Thoughts on Bottles

 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<–>

  • Tania says:

    I love the Jo Malone bottles for their elegant understatement, Annick Goutal’s old-time-dressing-table look, and the Guerlain bee bottle. I also love my old DK black and gold, even if it does look a bit like a duck. And the DKNY skyscraper. And the ‘Olive Oyl’ Moschino bottle – I know a lot of people dislike it, but it makes me laugh.
    Most of the bottles I love need to be hidden away though, as they are clear glass. It may be hard to tell how much you have left in an opaque bottle, but at least they keep out the damaging light.

    I thought the Indian Holi bottle was cute, in fact when I saw it on sale recently I nearly bought it just for that – the price was really good. Then I tried it & decided that, pretty bottle or not, it was a really dull scent.. 😡

    I dislike the Ultraviolet bottle, but then I don’t like the scent either. Also anything really cutesy or too gimmicky.

    • March says:

      I love the robo-duck! And the skyscraper, even though I have a tendency to knock it over. And those Moschino bottles are *wonderful* I don’t care what anyone else says. The new one Hippy Fizz I want to buy just so I can look at it.

      I feel like I need two sections for fragrance — one for “serious” bottles and one for whimsical ones.

      You didn’t like Indian Holi? 🙁 Man, I love that stuff. Wore it a lot this summer.

      • Tania says:

        My skyscraper lives lying down in a drawer, because I used to knock it over all the time! 😡 The only thing I dislike about it is that the top won’t stay on – it’s my third bottle, and the same went for all of them.

        ‘Roboduck’ – exactly! I like that. The little rubber part you press to spray is coming apart on mine, but then, I have had it since it was released.

        No, I really didn’t like it. Maybe it just didn’t work on my skin, but it smelled like a generic ‘oriental’ body spray on me. I was hoping for more from it, especially since the bottle was so pretty. But i don’t have a great track record with Kenzo. Flower goes totally Dr Scholl on me, Elephant makes me sneeze. I do like Peace though – I have a weakness for Christmas cake… 🙂

        • March says:

          Dr. Scholl?!?! b-(

          Um, yeah. Maybe the line’s not working for you. I do think most of them smell great on my skin, although some are better than others. I really bring out that champaca/incense side of Holi. But then I love Kenzo Amour regular, and many people find it a total snoozefest.

          I hate it when the fall-over bottles try to take another bottle down with them. [-x

  • mollypenny says:

    I love that Jessica Simpson bottle. I guess we’ll agree to disagree. I haven’t smelled it but that’s not a concern for this post I suppose. (I do hate the name)

    • March says:

      Hey, different tastes are what make the world go ’round. :)>- I love that Betsey Johnson bottle, but most people hate it. I still don’t know what the Fancy juice smells like, either.

  • sylvia says:

    bottles i like: lolita’s (all of them), SL LE bell jars, flower by kenzo, YSL babydoll, JPG fragile (and all the classique incarnations, and the new one too for that matter), the men’s version of AG mandragore, the nanadebary (regardless of bulb atomizer, i like the pinup), and david yurman. if i really thought about it, i could come up witha ton of others that i like.

    ysl babydoll and kenzo summer and l’ete par kenzo (the leaf ones) are hard to hold. i still have not the foggiest idea how to get juice to come out the DK robo-duck…

    i find mainstream perfumes have much more varied bottles. maybe because the industry is so cutthroat and brands compete by first impression (even before the top notes). someone trying a niche brand is assumed to know something about perfume and is therefore in it for the smell. maybe.

    • March says:

      Those Kenzos are hard to hold, but I give them a pass because they’re otherwise so attractive. :”> And to spray the robo-duck you throttle its neck. 😉

      There is something particularly attractive about that purple men’s Mandragore, isn’t there? I have the women’s, and I love the juice, but the men’s is gorgeous. And I agree the Baby Doll bottle is cute!

  • Chloe says:

    I have to agree about the betsy johnson bottle looking a bit gimicky and tacky (barbie?). But I have to admit that the smell of that betsy johnson perfume kind of drives me wild?! it brings back really strong scent memory feelings when I smell it, of a certian type of excitement that I felt on summer nights in high school.

    I love this blog! I ran across it by accident while researching my latest obssesion with smells

    • March says:

      Hey, Chloe — welcome! Come back any time. I remember when the Betsey Johnson came out, I was one of a few people who really, really liked it — the juice AND the bottle. My guess is I’ll be getting one this fall at an online discounter. I know some people are still pining for the original Betsey fragrance, which is discontinued and I never smelled, so that’s all right. 🙂

  • Sara K says:

    So glad you reposted! I thought it was just me – I tend to do things to computers.

