Perfume is one of those products that may influence our emotions. People`s sense of smell influences behavior and sets different moods. It may even bring up memories of the past.
Perfume is dated back to B.C. Ancient people burned fragrant resins gums and woods as incense. Perfumes had been found in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs (rulers) who lived more than 3,000 years ago. The Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Islamic world learned about perfumes from the Egyptians. For hundreds of years, perfume making was mainly an Oriental art. In the early 1200's the Crusaders brought perfume from Palestine to England and France. By the 1500's perfumes had become popular throughout Europe. It was the Islamic community that kept the use of perfume. With the fall of the Roman Empire perfume's influence went down, it was not until the twelfth century and the development of international trade that this decline was turned around. During the seventeenth century perfume had a huge success.
The guild of glove and makers of perfume was established. The use of perfumes grew steadily.The eighteenth century saw revolutionary advance in perfumery with the invention of eau de cologne. The variety of eighteenth century perfume containers was as wide as that of the fragrances and their uses. As with industry and the arts, perfume was to make a complete change in the nineteenth century. Changing tastes and the development of modern chemistry laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today. Alchemy gave way to chemistry and new fragrances were created. Perfume was often used in history and still today for different purposes. Back in the ancient times, perfume were used for religious purposes like to worship God, religious rituals, the burning of incense to the embalming of the dead. Egyptians used perfumes to anoint their bodies to fresehen the air. Perfume oils were applied to the skin for either cosmetic or medical purposes. During the New Kingdom (1580-1085 B.C.) perfumes were used during festivals and Egyptian women also used perfumed creams and oils as toiletries, cosmetics and as preludes to lovemaking.
Also from this same era, it is believed that perfume was used in Mesopotamia for ritual ceremonies. And farther east, in China, aromatic herbs were used for medicine purposes.
Later on as trade routes expanded, perfume became very popular and demand for scent products increased trade among different civilizations. Africa and India started to supply Middle Eastern civilization with spikenard and ginger. Syrians sold fragrant goods to Arabia. Mediterranean civilization began buying cymbopogon and ginger from South Arabia. And so the trade of scent goods kept on, and as it continued to swell, fragrance perfume was eventually introduced thru time to several civilizations such as Hindus, Israelites, Carthaginians, Arabs, Greeks, Romans and finally reintroduced hundreds of years later in Italy and France.
By the 13th century Italy was doing major trades of spices and perfumes with Eastern civilizations. Portugal and Spain were also trying to establish important trades of spices by having exclusive routes to the East. That`s how the new world of America got to be discovered.
As Italian perfume influence swept over neighboring countries, France began expanding the use of perfume by first offering perfumed gloves, which were most often perfumed with neroli or animal scents such as ambergris and civet. From then on, French perfume has become famous worldwide and today sets the standard for excellence.
Also France played a major role in reestablishing the use of perfume for therapeutic purposes in the western world. It has been reported that during Word War II, therapeutic perfume had been used in the treatment of wounds and burns, and later in the treatment of psychiatric problems.
Perfume has brought different people together in the past through the trade of aromatic scents. It also played a major deal, since its trade meant economical power for the nations. And so the history of modern man has been greatly influenced by this special product, enabling new worlds to be discovered. On a personal level, perfume is capable of influencing people`s behavior and that by itself sets perfume in class by itself. Perhaps that`s what makes it so desirable by all of us.
The Garden of Intoxicating Delights
Fragrance has been used as a tool of seduction since the dawn of time. The first Temptress was surely Eve, who conveniently lived in a lush garden full of potent aromatic smells and flavors. It was there in the paradise of Eden that she enticed her man with a glistening crimson apple, crisp and succulent – freshly plucked from a forbidden tree. (Which made it all the more exciting!) As Adam bit into the dangerous fruit, sweet juices ran down his chin, and his mouth was filled with a wonderful splendor. Eve had carefully gathered a bouquet from her garden of roses, lilies, gardenia, freesia, tuberose, ylang-ylang and jasmine, and when she presented it to Adam surrounded by the pungent aroma of trees bearing tart lemons, pulpy oranges, juicy pomegranates, salty olives, moist figs and ripe dates, the heady scent overwhelmed him. He inhaled deeply and felt light-headed, as if he was floating in a sea of irresistible perfume. Adam was helpless against her sensory charms. Eve knew exactly what she was doing and the rest is history.
