoire Monique Rémy (LMR), with the intention of supplying the highest quality raw materials. She decided to go directly to the source, to sign long-term contracts with farmers and to adopt a sustainable approach to ensure the purity of her products. She focused her activity on the transformation of concretes into absolutes and championed innovative techniques such as molecular distillation. Chanel was her first client: This decisive partnership gave her the means to develop her business. The first materials she produced for the luxury brand were jasmine, orange blossom and rose absolutes. In 1984, Monique Rémy teamed up with a small extraction plant in Aumont-Aubrac, SADEV (Aumonaise organisation of plant cultivation), devoted to daffodils, narcissus and tree mosses from the region. Here she established a trial workshop to develop new materials: Ten other natural products were introduced (including beeswax, wheat bran, clary sage, lavender, lavandin and mimosa, the processing of which she oversaw from beginning to end). Over the next 15 years, her catalogue continued to grow. LMR became one of the most prestigious suppliers of natural raw materials in the world and bought SADEV in 1997.
By 1998, they should have been looking to their future, considering growth and investment, but they lacked the resources. The next year, IFF offered to buy the company, at the request of their perfumers, who were interested in the quality of production and reputation of LMR. In reality, the company was in a position to uphold LMR’s level of excellence, to invest in meeting legislative requirements, to develop partnerships with growers, and invest in R&D and sustainable development.
In 2000, IFF acquired LMR. Monique Rémy managed the transition over a period of three years before leaving the company. Ever passionate, she maintained an independent style of business and regularly supported the Association of Friends of the gardens of the International Perfume Museum in Grasse.
Alongside a handful of women who were able to establish themselves in an industry dominated by men at the time, she testified in Les Femmes en parfumerie. De la terre au flacon, by Rafaëla Capraruolo: “If I was able to succeed, it was because I was a woman, because my competitors, all male at the time, didn’t pay any attention to me, so sure were they that I was going to fail, precisely because I was a woman!”
She passed away on Thursday 4 January 2024 in Grasse, at the age of 88.
Most of this text is taken from the LMR + The naturals notebook collection, which pays tribute to the natural raw materials that were part of Monique Rémy’s life.
Main visual: © IFF