    I agree with the Feerie bottle design – it looked great in concept, but it did look a little like a knock-off instead of the high-end look it should have….

    Kenzo is probably my favorite for bottle design; I particularly like the organic lines of the bottles and the way they link the scents together with the look. I have to say that my favorite is the leaf bottle for Parfume d’Ete.

    • March says:

      Well, I WAS feeling like the comments were a little light for such a FASCINATING topic … :-w 😉 so now when that happens I will tell myself, oh, people must not be able to *see* it. As opposed to, it’s dreck.

      Honestly, though — it seemed like a Firefox/IE issue, still not quite sure what I messed up. I’m grabbing some extraneous code in Word, and I better sort that out.

      • March says:

        PS I am surprised that there are so many Kenzo bottle fans on here — I didn’t realize others admired them as much as I did. I thought everyone thought they were not fancy enough. :”>

  • Robin says:

    Love your point about Kenzo, and have been trying very hard to think of other like brands (other than the boring ones that do all 1 bottle, like L’Artisan & AG) and can’t come up with anything. Am brain dead. But school starts tomorrow, so there’s hope…

    • March says:

      Hahaha!! I was wondering how that last week was going! I got frustrated with how *trashed* the house got. Well, you should be breathing a sigh of relief now.

      Yeah, who has a good unified line besides Kenzo? CdG, sort of, but I think the Series bottles, while well made, aren’t exactly inspiring.

  • Billy D says:

    So sorry to be late to the party–new job and all.

    This is one of my biggest issues with fragrances. If I don’t like a bottle design, it illogically gives me issues with the fragrance as well. My prime example: the Bois 1920 series. HATE the bottles. Same for Nu, how cheap looking!

    Agreed (with Mark David) on the Chanel Les Exclusifs–the magnet is soooo satisfying. I have to point out though that I love one mechanical cap design, and that’s Terre d’Hermes. It works perfectly and is also satisfying in that it “snaps” into place.

    One other packaging issue that I think I should mention: the By Kilian line. I have been LOVING Straight to Heaven recently after getting a sample from Luckyscent. While people bemoan the exorbitant prices that the packaging of these scents seems to add to their net cost, I think it’s cool packaging and I don’t know if I’d really want it offered in cheaper bottles. Or, if it were, I’d want the more expensive one:-) That is the reason I don’t do decants. I’ll buy samples and more samples if I like something, but I want the full bottle if I like something, not a generic decant. For me, and yes I’m shallow, I like to have something to display, even if it’s only in my cabinet. It seems more decadent and fun that way anyway.

    • March says:

      ISn’t that funny how a detail like a magnetic cap or a mechanical cap can be so pleasing? And someone on here likes the heavy L’Artisan caps, but I am still mad at them for switching to that nut/bolt design from their older caps, which I thought were prettier. [-(

      I have no idea what the Bois bottles look like! Must google them.

  • Tara says:

    I love the sleek minimalist bottles in general, although I do have a weakness for that Ginestet le Boise one that looks like a real wine bottle and comes in a wooden box. Too cute!

    The sprayers on the SL export scents are top notch, although I wish the bottles were a little less thin and tall, so they wouldn’t fall over like dominoes. I like a bottle that can be comfortably held in a woman’s small hand – the L’Artisan bottles are really nice for that. Solid, don’t tip over (the 100ml ones) and the caps have the right heft to them.

    • March says:

      The domino effect! You can get that with the export Serges, the Bond No. 9, the Guerlain L’Art et Matiere, and … I am forgetting someone.

      I agree on the L’Artisans. (the 50ml are more tippy) And the Jo Malone large bottles, which I don’t love otherwise, are pleasingly solid.

  • Catherine says:

    I love good bottles, and I love good packaging all around. While I hate to be so superficial, I admit a higher chance of sampling a scent if the bottle is of a minimal, clean design, like with Ormonde Jayne, Serge Lutens, Guerlain exclusives (bee bottle, L’A&M), Prada parfums, etc… If the fragrances comes in better than average, or even great, packaging…I start to drool, like with the boxes of OJ, Kilian, Mona di Orio, Frederic Malle, and Roja Dove. I display my scents in their boxes, so the heft of these designs stand up well on my shelves amongst the books. I really wish Serge Lutens could offer more than a flimsy cardboard box, which won’t even close when the export-design atomizer is attached…but, well, forget my complaint. Serge Luten’s spray mechanism *and* cap are the best! Fluid and elegant at the same time. There’s not enough of that! Caps are surely the weakest point in bottle design, even amongst my most favorite lines. The plastic top for Roja Dove and the Guerlain Carnal Elixirs is beyond bad, surely just tacky, but the Ormonde Jayne edp plastic cap isn’t much better, just more restrained. Such a shame.