The Perfumed Warrior Queen
Urban civilization burst forth in ancient Egypt, and at the center of that golden universe stood Cleopatra, filled with fire, lust, and unquenchable desire for power. She was a Queen, a General of a legendary Army, a Mistress, and a lover of beauty and indulgence. Cleopatra was so enamored of the fragrant arts that she had her own laboratory complete with personal perfumer to create wonderful essences to anoint her body, hair and clothing with. Her daily rituals included bathing in pure white milk strewn with rose petals to keep her skin soft, and scenting her hair with Myrrh so that a veil of the heady spice trailed behind her wherever she ventured, causing an epidemic of swooning Egyptian soldiers. As a Seductress, Cleopatra’s talents were unparalleled. She famously perfumed her sails to greet Marc Antony as he strode onto her barge, the soft breezes enveloping him in the sweet caress of musk, amber and sandalwood. When he emerged, days later, he was a man so besotted with this woman who was a mass of emotion and sensuality, that he felt as if was drowning… but he had no desire to be rescued. Always looking for a new challenge, Cleopatra next lured Julius Caesar to Egypt, and then presented herself to him wrapped in a carpet soaked in a fragrant elixir of frankincense, cypress oil and patchouli leaves. As she slowly unraveled the cloth, the scent wafted into the air and it was very clear who the true ruler was. She oozed confidence and strength, and she knew the aromas gracing her perfumed torso enhanced her sexual power even more.
Mysticism, Magic & the First Women Perfumers
Perfume has always been entwined with magic and mystical religious rituals. The first ‘perfumes’ recorded by historians were actually incense, offered at altars to please the gods and keep evil spirits at bay. Which perfectly explains the definition of the word ‘perfume’, translated from Latin to mean ‘through smoke’ (per fume).
The famous Egyptian Kyphi incense was burned in temples every evening at sunset and in homes at night, and the smoky vapors were believed to have magical powers as a relaxant and to protect.
Alexander the Great brought perfume to Greece after invading Egypt and the ancient Greeks, whose perfumers were women, strove to improve upon the fragrant concoctions passed on to them by Alexander’s troops. These perfumers categorized their fragrances according to the part of the plant they came from and they kept records of their creations.
The Egyptians had invented glass and now the bottles were becoming just as important as the fragrances they contained. The Greeks used large quantities of perfume daily – a different fragrance for each part of the body. By Roman times, vast quantities of myrrh, peppermint, rose and frankincense were being imported from Arabia and special ships brought new ingredients like sandalwood, vanilla and patchouli from India, which were thought to have magical powers that could bring people closer to divinity. Rich Romans indulged to excess, stuffing their mattresses with roses, sprinkling perfume on floors, walls, horses, dogs, and soldier’s shields, and installing spouting fountains of fragrant water. The emperor Nero had Lake Lucina covered in rose petals for a feast he had on its grassy banks.
A City of Perfume & Sex
A major step in the story of perfume occurred in the early middle Ages, when the Arabs developed a technique for the distillation of plants. Large areas of Persia were reserved for growing roses for rose oil and Baghdad of The Arabian Nights became known as a city of perfume. Powerful new ingredients were found, too, like musk, which was even mixed into the bricks used to build mosques and palaces so that they would emit a perpetual pungent scent as they baked in the hot sun or as rain beat down on them.
Scent has always been an essential component of sex. In many languages, the word for ‘to kiss’ and ‘to smell’ are the same and anthropologists have theorized that kissing is really an extended process of amorously tasting and smelling your lover. Assyrian kings romanced maidens whose bodies had been marinated for twelve months in special perfume baths – six months in myrrh and six months in labdanum.
