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Fernando Aleu, Former Puig Executive, Dies at 93

Aleu established and built Puig’s business in the U.S., starting in the '60s.

PARIS — Fernando Aleu, who established and grew Puig in the U.S., died there on Jan. 6 at the age of 93. 

“Fernando Aleu was a true Renaissance man: doctor, researcher, professor at New York University, entrepreneur, showman and writer,” said Marc Puig, chairman and chief executive officer of the family-owned Spanish beauty and fashion company, in a statement. “He helped Puig enter the U.S. market in the early ’60s, and his involvement in the company’s partnership with Paco Rabanne and Carolina Herrera was key.  

“He kept a great friendship with my father and my mother, the Puig family, Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, and with the entire company,” continued Puig. “He was a man of great generosity that led a full life to the end. We owe him a lot, and we will miss him.” 

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In the fall of 1959, Aleu, a Spanish medical student at the University of Iowa, wrote a letter to the Puig office in Spain, asking to import a small amount of Agua Lavanda fragrance, his favorite, to be sold to a store favored by students.

He soon thereafter visited Puig in Barcelona and struck up a friendship with Puig family members. Aleu then set up the company’s first subsidiary outside of Spain, according to the book “Puig: 100 Years of a Family Business.”

The executive relocated to New York, converting his garage into a warehouse for the newly established Puig of Barcelona for the U.S. company. He formed Compar, the forerunner of Puig USA, in 1965.

Aleu launched Agua Lavanda in department stores and created the Diagonal scent with designer Manuel Pertegaz, known in the U.S. in the ’60s.

“I introduced myself as a doctor, who didn’t know anything about fragrances, except I was a satisfied customer,” Aleu is quoted as saying in the book.

Mariano and Antonio Puig understood that to launch fragrances internationally with success, including in the U.S., it was key to have a French brand. That led them to team with Paco Rabanne in 1968. The iconic fragrance Calandre was launched in 1969 and Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, in 1973. Aleu grew the designer’s fragrance business in the U.S. into a powerhouse.

Fernando Aleu of Compar
Fernando Aleu founder of Compar Fragrances attends the 1995 FiFi Awards on June 7, 1995 in New York City. Credit Fairchild Archive/WWD WWD

A WWD article dated March 31, 1978, described Aleu as not being a “typical fragrance mogul. In addition to having bona fide medical credentials as a pathoneurologist, he has a refreshing naïveté, frankness and doesn’t take the fragrance industry too seriously.”

Aleu was quoted as saying in the piece: “I’m the negative nose. Whatever I like they (Paris perfumers) discard. I don’t understand this business. Medicine is easier.”

His business acumen was strong, however. Aleu made perfume history with a chance encounter with Carolina Herrera.

The executive started chatting with the Venezuelan designer at a fragrance industry awards gala in the ’70s, and asked her to ink a deal with Puig for a fragrance. But she was already in talks with another company, so Aleu suggested that if the project got a “flat tire,” to give him a call. And that she did, and they produced a fragrance together in 1987, the Puig book reminisced.

Aleu was instrumental in growing Paco Rabanne and Carolina Herrera into the perfume greats they are today, with each reportedly ranking in the top 10 worldwide.

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In 2000, two years after Aleu began serving as a non-executive chairman of Puig USA, he formed a venture with the company and developed an antiaging treatment, called Crème d’Olives. It was based on the curative properties of olive oil and peas, among other ingredients.

Ever the visionary, he was quoted as saying in a WWD article dated Feb. 4, 2000: “I call it a Mediterranean diet for your skin.”

Aleu became interested in the curative properties of fruits and vegetables while studying the biology of connective tissue and collagen as a young intern at the University of Iowa Hospital.

Clearly, he always relished challenges, including that of starting over. His final comment in that WWD article was: “I’m back in the game.”

Information on Aleu’s survivors and his memorial service could not immediately be learned.