    But, ultimately, I forgive all else more than the following: Sprayers that *blast* out the scent. What is that? The fragrance ricochets off my arm into the air (tears streaming down my face). Or, horrors of all horrors, Mona di Orio bottles that leak. Yes, *leak*. Not just leak when decanting (you better believe I stopped decanting them!), but even leak when spraying a bit for the day. Some are worse than others, and I think the 100ml bottles are better than the smaller one. So those would be my two grips about utility. I would like to see softer spray mechanisms in all perfume bottles and high quality control… (And, just in case he’s reading: Dear Serge, please make those cardboard boxes taller!)

    • March says:

      Gah, when you get a whole high end line with a design flaw as basic as the sprayer, you wonder what the problem is. Bad production? Someone else on here pointed out the Jalaine atomizers DISSOLVE, which is true and pathetic.

      I have a couple of Micallefs, and they are dribblers, and they are very expensive! Plus smelling too much Black Sea makes me queasy. /:)

  • RHM says:

    Ohhhh! One of my pet peeves! I’ve actually returned a bottle of Paul Smith because every time I sprayed the juice, I got angry because of the crappy way it atomizer worked. Too bad, because I liked the fragrance but not enough to put up with that cheap sprayer.

    “Splash” bottles that have huge openings annoy me. I feel as if I am getting ripped off each time I open the bottle to apply fragrance. Most of the time these bottles contain pure parfum & I am sure soem of it is lost through evaporation or just over application due to lack of control of the amount coming out.
    I’ve resorted to decanting with pipettes into small atomizers, but it does detract from the overall experience. ( At least for me it does.)

    The bottle but particularly the atomizer, has prevented me from purchasing a number of fragrances. If the bottle comes with a bulb atomizer, I always ask for another, alternate atomizer.
    You would think with so much of the cost of a fragrance attributed to “packaging” that companies would pay more attention to this aspect of their product.

    It really bothers me, so I “vote” with my pocketbook.

    Thanks for the topic.


    • March says:

      In general, I shy away from splash bottles unless the stuff inside is pleasing and *insanely* cheap. Like 4711, I have a splash of that I keep in my fridge in the summer. But I don’t care if I waste it because I think I paid twenty bucks or so. 😡 Stoppered flacons make me nervous because sometimes they aren’t properly sealed, and what if they get knocked over? :-ss

  • Louise says:

    Hey, there ya are, sweets :d/ Firefox let you talk earlier, but not IE.

    So-Bottles. Those are those big glass things that give birth to decants and splits, right ;)?

    I am extremely pragmatic about my bottles, with a few exceptions. I like them to fit comfortably in my hand, to stand up well (Kamali, are you listening), and to spray straight. No leaking allowed. That said, I adore my Guerlain bottles, just for the association with the juice and the hand-fit, the Piguet and other black bottles (especially the CdG Patch Luxe), my SL exports (they snuggle together nicely). I also have a couple of Arabian Oud shop bottles that are nicely inscribed, but have no idea what they say…

    I don’t like anything at all frou-frou, dollish, or elaborate- Feerie is b-( IMO. Tomboy side, here.

    • March says:

      Yeah — bottles, those BIG things. That’s a funny topic on this post because people mention how they love/hate the bottle of Fragrance X and I realize I have no idea what it looks like! That’s what happens when you live in Sampleville…

      The Piguet bottles. Those are perfect examples of a really simple, straightforward design that is gorgeous.

      • Shelley says:

        And those Piguet bottles are opaque, so the juice has better protection.

        And loving a bottle just for its association with the juice…yes…and kind of goes to show, that while design is a good and influential thing, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of what is inside, what is inside can carry the day.

        Carry on!

      • Musette says:

        Yep – and they are an excellent example of how to carry a theme through an entire line, ala Chanel. You pick it up, you know it’s Piguet. Which Piguet is where the intrigue begins. I love basic, square, comfy-hand bottles. Getting a hand cramp is not a fun part of the experience, in my opinion

  • Shelley says:

    Natalie, I am inclined to believe there is planned obsolence as well. After all, some of these things are now as perfume and fancy bottles were long ago…indulgences that displayed our ability to pay for them.

    BUT…I guess I’m like some crazy Protestant aesthete gimme gimme. I think that, unless the project is truly all about excess and ability to be wanton, there’s a certain grace in designing a package that would preserve the contents for as long as the contents could conceivably last. Which would be another sort of luxury…I can’t pass along a castle or maybe even a silver tea service, but there goeth my hiqh quality perfume.