In China, courtesans were fed food flavored with musk so that when they perspired during lovemaking their bodies sweated pure perfume. The scents of a fresh body were also treasured. One ancient custom is that of love-apples – a peeled apple was worn in an armpit for a day and then presented to a lover.
The green apple was particularly desired because of its tartness. The secretions from the sweat glands mingled with the juice of the apple and the result was an effective aphrodisiac…
Out of the Darkness Into a Captivating Fragrant Light
The fall of the Roman Empire, the invasion of the barbarians and endless wars in Europe caused perfume to fade into the mist for almost a thousand years. Through the Spaniards and the crusaders opening new trade routes between the aromatic East and the West, an abundance of ingredients and spices made it to Europe and perfume use was revived.
The initial capital of perfumery in Europe was Venice, where Venetian merchants unloaded their ship’s cargo of silks, musks, jasmine oil, citron, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, olive oil, ginger, cloves, anise, pepper, balsam, oranges, sesame, pine resin, cardamom and rosewater from Arabia, India, China and Egypt. Perfumers surfaced everywhere, opening laboratories and shops to create personal scents for a clientele who wanted perfumes not just because of an attraction to the scent, but because personal hygiene was exceedingly poor and they needed the preparations to cover up less than wonderful body odors.
The first ‘modern’ perfume is said to have been created in 1370 for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary, who at the age of 70 was suffering from various illnesses and was looking for a potion to restore her energy. A monk mysteriously appeared, offering a creation made of rosemary and lavender oils, which he said would preserve her great beauty until her death and make her body strong with a heightened libido. This perfume became known as Hungary Water and it did seem to have magical properties because her health improved. When she was 72 she seduced the King of Poland into marrying her!
An Italian Beauty Becomes a French Queen with a Deadly Perfumed Secret
The art of perfumery prospered in Renaissance Italy and in the 16th century those skills came to France when Catherine de Medici, who had arrived to marry the French King Henry II, brought her perfumer Rene Florentin with her. She quickly made Paris the fashionable city of perfume and Rene had a laboratory connected to Catherine’s apartments by a secret passageway so that no formulas could be stolen en route.
Rene crafted for Catherine the fragranced leather gloves she had made popular and when she needed help dealing with her enemies, she turned to Rene and also her alchemist, Cosimo Ruggiero. They brewed poisonous perfumes, including the one that scented the gloves of Jeanne d’Albret, Henri II’s mistress, which killed her.
Catherine encouraged the development of the perfume industry in France. Grasse, in Southeastern France, had emerged as its focal point. The temperate climate and fertile soil of the region proved hospitable to orange trees, acacia, roses, lavender, olive trees, chamomile, thyme, orange blossom and jasmine. Over time, distillation plants and facilities for processing perfume materials sprung up there and some are still in operation today.
In Renaissance Europe people had become very status-conscious about their leather gloves, but the solutions used to cure the skins were foul-smelling, so gloves were heavily-scented to disguise this. Grasse was also known as a tanning center, with plenty of goats grazing the hills to skin for their hides. Gradually a guild of glove makers moved into the area, utilizing the local plants and selling not only perfumed gloves, but also perfumes of all kinds. The most famous scent of fine kid gloves at that time was ‘neroli’ from the blossoms of the bitter orange, named after the Duchess of Nerola. Grasse enjoyed huge success during the 17th century and developed into the center of the global perfume industry. By the 18th century when the leather business declined, the glove maker-perfumers dropped the gloves and evolved into perfumers exclusively.
The Perfumed Court of Sensory Indulgence
In the 17th century, King Louis XIV of France was dubbed ‘the sweetest-smelling monarch that had yet been seen’. One of his favorite perfumes was Acqua Angeli, a mixture of spices, agar wood, jasmine and rosewater with a few drops of musk, and all of his shirts were laundered in it. Perfume took on an even bigger life when Louis XV came to the throne in the 18th century. His courtiers were ordered to wear a different scent each day so that Versailles became known as ‘La Cour Parfumee’ (the Perfumed Court).
