The history of Australian perfume companies

The history of Australian perfume companies differs to that of Britain, the USA and Europe. Most Australian companies evolved from chemical or even food manufacturers. Tracing their history is difficult and is ongoing with details added if and when found, often by chance.

Australians are a strange group, we are very proud of our country and these days we try to buy Australian made goods whenever possible, however for most of our first 200 years we seemed to think that anything made in Australia was inferior to anything made overseas. I'm not sure when but probably from Federation, in 1900, the government placed duties of varying amounts on all overseas goods imported into the country. In the perfume and cosmetics industry this was both good and bad as the locally made items were a little cheaper than the imported items but bad because many of the ingredients used in the manufacture were imported and as they were generally considered to be more a luxury item than a necessity the tariffs were quite high.

Manufacturers of perfumes and cosmetics tried using European sounding names to trick the local market into thinking the product was imported, e.g. Parviola and Laroona. They had limited success. Most Australian perfume and cosmetics were priced at the lower end of the market. Some companies such as F H Faulding had an excellent reputation and their lavender products seemed to fare quite well against the English companies Yardley and Potter & Moore.

In the early to mid 20th century many French fashion houses began to produce their own fragrances however this was not the case in Australia. There was however one fashion house, Prue Acton, who did produce a range of perfumes and cosmetics with limited success. Prue Acton was Australia's answer to Britain's Mary Quant and produced mid-range, well-made clothing for trendy Australian girls of the swinging sixties. I had a couple of gorgeous Prue Acton dresses; I wish I still had them now! Prue Acton's fragrances and cosmetics fall slightly outside my collection range which is up to about 1960 but I will seek out a few for history's sake. Unfortunately the cost of producing her range of cosmetics which were also good quality to a small market forced the closure of the cosmetics side of the business.

These days Australian perfumes and cosmetics can and do hold their own in the local market although few if any see international success.