UPDATE — this is weird, but apparently some people can’t see anything on this page? It’s blank. That is kind of funny, I guess the joke is I had no thoughts. Anyway, I am re-posting this.
I´m having kind of a nutty work week and I promised myself I wasn´t going to do a comment-whore post, but here I am, because I have a topic I can´t let go of and I am practically mugging the mailman each day on our porch waiting for my sample of Party in Manhattan so Patty, Lee and I can do a three-way about it, and I just can´t get excited about anything else right now.
So. I got to thinking about bottles. Robin at Now Smell This posted on a new Kenzo series in a minimalist-and-yet-attractive bottle that I think fits nicely in their line. On the other hand, some commenters on my Guerlain Elixir Charnel post ragged the Guerlain bottles, because even if they say nothing else to you, those Guerlain LE bottles should say “expensive.” Somehow instead they have veered slightly in the direction of Jessica Simpson Fancy, and no, I do not mean that as a compliment. The filigreed silver labels that were supposed to add a fancy touch look a little lowbrow.
Just for today, let us leave aside the relative merits of various fragrances and discuss their containers. Here are a few random thoughts of mine, and I invite you to add yours.
1) Utility. Utility should not be sacrificed for looks. I have small hands but not freakishly so, and I am surprised at the number of bottles that require two hands to spray because the bottles are unusually big and/or awkwardly shaped. Other bottles are hard to figure out how to spray (hello, Lolita Lempicka!) and still other bottles have crappy, poorly-functioning bulb atomizers.
2) Class, or not. I am not opposed to a trashy-looking bottle for the right fragrance. Betsey Johnson is kinda trashy, although it´s a little tongue in cheek, and my only complaint about that bottle is its quasi-violation of Rule 1 – the wide top part makes it hard to spray one-handed. In general, it seems to me that “classy” is one of the hardest notes to hit. Too often it comes out more … CLASS-AY. Did I embrace the J Simpson Fancy bottle as my idea of fancy or classy? Unsurprisingly, no. However, I would expect Guerlain to be able to do so, and mostly Guerlain does – I love their bee bottles, and I think the L´Art et Matiere bottles are elegant in their restraint. Their Pluie one (?) was a little strange, the bottle in an ice cube, but it wasn´t cheap looking. Their iconic Mitsouko and Jicky bottles are gorgeous. The AA ones are darn nice too, particularly considering the price. So why/how did they miss the mark on the Charnel ones?
The new Van Cleef & Arpels Feerie bottle should have been classier. Yes, it is primarily whimsical – but it should also look like it was issued by a venerable jeweler, not Avon. I think some group of us decided it was the shiny silver-toned metal that looked cheap, like it might really be silver plastic (although it´s not). In my opinion, a matte slightly pewter-toned finish would have looked more expensive.
While I am throwing random thoughts at this screen, I will opine further that frequently a bottle of fragrance itself looks fine but is ruined by a cheap-looking cap. Caps are hard to do right.
3) Utility, Part II. Some people are really annoyed by opaque containers, so you can´t see (for instance) how much Montale or Armani Cuir Amethyste you have left. I would argue that my bottle of Montale´s uber-indolic Jasmin Full is a lifetime supply (snerk) but I can always shake it… the Cuir Amethytse in its wooden box is more of a crapshoot. Although I hear their new ones are refillable? The nice thing about the opaque container is: no light damage to the juice.
4) Appropriateness for the juice. However you might feel about Armani Prive in terms of the fragrances, I think it´s hard to argue against the containers (although, hey, if you want to, go right ahead!) What I mean is, I find those wooden boxes with the gemstone caps not only lovely on their own, but a good fit with what I think they should look like – minimalist, expensive, exclusive, slightly exotic. Creed bottles look right. Bond No. 9 bottles look right. Clive Christian bottles look silly to me – kind of poker-up-the-arse – but again, right for their image. Annick Goutal bottles are the perfect balance of elegance and feminine whimsy, and my only complaint about those is sometimes the tied-on labels come off.
5) Utility, Part III. Writing number 4 above, I realized: Brands that come up with a standard bottle design they can use over and over with a slightly different surface pattern, like the Creeds and Bonds, are working a great brand asset. Then you have, say, the Caron traditional bottles that are insanely elegant. I wonder if that´s a better brand approach than a bunch o´ different bottles, like those from Estee Lauder or Ralph? Or Guerlain, mostly? Quick, someone argue with me!
6) Or, looking at number 5 slightly differently: cohesiveness. A brand like Kenzo has a certain aesthetic that I think it expressed beautifully in their bottles, which hang together very nicely, with their slightly off-kilter, minimalist or organic shapes, from Amour and Flower to their leaf bottles to Tokyo. There´s a pared-down elegance there that looks interesting and neither cheap nor expensive. More brands should try to achieve that. Picking on Ralph and Estee again – some bottles I like better than others, but I wouldn´t necessarily be able to group all the bottles in the line together as indicative of a particular style or vision. I think they should strive for more cohesiveness. Do you disagree?
7) I could go on all day (as you know) but I´ll end with this – I wonder if some fragrances have died a quick death because their bottles were so bad? YSL Nu, in its silver-violet plastic diaphragm container, couldn´t be that much uglier (unless it looked like Jessica Simpson Fancy). But the fragrance is wonderful. It deserved better. And WTH did that design have do do with the elegant, austere scent inside? I would love it in a plain, heavy, square crystal flacon.
Random bottles I find pleasing to look at, off the top of my head: Donna Karan Chaos, Annick Goutal, Lolita Lempicka regular and L; Donna Karan Black Cashmere (although it does look a little like a “personal massager”), Guerlain bee bottles, Caron bumpy bottles, Feminite du Bois.
Random bottles I don´t find pleasing: Christian Dior Jules (my bottle is heinously ugly), YSL Nu, Guerlain Philtre d´Amour (looks like a sex toy), Estee Lauder Sensuous (looks cheap), Donna Karan Be Delicious (ugly), Bvlgaria Omnia (weird.)
photos, top to bottom: Jessica Simpson Fancy, Betsey Johnson, Van Cleef & Arpels Feerie, KenzoAmour Indian Holi, YSL Nu<–>