Scents were applied daily not only to skin, but also to wigs, clothing and furniture, and scented fans were popular as a flirtation device. Madame de Pompadour, the King’s mistress, spent more on perfume than any other of her household expenses – almost a million livres a year. By the 18th century, the French Court was consuming almost as much perfume as the sensual citizens of ancient Rome. People were so obsessed with perfume at this time that perfume substituted for soap and water – personal hygiene flew out the door!
The 18th century also brought one of the most famous fragrance developments in the history of perfume – the creation of the Eau de Cologne. There are several stories as to who the true inventor was, but the most documented is that it was created by a young Italian perfumer, Jean-Marie Farina, who was living in Cologne, Germany. Translated to mean ‘water from Cologne’, it was a tremendous success first in France and then rapidly throughout Europe. The first blend was a mix of neroli and other orange oils combined with bergamot, lavender and herbs, resulting in a fresh citrus accord. The refreshing Eau de Cologne was originally intended for internal and external use, having both medicinal and cosmetic functions as a mouthwash, in the bath, added to wine, and as a disinfectant for wounds. Subsequently under Napoleon’s rule he mandated a legal distinction between pharmacy and perfumery.
After Napoleon came to power, exorbitant expenditures for perfume continued. Two quarts of violet cologne were delivered to him each week and he used sixty bottles of double extract of jasmine every month. He favored Eau de Cologne and added sugar to it. He patronized the perfume houses of Houbigant and Lubin, which are still thriving today. His wife, Empress Josephine, also had very strong perfume preferences. She loved musk and she used so much that sixty years after her death the scent still lingered in her boudoir! Napoleon and Josephine’s love- making was centrally focused on their attraction to each other’s body smells meshed with perfume and when he was away he often wrote to urge her not to bathe before he returned.
Jean-Louis Fargeon, born into a family of perfumers, had visions of taking his talent to the mirrored and gold-encrusted Court of Versailles and creating masterpieces for the young Queen, Marie Antoinette. He opened a shop in Paris and was soon concocting perfumes and cosmetics for many of the French nobility, like Lady DuBarry, the King’s mistress, who adored iris, orange blossom and angelica. He formulated a coloring powder for Lady Du Barry’s hair and this led him to a meeting with Marie-Antoinette at the Trianon Palace. He tempted her with lavish, custom scents that reflected her whims, moods and personality, and he served as her personal and exclusive perfumer, as well as confidante, for fourteen years until 1789 when the French Revolution loomed darkly over France.
With the Revolution came a hatred for the extravagant, indulgent and self- involved Queen, who was now seen as an enemy of the people. Fargeon, an avid supporter of the Republican cause, but also a supplier to the Court and a trusted friend of the Queen, was in a dangerous position. He remained exceptionally loyal to Marie Antoinette, as she fled to Varennes, at the horror of her execution (with a vial of Houbigant perfume tucked into her bosom for courage), and even through his own trial and imprisonment. Even after her death her notoriety lived on and a perfume surfaced called Parfum a` la Guillotine!
The Obsession Flourishes into an Art
The 19th century began the era of sanitization and deodorization. Hygiene had become a symbol of purity of soul and personal perfuming was no longer a privileged obsession for just the aristocracy and the wealthy. Proper ladies wore light single-note fragrances, with lavender, violet and rose being favored, and their men wore similar scents. (It was not until the 20th century that savvy marketers began to promote fragrances specifically designed for each gender).
Changing tastes and the development of modern chemistry laid the foundations of perfumery as we know it today. Advanced technology made it possible to create new extraction techniques. The most prominent of all technological advances was the ability to create synthetic ingredients to substitute for natural perfume ingredients that were hard to find or very expensive – bringing perfume prices down and making it accessible to the masses.
New chemicals, abundant fragrance crops, easier access to supplies, new markets which resulted from better forms of transportation, more sophisticated production of alcohol and glassware, and a growing middle-class clientele added up to the explosion of the perfume industry during the final years of the century. Perfumers began to venture past their conservative beginnings to create fragrances that were conceived not as copies of scents that were found in nature but as beautiful in themselves. No longer confined to traditional formulas, they were free to use their materials liberally, like an artist with a palette of infinite colors.
