Does anyone out there collect perfume ads?
I ask because I have often thought of starting a collection myself. I adore browsing them online, and often I see one that it is so lovely it immediately inspires a desire for ownership.
Yet somehow I just never really dive into ad collecting. Mostly this is for the same reason that I don’t collect perfume bottles: I would rather save my pennies for actual perfume. Also, I am uneasy about magazines being destroyed by ad sellers so that they can make a killing by selling single pages. I know I should not fret about this. Magazines are collected (and possibly digitized) by libraries, but still, willful destruction of historical sources always creates a shiver.
So my perfume ad collection consists of just two items. One is this lovely image by Caron for Pois de Senteur de Chez Moi. It was published in Theatre Magazine in 1929.
My purchase of it was inspired by a beautiful review (http://perfumesmellinthings.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/russian-saturday-pois-de-senteur-by.html) of the perfume by Alena on Perfume-Smellin’ Things. What enchants me is not just the arrangement on the table, but the mirror. I feel that if I could just … peek … a bit … around the frame … I might catch a glimpse of the rest of the room. I might see the lady of the house, humming to herself as she arranges some more flowers. I might catch a trace of her graceful perfume. I might see beyond her through into the hall … I might glimpse the past …
Caron’s Pois de Senteur was released in 1927 and while I have not smelled it, even then seems it to have been a wistful look back to a simpler, pre-war age. By contrast, Gabrielle Chanel was embracing her times and by 1927 her abstract beauty, Chanel No 5, was beginning its trajectory as the world’s most famous fragrance. Who remembers Pois de Senteur now?
The other ad in my little ‘collection’ is this number for Miss Dior:
This ad appeared in Vogue, the American edition I suppose, date unknown. The bottle is an early-ish Dior bottle used for Diorama and Diorissimo as well as Miss Dior, but I don’t know when this bottle went out of production. 1960s? A bit of Googling suggests that my ad is from the 1950s and was designed by Dior’s famous illustrator Rene Gruau. Stunning isn’t it? Crisp, feminine, elegant: just like the perfume.
That ‘noir’ style reminds me of some ads for Robert Piguet. Like this:
I don’t own this one, but it is a favourite.
Well, that is as far as I have gone in my perfume ad collecting. Shall I dabble some more? What would I do with them? Frame them? Keep them in archival-standard folders? I can avoid that expense by enjoying vintage ads online, but I have to admit that it is fun to own the actual thing, the paper object. Naturally you get to see what is on the other side of the page, and so in that sense, I do get my longed for accidental ‘glimpse of the past’.
I think if I keep going I will collect ads based on illustrations rather than photographs. Today’s perfume ads are often too literal, too unimaginative, and too framed around celebrities and sex. But where to begin? There are perfume houses – Lanvin for instance, or Caron – with very rich advertising histories. Or maybe it would be better to focus on a few perfumes from my collection that I love, like Rochas Femme or Molinard Habanita. If I collect ads for long lost perfumes at least I preserve some trace of their beauty but it is frustrating not to be able to smell them.
Perhaps even worse would be ads for perfumes that have lost much of their character due to reformulation. Could I live with this evidence of style dead and gone:
No, I’m sure I could not.
So it is a puzzle. Anyone got any thoughts or experiences to share?