    • March says:

      I wonder whether, back in the day when things weren’t so rushed and replaceable, flacons and bottles were made better? I have vintage bottles and even vintage atomizers that still function beautifully. One wonders how long some of the current “interesting” or “niche” bottles will hold up? I bet not as well.

  • MarkDavid says:

    Im always a sucker for the cap design. So often, as you’ve said, the whole thing is ruined by the cap. I hate mechanical caps, or lack-there-of. BVLGARI is the worst. My bottle of Black won’t turn “off” anymore without a pair of pliers and, as a matter of fact, last week, it just stopped working completely. (its old and there’s only about 1/6 of the juice left, but can I return this? I heard you can, but never have – anyone have any thoughts on this?)

    I like the classic Caron bottles, however, in some cases, like with Aimez-Moi, the original bottle design was SOOO gorgeous that its a shame its no longer made and that it only comes in the studded bottle with the gold cap. Although, I do like that the larger ounce classic caps unscrew for decanting.

    I think the Les Exclusif Chanel bottles are amazing. Large vats that are still easy to handle. And the cap – feels perfect. I love the way it snaps into place. And the detail – if you look inside of the cap, the Chanel emblem is on the “ceiling”.

    The new L’Atisan bottles and caps are also lovely – I like a weighty cap, and I sure get it with their new design. Feels like I’m holding a lugnut from changing a tire. I think, to me, weight equals importance and money well spent. I feel like, I, the customer, was taken into consideration for paying so damn much.

    I go back and forth on the Annick Goutal bottles, but what I will say is this – I hate those damn ribbon tags and what I hate even more – is that the tag is made of PAPER! Is it any wonder I take them all off? I have a drawer full of Annick Goutal hang tags. Which leaves me to rely solely on scent memory to figure out which bottle is which.

    I also agree with those who’ve said they dislike not being able to see how much juice is left in a bottle. I have a solution, though. If the bottle is coated in paint, like some of the Bonds, The old Creed Imperial gold foil, Silver Mountain water, etc. take a razor blade and scratch a small area off of the bottom. Hold it up to the light and turn it until you see a juice line in the little window you’ve made. This will give you your answer.

    • March says:

      Excellent comment. I wonder whether the cap design ends up being kind of an afterthought? I mean, given the number of times it ends up being the focus of criticism… there are some lovely bottles tainted with ugly caps. Cheap caps on expensive bottles are depressing.

      The lugnut L’Artisan… sigh. Okay, I totally hear where you are coming from, and if I had never seen the original I would probably agree. And they *are* a nice weight. But I liked the more feminine, original design. That’s just personal preference, though — it’s not like the lugnuts are BAD.

      The AG paper labels are charming but totally stupid. :d It’s not a problem at home, because my bottles don’t get handled that much, but at the store the tags are often missing. I think … I think if you squint at the bottom with a magnifying glass it says which scent it is, but they are almost invisible. I love the line so much though I am pretty much willing to forgive them anything.

  • violetnoir says:

    Honey, that Nu bottle is baffling, to say the least.

    But the fragrance! Like I told you earlier, it’s one of the most highly underrated fragrances ever.

    Hey…I…um…actually loved the Feerie bottle. :”>


    • March says:

      LOTS of people love the Feerie bottle. I do agree it’s cute as can be. I just think it’s a little inexpensive looking, while not *being* inexpensive. But I hear it is selling like hotcakes, so what do I know? /:)

  • Disteza says:

    Normally I don’t care about what the bottles look like, but I must admit that I don’t like the l’Eau d’Italie bottles. I love some of their perfumes, but when I first saw the bottles I thought they were ugly shampoo bottles, or something like that. They come across as being stuck in the mid-90’s, and given the quality of the juice I think they could have dome better.

    • March says:

      Eau d’Italie… it’s a look. And I don’t love them either. I *think* it’s supposed to suggest “spa”? Whatever, I agree they are totally wrong for what is inside.

  • Gail S says:

    Thank goodness you re-posted! I kept looking at the title and thinking “I have bottle thoughts!!!”. LOL!

    Okay, I kind of like the look of the Jessica Simpson Fancy bottle, at least in the pictures. I haven’t seen it in person and my daughter says the juice stinks, but this is just about the bottle 🙂 I liked the Feerie bottle at first, but now that you’ve mentioned Avon, I totally see that too…..oh well….

    I tend to like the brands that have a cohesive style. Like others above, I like the Diptyque bottles, the Annick Goutals, the Hermessences. But for sheer pretty femininity, my favorite is the Tocca bottle. Beautiful, heavy fluted glass, heavy carved lid, the only problem is the sprayers suck 🙁

    • Gail S says:

      Oh, I forgot the Parfum d’Empire bottles! Those are really satisfying to look at and to hold.