Gradually a new perception of perfume developed. Besides the scent, other elements became important, such as the bottles, the packaging and the advertising. Perfumers started to work with famous glass manufacturers, such as Lalique and Baccarat, designers and marketing professionals.
Among the great perfumes of this time was Fougere Royale, created by Houbigant in 1882, the first perfume to utilize the synthetic coumarin, which resembles the smell of newly mown hay. In 1889 the House of Guerlain produced Jicky, a true family collaboration. Jicky was created by Aime` Guerlain, named for the young Jacques Guerlain (his nickname was Jicky), and presented in a bottle designed by Gabriel Guerlain working with the glassmakers of Baccarat. The notes were orris, bergamot and lavender oils, and the scent was created with men in mind, but Jicky quickly became fantastically popular with women.
The First Superstar Perfumer
The most celebrated phenomenon among the elegant perfume houses was Francois Coty, born in Corsica in 1876. He gravitated to France and struck up a friendship with an apothecary who compounded fragrances, but sold them in unimaginative jars. This craft was interesting enough to captivate the young Coty and he became obsessed with perfumes and with presenting them in beautiful bottles. He made a pilgrimage to Grasse to study perfumery and he learned the nuances about each of the flowers and herbs grown there, and the techniques to distill their scents.
When he returned to Paris, Coty borrowed money from his grandmother and built a perfume laboratory in his apartment. In 1904 he created his first perfume, La Rose Jacqueminot, and when it wasn’t selling as quickly as he hoped in the department store Le Louvre, he knocked a bottle onto the tile floor where it shattered and the scent was released. Soon everyone flocked to see what the amazing scent was and his career was launched.
His Origan from 1905 is considered the first 20th century famous perfume. In 1917 he created Chypre, the perfume that was at the head of an entire perfume family with the same name and that included oak moss, labdanum, patchouli and bergamot married with the oriental scents of amber and soft spicy vanilla to evoke a sensual aroma.
Coty was able to open his shop on the stylish Rue de la Paix and by 1910 he was known as the hottest perfumer in Paris. There are several reasons for his lightning-quick success: Coty’s sharp olfactory sensitivity, his knowledge of primary materials, the care that he took in packaging the perfume product and his marketing sense. While he sold to the grandes dames and royalty, he was one of the first to make his products affordable for the pocketbook of the Parisian shop girl. He sold smaller bottles so that perfume could be a luxury for an entirely new market and he was generous with samples. Coty also recognized the importance of the American market and cultivated it at a time when other French companies were not paying it much attention.
Fragrance is Fashion’s Best Accessory
Paul Poiret was the first fashion designer to create perfume. He had become famous for liberating women from the corset. With the daring new trends in fashion, he employed a perfumer who created blends that ventured into exotic new territory, combining Oriental notes with intense and heady florals. At his fashion shows he dispensed perfumed fans and he made sure guests would use them because he kept all the windows closed! Poiret believed that a well-dressed woman was a fragrant one, perfume adding to her glamour.
Couturier Jean Patou, the creator of Joy, ‘the world’s costliest perfume’, agreed. He thought, “Perfume is one of the most important accessories of a woman’s dress.” At first, designers like Charles Worth, who created Je Reviens, would give their clients little bottles of perfume as gifts; then, like Jeanne Lanvin, creator of the iconic Arpege, they began to sell them within the store. Soon they found they could make more money from the perfumes than from the dresses.
Chanel No. 5, created by Ernest Beaux for Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1921, is a stellar example of an inspired use of synthetics. It was the first perfume to be built upon the ingredient of aldehydes, which gives a sparkling, effervescent, ‘bubbly’ quality to the fragrance and was a revelation for the time period. Composed of rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang and animal notes, Chanel No. 5 mixed naturals with synthetics and represented a complete break from conventional perfume recipes just as Chanel’s designs became the model of the new age of fashion. Years later Marilyn Monroe brought new notoriety to Chanel No. 5 when she declared that she “wore nothing to bed except Chanel No. 5,” confirming that it’s the ultimate sexy perfume – and to this day it continues to be one of the best- selling fragrances of all time.
