1 agosto 2009

Perfume and its container (1/2)

Some time ago, the topic named "Chypre" I asked Claudio, architect and designer who follows this blog, if he thinks there are bottles now able to do justice to their content. Bottles, i.e., where the content and the container tell of the same aesthetic vision, or which have the same level of design. Both in commercial perfumery and in artistic, clearly. So Claudio wrote a report (necessarily brief and not exhaustive in the least, but rich in stimuli) to explain his vision of this issue. I immediately asked if I could publish it to share with you all. Claudio was nice and said yes, and here's to you the first part of his report. Tomorrow we'll talk about today's bottles.

"The design of perfume bottles evolved parallel to taste and styles defining the different eras: design has always been influenced by stimuli and moods en vogue in the society. Also, scents have been related to alchemy, its alembics and mysterious looking containers: a paradigmatic bottle is Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligon's, a Victorian bottle of great refinement. Art Nouveau and Neoclassical forms characterize the first major Guerlain successes like Jicky and Eau de Cologne Impériale, which lay foundations for a highly decorative design.

Déco style, to the highest degree of formal sophistication, belongs to Chanel perfume bottles, whose simplicity well embodies the spirit of the time. The same representative strength is featured also in the austere bottle of Ten by Knize produced by Ernst Dryden, a designer, Gustav Klimt’s student, whose “dry” style certainly pleased Adolf Loos, the key-architect of Vienna in the twenties who designed the Knize boutique (fine men's garments and tailoring).
The '20s were filled with esoteric culture and alchemy was back in fashion thanks to the legendary Fulcanelli, a mysterious alchemist working in Paris in those years who then disappeared into thin air forever. Coty, Guerlain and Caron imposed a design evoking luxury and voluptuous chemical mysteries in a still unsurpassed way.

In the meantime, the great jewelry designer René Lalique was giving a more sensual interpretation of the déco style, and his crystals soon became the state-of-the-art in the field of containers for womens’ cosmetics. In 1905 he opened his first workshop in Place Vendôme, where he started collaborating with François Coty and in 1908 created perfume containers of great beauty, which were fundamental for the success of Coty fragrances as a symbol of luxury and unrivalled refinement.

In 1909 Lalique further refined his style by a creative use of pharmaceutical technologies. Apart from Coty, Lalique designed perfume bottles also for D'Orsay, Guerlain, Houbigant, and Roger&Gallet.

In the'40s déco style features were softer and more aerodynamic, with an aesthetics borrowed from war, where bomb warheads shapes took sensual connotations (pic: Evening in Paris).

The ‘60s saw the birth of a new style, free of all past clichés, which produced lightweight containers: thin glasses, travel-style, less sturdy bottles. Perfume was all about freedom (Eau Sauvage) thus losing its crepuscular and mysterious mood to start radiating desire to live the moment.

The last thirty years of the twentieth century haven’t produced substantial renovations in the bottles design (except, as an example, perfumes Dali, whose bottle design recreates the style of the great Surrealist master); aesthetics was somehow arbitrary and in the best case it reflected past styles."

Pictures from: Perfume Posse, 1000 Fragrances etc. Click on the images to access. No-link pics are mine.

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