      Also forgot to put in an example of something I don’t like. The Barbara Bui bottle. It looks fine, but it literally hurts to spray it. The bottle is wide and the edges are sharp!

    • March says:

      The Tocca bottles ARE nice, aren’t they? I think, in general, I like that traditional rounded bottle with a decent cap, in its various iterations — Tocca, Annick Goutal, Caron.

      The *small* Barbara Bui is fine to hold, but the big one is a pain.

  • Kim says:

    I would say elegance applies to Chanel perfume in general – for example, No 5 products all seem to have that same restrained, clean-lined linear elegance whether it is the parfum, EdP, body creme, or soap. And Les Exclusifs have a similar shape, lovely to look at.

    Also like many Guerlain bottles and I love the L’Instant bottle, especially the stopper – it just seems so perfectly linear and curvy all at the same time.

    The Different Company and L’Artisan bottles are also wonderful to this fan of clean, modern design. I really like the feel of the L’Artisan caps – nice weight in your hand and I love how they ‘click’ on the bottle.

    • Kim says:

      PS- I remember Kiddles – never liked the scented ones though.
      But the bottles had a nice shape, but a bit to fancy for me even then!

  • Denise says:

    The first time I picked up the Lolita Lempicka bottle, I didn’t think to figure out where the opening was, and I sprayed it ANYWAY. And of course it was pointed straight at my face. 🙂

    I prefer the classic, elegant bottle designs like the Chanels as well.

    • March says:

      Ow! I hate that right in the face.

      Yes, those classic designs are always lovely. I have an empty Chanel No. 5 bottle from 30 years ago, and it’s just as lovely today.

  • Patty says:

    Okay, I’m cheesy, my inner 2-year-old goes “oh, pretty!” on that Feerie bottle. I like the Tom Ford, Chanel, old Guerlain (and new Matiere) bottles. The prada mondo bottles make me crazy. They should look at how Caron does big ole bottles and take notes. Yeah, they be big, but they look soooo classy. I like the look of the JAR bottles, but… ack to work with. Bell jars are super-cute, but I wind up decanting them always into something else just for ease of use. MOntale, Armani Prive, all dark-colored bottles should be destroyed and never allowed to show up again, and that includes Bond who makes the white bottles you can’t see through.. Opaque, people!!! Rosine bottles have a simple elegance, but looked at up close, they are pretty cheap, but they work. YOSH and SIP are beautiful elegance in the small oil/parfum range. Nothing is cuter.

    For out and out beautiful tacky, nothing can exceed the excess of Arabian Oud. I love looking at their Queen of Persia designs, but they are soooo annoying to do anything with. Amouage’s new design us one I’m totally on board with, especially differentiating the men’s and women’s bottle shape, but keeping them similar across the board.

    Oh, look, I’m writing my own post! 🙂

    • March says:

      Man, I can just see you decanting from one of those opaque bottles, and you give it a couple squirts, and … nothing. And then you want to kill someone. /:)

      I bet the Arabian Oud bottle is a riot. And I love those over-the-top Amouages.

      Those giant Marc Jacobs splash bottles make me nuts. Even as a splash they are difficult to handle. I can’t remember, are the Exclusifs that big?

      Suckah!! Writing another post! 😉

  • Calypso says:

    Thanks for re-posting, I can see this now! I like all of your bottle criteria, especially cohesiveness. My pet peeve concerns bottles that won’t stand up, like my CdG bottles (I have #2 and 888). I do love the ones with faceted colored glass, just because they are beautiful objects. A favorite here is Alexander McQueen’s amethyst My Queen (I’m contradicting myself because it also does not stand up, but it’s so cute.) The Rochas bottle for Tocade with the little red cap is adorable and makes me smile just to see it on my little red Chinese lacqueur table where it sits alongside Chinatown. I also think Magical Moon’s cool blue bottle is gorgeous. But then again I’m a sucker for those colored glass bottles. What about the Chanel bottle designs–boring? Iconic?

    • March says:

      You’re welcome! Sorry about that … still giggling over the idea that maybe I had nothing to say… wonder how many people clicked over and thought, she’s having us on? 😕

      I don’t object to the lay-down bottles except that then they take up too much shelf space and are hard to reach. In other words, if I only had one or two fragrances, I would probably think it’s cool. But I don’t. :”> I think the CDG original comes in that flat bottle too? And White? A bunch of them.

      The Rochas Tocade bottle is one of the cutest bottles ever! How can anyone look at that and not smile? 🙂

  • jawhara says:

    just random thinking… some of the ugliest bottles out there are the Gaultier torso bottles! love his male but can hardly bring myself to use it. Ugh!
    love simple high quality bottles like Sl bell jars, classic Chanel bottles, Dyptique, Lostmarc’h, Prada Infusion, The Different Company, almost all Hermes bottles… and their usually quite user-friendly, too.