The late 1940s and early 1950s saw a return to feminine floral fragrances, complementing the flowing skirts and tiny waists of Christian Dior’s New Look fashions which debuted in 1947. Dior’s own Miss Dior was created for the fashion house by Edmond Roudnitska, with posters depicting the Dior woman as an aristocratic swan with a trailing black bow. Following after were Diorama and Diorissimo, Balenciaga’s Le Dix, while Robert Ricci designed the famous twin doves of L’Air du Temps in 1948. A few years later L’Interdit, inspired by Audrey Hepburn, was created for Givenchy, who had designed many of her film costumes.
The Sexual Revolution & American Perfumery Take Off
Estee Lauder ignited demand in the United States when she launched Youth Dew in 1953, competing with the French companies that had become synonymous with fine fragrance. Youth Dew was actually a bath oil, not an alcohol-based perfume, so it had an exceptionally high level of essential oil fragrance solution in it and was very long lasting with notes of clove, frankincense, patchouli, vetiver and musk. Actresses like Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Delores Del Rio, and the Duchess of Windsor all were mad for the striking Oriental fragrance. The world began to look at American perfumery in a new light.
Social upheaval marked the 1960s and 1970s – the sexual revolution, civil rights and the women’s movement. Fragrance reflected these changes with bold new scents laden with musk and patchouli. Rock and folk music gave expression to rebellion and the centers of fashion and anti-fashion were wherever youth congregated – Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, New York, Liverpool and London. Sensuality and sexual experimentation was encouraged, and people took risks with their clothing, cosmetics and fragrance in the desire to show individuality and creativity.
France observed as the United States began to mature as a center of luxury goods and produced their own sophisticated products. American fragrance companies were making perfumes that were getting noticed and they were selling. They could actually compete in the fragrance marketplace and they were respected for their efforts. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s were a flurry of American fragrance production. Companies like Estee Lauder, Avon, Revlon and Elizabeth Arden became household names – brands that everyone had heard of whether they lived in New York City or Sioux City, Iowa. To this day, Revlon’s Charlie is still one of the most familiar fragrances to many people, due in part to the catchy tune and model Shelley Hack’s confident ‘I am Woman’ swagger in the famous TV commercial, but also because “everybody” wore it.
Designer fragrances began to surface in America and this was a real turning point in the fragrance industry. American fashion designers Norman Norell, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Geoffrey Beene, Halston and Diane Von Furstenberg all had fragrances that represented their elegant brands, and they were later followed by Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Perry Ellis and Tommy Hilfiger, who represented the younger guard. This gave a whole new personality to fragrance, a reference point that connected it to taste, style and glamour, and contributed to the start of America’s deep and enduring love affair with celebrity fragrances.
Lifestyles of the Sexy, Rich and Famous
Giorgio Beverly Hills was one of the best-selling fragrances of the 80s, and most people had never been to the store on Rodeo Drive or even knew it existed! Such is the power of advertising and the yearning to be part of a shiny, rarefied and privileged world. The American Dream is firmly built on this premise – to keep acquiring more toys and accoutrements that will show how successful, desirable, chic and sexy we are. We may not actually live in Beverly Hills, but we can smell like we do!
No one is better than Ralph Lauren at imaging, branding and making us crave an existence we haven’t got. With one beautifully photographed ad in a magazine, he can make us aspire to live the lifestyle of a woman on safari or sailing off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Suddenly you find yourself collecting Navajo silver and turquoise jewelry or wearing jodhpurs and riding boots (even though you’ve never been on a horse). So it was only natural that Lauren delved into fragrance to complete the fantasy of the fairytale life and you could have a piece of that fairytale with just one spritz. He has been persistent in his belief in designing a complete wardrobe and he continues to include fragrance as part of the total look.
