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Jacques Courtin-Clarins, 85; Parisian entrepreneur built a luxury cosmetics empire

Washington Post

Jacques Courtin-Clarins, a French masseur who founded one of Europe’s largest skin-care product companies and whose name became synonymous with luxury cosmetics, died March 22 at his home in Paris. No cause of death was reported. He was 85.

Born Jacques Courtin, he added Clarins to his name in 1978 as the company he started in 1954 was becoming an international success.

The business, which now has annual sales around $1 billion, includes spas and salons worldwide that feature his plant-based oils, creams and fragrances.

Clarins started as a Parisian salon where clients received massages with nongreasy oils and creams. Courtin-Clarins’ rubbing technique, marketed as the “Paris method,” emphasized firming and slimming as the goal.

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He persuaded celebrities of the era, including ballerina Ludmila Tcherina and screen sex symbol Martine Carol, to endorse his skin treatments.

The company expanded its array of skin-care products, including Eau Dynamisante body spray and Lotus Oil body cream.

It also acquired perfumes of fashion designers Loris Azzaro and Thierry Mugler. Clarins worked with Mugler to create the Angel fragrance in 1992. It was a huge hit and emerged as competition to Chanel No. 5.

Despite outside offers to buy the business, Courtin-Clarins took the company public even though his family maintained a majority share. He gave his sons, Christian and Olivier, ranking positions within the company.

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Because Courtin-Clarins spoke only French, his older, jet-setting son, Christian, was credited with charting Clarins’ growth worldwide in the 1970s and ‘80s.

As chairman, Courtin-Clarins remained devoted to company operations.

Courtin-Clarins was born Aug. 6, 1921, and raised in Paris. During World War II, he worked with the wounded in hospitals. Afterward, he trained in massage to treat circulatory problems and devised his line of treatment oils. He made his way around Paris, giving product demonstrations.

When he started the company, he named it for a sympathetic character he once played in a school production set during ancient Rome. He said he saw the name as a good luck charm.

In the mid-1960s, Courtin-Clarins began retailing his beauty products to neighboring countries. Twenty years later, the company went public on the Paris stock market and began operations in Asia and the United States.

Courtin-Clarins’ wife, Malou, died in 2005.


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