    • March says:

      I, um, like the male torso, but not the female, so some double standard at work there. Actually … some of the female ones are okay. I do think the concept is a great one, he can just change the doodads and issue another fragrance. 😉

      I have never seen the Lostmarc’h bottles (did I spell that right? sheesh) I should go look.

      • jawhara says:

        jah, they really spell themselves Lostmarc’h (it’s Breton and I suppose they don’t want folks to pronounce it like – sorry for the example – March).
        their bottle of Aod is especially nice, it has a white lace pattern printed on the inside back side of the bottle, which makes for a really nice effect.

  • Elle says:

    Fun post! I really value simplicity and clean lines in bottle design, but utility matters. I love the look of the Jalaine bottles, but they are the *worst* in terms of function. Whoever the string of expletives deleted idiot was who put them together used a glue that will not stand up to the perfume oil. The oil literally makes the bottles just come apart (well, at least the tops, which simply slide off or separate into different pieces). Maddening!! This hasn’t happened w/ all my Jalaines, but it has happened w/ three of them so far. GRRRRRR. And I love the Yosh bottles and Chanel bottles. However, my closet 5 year old comes out w/ my pure delight in the Pilar and Lucy boas. I *know* they’re ridiculous and I don’t particularly care for the scents, but I own two simply because I could *not* resist those damn boas. And the Isabela Capeto bottle – wonderful! I put enormous value on bottles that can make me smile every time I look at them. I probably should appreciate that Feerie bottle more, given my inner 5 year old, but I don’t. At all. There aren’t many bottles I will literally hide I dislike them so much, but I do try to avoid ever having to have my MPG bottles out (especially the red ones, which are what I have the most of). Love many of the scents, but *loathe* the caps. And I know everyone and their 10th cousin adores the Nasomatto bottles, but I find them to be ungainly – too top heavy.

    • March says:

      The Jalaine bottles are the only ones I have picked up in a store and the stoppers are broken, as you point out, and seriously — how stupid an oversight is that? I also found the Molinard atomizers to be pretty pathetic (and the L’Art ones) but maybe the designs have improved?

      The Yosh bottles are gorgeous. And I really need one of those Pilar and Lucy bottles, and I can’t believe I left Isabela off my list! That bottle is so much fun.

      Bottle twin. Those MPGs are awful, and I don’t like the Nasomattos either. And while I am complaining, I wish L’Artisan would bring back the old cap instead of those ugly new bolt-looking things. [-(

  • Natalie says:

    Oooh, perfume and industrial design — two of my great loves! I had to design a perfume bottle when I was in grad school for ID, and I have to disagree with the quibbles about usability. As a matter of fact, that was a dual project: we had to design both a perfume bottle and an oil can, as an exercise in form vs. function. Perfume isn’t engine oil or deodorant or some other mundane necessity; it’s fabulous frippery, and in my opinion, odd spraying mechanisms and unwieldy bottles add to the delightful superfluity of it all. So long as the scent isn’t leaking or otherwise harmed, why not make the application part of the fun? That said, I almost suspect that the transparent bottles are a sneaky way of engineering built-in obsolescence — you’ve got to use that juice up and buy more before it turns bad!

    As for cohesion among a line of perfumes, I do agree that keeping essentially the same bottle does accomplish that goal, but it also stifles creativity: how interesting can the bottle be if it has to contain 10 different fragrances? The only outlet for the designer’s imagination in that case is the color or the label; I think Bond No. 9 does an OK job of this, but I’d prefer to see shapes that are different yet complementary. That takes a serious design vision, however; otherwise you end up with Estee Lauder’s ragtag collection of mostly cheesy-looking bottles.

    Regarding cost, I would love to know exactly how much the bottle — design, materials, execution — REALLY adds to the final price. I realize that it would be vastly different for the perfume behemoths than for the small niche lines, but does anyone have any info on this?

    • March says:

      I love your argument! 😉 And I’ll even take you up on it. Because on some level I agree. The Lolita Lempicka is only annoying if you don’t know how to spray it, although the mechanism itself seems to work just fine. Once you know how to do it, though … it’s like you are in on the secret. Omnia is the same way with no visible mechanism (although I still think the bottle is ugly). And there is something about the Betsey Johnson bottle that makes me feel like a five-year old putting on Mom’s fragrance, in a GOOD way. I think I am the only person on the blogs who loves that Little Kiddle bottle cap. (anyone else on here remember Kiddles?)