Lauren’s Safari was a true depiction of the lifestyle portrayed in the ads. A rich, heady and creamy floral scent contained in a cut-crystal decanter with a tortoise- shell top – pure luxury for the masses. His pristine Lauren, in the weighty, square ruby-glass bottle, perfectly suited the young patrician blond models in crisp blouses he featured, and is often noted as the first real perfume for many young girls. Polo and Polo Sport added sparkle to the locker room and spawned a whole new category of scent – sport fragrances. Now we could play hard at sports, sweat and still smell good. And this association with sports made it okay for teenagers and young men to wear scent. The makers of Axe owe a huge debt to Ralph Lauren!
The bombastic, greedy ‘80s – with big finance, big hair, big jewelry, big fashion (remember shoulder pads, power ties and MC Hammer pants?), and big, pop- infused dance music – inspired a slew of courageous new fragrances that reflected the excess of money, glitz, sex and intrigue of the times. YSL’s Opium and Dior’s Poison replaced the favored soft florals, fresh citrus and clean musks of previous decades with full-bodied Oriental, spicy and gourmande essences that announced your entrance into a room well before you ever crossed the threshold.
The first celebrity fragrance is heralded as Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, which still continues to be a best-seller several decades after it elegantly sashayed onto the scene. The powdery floral perfectly captured the impossibly glamorous, dripping-with-jewels facade and lush sensuality of Ms.Taylor, and she impressively shot many commercials and print campaigns and made personal appearances to support her scent. The American public has a never-ending thirst for the trappings of celebrity, hoping that a little of that golden lifestyle will rub off if the star’s special elixir is dabbed behind the ears or misted in the cleavage. Everyone from Catherine Deneuve to Madonna to Michael Jordan to Sarah Jessica Parker to Lady Gaga to Sophia Loren to Justin Bieber to Cher to Alan Cumming to Adam Levine to Gwen Stefani has ventured into the olfactive marketplace, with some being more successful than others. But this is a trend that will never go away, because as long as we can dream of fame and fortune, and being universally loved, we’ll grab the feeling any way we can.
Sensual Spirituality and Minimalist Chic
As America flexed into the 90s, fashion became more streamlined and simplistic, and spirituality was on the brink of surfacing. There was a return to core values and back-to-basics trend, and we needed scents to match. Fragrances with names like Realities, Delicious and Pleasures reflected this softer, subtler attitude and the notes were fresh, light, fruity and herbal.
Calvin Klein stunned the world with Obsession, a fragrance redolent with soft vanilla and amber, and housed in a sleek caramel-colored orb created by the legendary bottle designer Pierre Dinand. Klein’s powerful advertising campaigns showed the world that he was a consummate artist who is fanatical about details, and the sexually graphic imagery suggested that he liked to shock his customer. While Ralph Lauren offered a lifestyle that we wanted to emulate, Calvin Klein offered one that we wanted to peek at – but then we were very happy to run in the other direction back to the safe haven of our respectable homes.
Unisex scents established harmony and unity between the sexes, and Calvin Klein’s clean citrus CK One is a prime example of success in this arena. Calvin Klein’s perfume empire continued to flourish with the dreamily-named Escape, Eternity, Truth, Euphoria and the recent Beauty.
Names that creatively described the feeling and the spirit of the essence contained in the bottle were important as the 20th century came to a finish and one of the most famous is Angel by Thierry Mugler. The pale blue star-shaped flacon created a striking visualization of the otherworldly, ethereal juice contained within. Characterized by notes of chocolate, pineapple and patchouli, this was a combination that no one had ever smelled before combined in a perfume and surely the sweet mixture was the scent of heaven and the angels who lived there.
Donna Karan had a Zen moment with the creation of Chaos, a visionary scent that was way ahead of its time. It’s important because it showed a mainstream department store brand taking a risk in marketing a scent with unusual notes that dared to be innovative and different from what every other company was producing. Introduced too early for the average consumer, it wasn’t appreciated properly and had to wait for over ten years until the public could catch up to the sultry blend of incense, labdanum and woods which we find in so many fragrances today. Donna Karan smelled the future!
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