Some fragrances are so popular that you can name them as soon as you smell them. In other cases, it’s not even necessary to open the cap: you catch a glimpse of the bottle and know what’s on the label without having to read it. Just like clothes, perfume bottles can reach iconic status thanks to their extravagance, or, conversely, because of their simplicity. They’re often designed with no less care and imagination than couture collections. And it doesn’t really surprise me – if you think about it, fashion itself is just the art of packaging.
Below you’ll find my subjective list of the world’s most recognizable perfume bottles. Which one’s your favourite?
5. Marc Jacobs Lola. Marc (if it was him) designed a terribly unpractical container for this sweett fragrance. Just try casually throwing it into your Stam bag and you’ll realize that it has taken all the space inside, forcing you to carry your Louis Vuitton wallet in hand. What’s more, the cap fell off and might be broken – which would be a pity, because the bottle is truly splendid. My empty Lola has been standing in my room for two years now, as a less demanding piece of decoration than actual flowers.
4. Flower by Kenzo. “A flower in a flacon” sounds like a cheesy ad slogan for a floral fragrance, but it’s actually a brilliantly simple idea for a perfume bottle. It’s beautiful, memorable and sends a clear message about the scent it contains. Its minimal shape also has a very Japanese feel, thus referencing the brand’s heritage. Now that’s what I call design genius.
3. DKNY Be Delicious. Even if you’ve never used it yourself (though everyone seems to have tried it out at some point), you can probably guess what it smells like. You’re right, like an iPhone. Apple, I mean. Since its release in 2004, approximately 4 million bottles are sold; and that only includes the original scent, not its many seasonal variations (like this one, which can be yours for a million dollars.) And I bet that, like with all Apple products, a part of its success can be put down to its appearance.
2. Elsa Schiaparelli Shocking. Famously influenced by the Surrealist movement, Shiap liked her designs to look like something else. You know: the lobster dress. The shoe hat. And the perfume bottle that resembles Mae West’s torso. Although hugely popular when it was introduced in 1937, Shocking has since been discontinued. It has, however, left its mark, for example by inspiring Jean Paul Gaultier’s body-shaped flacons.
1. Chanel No. 5 is the unquestionable no. 1 of the perfume world. With her debut fragrance, Coco broke all the unwritten rules of the industry. Launched in 1921, the eau the cologne revolutionized the market by not imitating the any natural scent – Coco claimed she wanted something that smells “not like a flower, but like a woman.” Equally shocking (sorry, Shiap!) was its bottle, which at that time seemed to belong in a pharmacy or an off-licence rather than a couture house. However, its minimalist design fitted well with Chanel’s aesthetics and, as it soon turned out, with sophisticated people’s tastes. Almost four decades later, the flacon was immortalized by Andy Warhol as a pop cultural icon, alongside Campbell soup cans, Coca-Cola bottles, and the face of Marilyn Monroe – privately a big fan of No. 5.
That’s it for today, but there are loads more of beautiful bottle designs that have secured their place in public imagination. Please let me know if you want a part two!