      For a perfume house, I think there can be cohesion — some sort of commitment to a feel? I think your use of the word hodgepodge for EL is perfect.

      One hears stories — the idea that Nombre Noir was sunk by its outrageous packaging (don’t know if that is true.) I think the general complaint now is that of the entire perfume budget, way too much goes to the marketing/design, with too little toward what is in the bottle.

      • Natalie Coe says:

        I don’t doubt that extravagant packaging could sink a scent, but great design *CAN* be cheap (hello, Target!). Massive marketing blitzes, however, are never cheap, so blame the high prices on the PR department!

        • March says:

          I think the marketing of a scent (see: Sensuous) sucks down a HUGE portion of the budget. Also I hear they basically bribe the stores in terms of placement, etc.

  • Melissa says:

    I love the posts that REALLY make me think. I was just sitting here at work (when I should be working) wondering which of the many bottles I have do I most like to look at. I have to agree with Shelley, the clear ones attract my attention first. The combination of the glass & the perfume sparkle like a gem. Although the exception to that are my 2 vintage Caron Nuit de Noel bottles. They just look to me like they don’t belong in this time. I have them right next to their beautiful tasseled boxes. I bring them out when I need to feel “fancy”. The FEERIE bottle looks like the Avon bottles that cluttered our house when I was little. My Mom was the local Avon lady. The Jessica Simpson bottle doesn’t look as bad to me as the stink inside. The NU bottle does fit in my hand but how do you store it? Upright or laying on its side. The biggest problem I have with NU is that I love the fragrance but it makes me sneeze uncontrollably. You’re right, you can go on forever!

    • March says:

      Your mom was the local Avon lady? Oh, jealous, jealous, jealous! I bought a few of those things (remember the glass birds with the plastic heads?) but it would have made me so happy to have those around the house.

      The Nu bottle would annoy me less if it had one slightly flat side, but it doesn’t, so yes, it rolls. Which means it gets stored in a drawer with my other weird flacons (do you have a drawer of those?) Let’s see — Philtre d’Amour is in there, and Kingdom, and a couple other things, I can’t remember.

      • GGS says:

        But March, you put the Nu bottle down flat on it’s side. It’s then a round little “chrome” platform for another odd bottle.

      • Melissa says:

        Yea my bedroom was cluttered with all those cute bottles and our hall closet was full of makeup samples my sister & I played with. I think when she moved she gave away ALL of the back room of the garage where she stored all that Avon. Most dated back to the early 70’s and was still in the boxes. A hard core Avon collector would have lost their mind.

        And yes I have one of those drawers as well. The things I kind of like but not quite sure how to display them. It’s funny how much “peas of a pod” we are that come to this site.

        • March says:

          Wow, that’s like the Avon version of the Jaime Lliteras cache in Mexico! You’re right, Avon collectors would have swooned.

  • Kristy says:

    I really like the Tom Ford bottles as well. I hate the sprayer-in-the-cap of Chanel stuff, no idea why.

    I love Nu, but I’m torn – I feel like the name matches the packaging, but maybe the whole concept/vision would have been better off with an entirely different scent. Probably one of the Comme des Garcons ‘odeur’ scents.

    I want some miniature spaceship looking bottles, really uber-kitschy 50’s looking stuff. I would buy that in a second.

    • March says:

      The Tom Ford bottles are really elegant — gorgeous design. I am pretty sure he was behind Nu as well? And wow, there’s a different look.

      I agree that the name and the packaging of Nu match each other beautifully, but somehow to me they don’t match the juice. It should be something austere but not so space-age.

      Yeah, where’s our rocket ship bottle?!? I would buy that too! 😡

      • Kristy says:

        Also, the fancy bottle looks like a really cheap take off of the old school Apres L’Ondee bottle.

        • March says:

          I kind of get the idea she was going for … like an old-time apothecary bottle. Something about the stopper really bugs me (although I assume it’s a cap and not a stopper at all). Maybe that’s why they made it that funky opaque frosted color, to hide the atomizer…

      • MJ says:

        I just got a new puck of Nu (love it, great stuff) and opened the package after a long Monday at work and an evening business event – I must have spent 5 minutes staring at it and trying to figure out how to open it. Duh. But man, that stuff is worth the confusion.

  • Divina says:

    I actually really love bottles that you can’t figure out how to spray, like the Lolita you mentioned, or Miyake’s Feu, or the Montale spray guards for example 😛 It thwarts curious visitors first attempts at a spray and invites laughter and conversation, plus it’s like a little secret. As for opaque bottles, well at least in the case of aluminium ones like Montale, CSP or YSL’s Rive Gauche, they have an added advantage: you can just drop them carelessly in your suitcase and forget about them when traveling.

