Wednesday, 29 October 2014

6 Iconic Perfume Bottles and The Stories Behind Their Design.

 1. Chanel No 5 by Coco Chanel 1921

                                    Source changes made. Right Palace De Vendrome Source

When launching her perfume in 1921, Chanel famously said 'I always launch my collection on the 5th day of the 5th month, so the number 5 seems to bring me luck- therefore I will name it No5.' The abstract name matched the distinctive smell which separated it from the flowery scents with flowery names at the time. Chanel no5 used synthetic ingredients including a blend of rose and ylang ylang that was much less floral.In contrast to the overly decorative perfume bottles at the time Chanel's bottle was very simple and austere. The inspiration for the bottle isn't clear: it is said to be influenced by the whiskey decanter Coco had, others say it was the Charvet toiletry bottle that once belonged to her then-love Captain Arthur 'Boy' Capel. The final design by Jean Helleu didn't deviate much from the squarish shape Chanel had in mind. The clipped corners of the Place de Vendome match the clipped corners of the Chanel bottle.The bottle reached iconic status in Andy Warhol's famous pop art prints and since 1959 it has been on permanent display in New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Chanel have even launched No 5 perfume shaped handbags.                          

2. Shalimar designed by & for Raymond   Guerlain 1925 

Left Original design Source Middle current design Source Right fountains from Shalimar Gardens Source

Shalimar was inspired by the Shalimar gardens in Lahore, Pakistan and the love story of it's royal residents. Part of the Shalimar gardens was commissioned by love-sick Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in 1619 , where he would walk with his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. When Mumtaz died in childbirth three years after her husband succeeded his father to the throne, he built the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his wife. Shalimar also means 'temple of love' in Sanskrit. Europe in the 1920's had a fascination with the East, with it's exoticism, khol-eyed beauties, passion and addictive substances. The bottle is inspired by the garden's fountain, the curves are the basin and the blue transparent fan stopper represents gushing water. The bottle was manufactured by Cristal Baccarat (who along with Lalique first turned the perfume flacon into an objet d'art.) The perfume was displayed at the Decorative Arts Exhibition in 1925 and won first prize. Recently the bottle has been redesigned by jewellery designer/socialite Jade Jagger, a more pared down version that doesn't alter drastically from the original. 

3. L'Air Du Temps by Nina Ricci 1948

  Right and middle Source with changes Left Source

L'air du Temps was launched in 1948 after World War II, in a spirit of harmonious joy. The conceptual themes are universal peace, purity, freedom and love. The perfume was to represent the symbol of femininity and eternal youth.  L'Air du Temps is also the air that we breathe, the mood of the moment, the reflection of each era. L'Air du Temps… An unequalled moment of emotion.The original bottle of Nina Rici L'air Du Temps was created by Marc Lalique, considered one of the greatest perfume bottle designers of all time who influenced by art noveau made perfume bottles an objet d'art. He worked with Francois Coty, Roger & Gallet,Houbigant, Molyneux and Worth. His design was a sunburst with a frosted glass insert and stopper. Then in 1951 his design changed to two frosted doves ontop of on a swirled flacon/bottle which encapulated the concept of Peace. Limited editions aside the bottle has remained to the present day. The limited and speical editions have all had doves in the design with variations on the number of doves, the color of the doves and the color of the bottle. The exception was in 1996 when Lalique made a winged version of the bottle that did not have the doves see far right above.

4) Classique by Jean paul Gautier 1993

Elsa Schiaparelli fragrance (see more parfum fragrances) Polyvore Middle Source Right  Source

To me this bottle of a woman's body always reminds me of Madonna's pointy gold bra (also designed by Gautier for her Blond Ambition Tour) but this design has roots further back in history. Shaped like a tailors dummy it references the fashion houses dressing famous stars. This design was heavily influenced By Elsa Schiaparelli's 1937 surrealist bottle called Shocking. Shocking was based on Mae West's corseted hourglass figure. Mae West asked Schiaparelli to design her costumes for The 1937 film Every Day's A Holiday. Schiaparelli based in Paris would not travel to Hollywood and West could not go to Paris. A compromised was agreed when a torso with West's measurements was sent to Schiaparelli's Paris Workshop. Incidentally Shocking was Frida Kahlo's favourite perfume. The designer of Jean Paul Gaultier's classique bottle is Saint Gobain, while Gaultier personally designed the boxes.Today a tin can contains Jean Paul Gautier's perfumes, the unusual choice is because Gaultier likes to use everyday objects and turn them into art. The Eau De Toilette is in a frosted glass bottle and a silver metal can, while EDP comes in a bottle dressed in a lacy dress and in golden metal packaging.

 5) CK one by Calvin Klein 1994.

Left Source Middle Source Right source

This perfume epitomises the 90's, appealing to disaffected, sexually ambivalent, grunge generation X. Popularity for this 'new' unisex brand went through the roof. Because the perfume was marketed as as unisex the bottle design was kept very minimalist to appeal to both sexes- Fabien Baron designed a flat screw top bottle, reminiscent of a hip flask or gin bottle keeping the look edgy. The adverts were shot unconventionally in black and white, using moody looking androgynous models to emphasize the unisex brand. Clever marketing on the back of the current zeitgeist ensured CK One broke industry rules and records,  selling 20 bottles per minute at its peak. 

 6) Flower by Kenzo. 2000

Kenzo's artistic director Partrick Geudj wanted the bottle design to be based around a flower because of the floral scent but also wanted the flower to symbolise peace after being inspired by a photograph byMarc Ribaud 'March in Washington' (21st October 1967) of a girl holding a flower as she faces a line of soliders holding bayonets guarding the Pentagon on the March for Peace In Vietnam. The resulting design by Serge Mansau is a tall narrow glass leaning to the side like a flower in a breeze and a trompe l'oeil image of a Poppy which makes it look as if there is a flower inside the glass vase bottle. Serge Mansau has also designed Ô by Lancome, Declaration by Cartier, Eau de Rochas or Diorella.


  1. What an awesome post! I love finding out these not very well known facts about some of the most well known brands. Thanks for putting this together!

    Ivory Avenue


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