    • March says:

      I think the aluminum ones are supposed to preserve the fragrance particularly well? And the Montale spray guards make me giggle. That’s interesting about the wandering fingers… yeah, thinking about that, I don’t like folks rooting randomly through my fragrances either. Mostly because there are enough bottles at this point, and some of them are stoppered flacons, that I don’t want something carelessly dropped or spilled. [-(

  • Shelley says:

    Here’s my entry in the “if we can put a man on the moon…” category when it comes to bottle design:

    I’m a sucker for the way the bottle and the juice look in the light. Backlit, of course, is best. Angles of any kind help. But as we all know, LIGHT IS THE DEMON MAGNUS to perfume. Why can’t I have my bottle and view it, too?

    That said, I really like Nu. The perfume. The bottle makes me feel like I have to pass through some triple secure chamber lock into another dimension.

    Especially since I keep it in its hard-to-extract-bottle-from plastic packaging, because LIght is the Devil.

    • March says:

      I would say you can have your bottle and view it too by buying not-too-expensive empties on eBay and filling them with tinted water. I have some empties, some great old Guerlains, and I have them out on the dresser. I’m not as paranoid about the light as some people are (who keep the bottles in their boxes) but mine are in a closet I use as a perfume cabinet. It smells good in there. 🙂

    • Debbie says:

      I think the ideal one would be one that we couldn’t see through–so that it protects the fragrance, but would have one thin strip on the back that you could see through to gauge the amount in the bottle. I’ve seen that done on some other kind of packaging (shampoo? can’t remember), and I think it would be great for fragrances. That would be how we could enjoy looking at the bottles and not destroy the fragrance.

  • Francesca says:

    Interesting post. Since I’m a graphic designer, you’d think I’d pay more attention to the bottles. Well, I do in a very cursory way: “Oh, that’s nice.” But I get annoyed when I think of the cost added by the packaging. 24 karat gold leaf? Lead crystal? Four-hundred dollar not-very-attractive bisque head?

    March, I agree with you on the Feerie bottle: looks cheesy.

    And MattS, I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at your statement on Jules.:x

    • March says:

      The bottle-attention is new for me as well, because more often than not I never *see* the bottle. I’m the sample queen. I’d never seen a bell jar until last year (they are a lot smaller than I’d realized). :”> You are right, a super-expensive bottle seems mostly like a waste to me, although thousands of perfume bottle collectors would disagree with us — all those Lalique bottle collectors, etc. At the end of the day, though, I want a bottle with good design that works reasonably well, and clearly that is harder to pull of than one would think.

    • MattS says:

      It is a filthy beast! Wonderful, wonderful stuff. They should advertise like those designer knock-offs–“If you don’t like Yatagan, you’ll hate Jules.”

  • MattS says:

    My bottle complaint involves utility and I suppose it’s less about bottle design than my own clumsy oafishness. The Guerlain extraits and the Lutens bell jars, while very beautiful, are so difficult for me to handle. It’s the stoppers, then trying to awkwardly apply the juice without me either spilling it everywhere or applying way too much. The Bull in the China Shop aspect of me is a disaster trying to use these bottles and, just so you know, Jicky extrait will eat the finish off an antique library table. Which is sad, especially when the extrait is so expensive and the library table is the nicest piece of furniture you own.

    Funny you mention Jules; I just recently acquired some and, bottle be damned, that is some crazy pervy smelling stuff. I love it. It makes me feel like I’ve been peed on in a forest by centaurs. In a good way, of course.:d

    • March says:

      Augh — Jicky and an antique table! 🙁 Although I knew that about fragrance in general, I assume it’s the alcohol, or one of the other gazillion chemicals. That is I believe why you are also not supposed to get perfume on your pearls, it eats away at them.

      So, don’t spray Jules on your pearls. 😉

      Is Jules not THE BOMB?!?! I should have thought of that for you … I love that stuff. It’s criminal how hard it is to find. And I love your description! They should hire us to write copy…

      • Musette says:

        Jules is wonderful. I love it. I blame you, March:-w

        (okay, I blame you in a Very Good Way:-)

        Oh! I just got a Chicocoa EXCLUSIVE!!!!! Neil Morris sent, among other fantabulous scents , a tester of his newest Vault fragrance PROWL!!! (where’s the Wolf emoticon when you need it?)

        I just spritzed it – it’s gorgeous but I cannot tell you what the notes are because I am a piker and a Scent l-) (though I did get the Play-Doh in Anne Pliska). It’ll be at the Event – you can spritz it yourself and March and Patty can tell you all about it on the Posse!

        • kathleen says:

          I can, we just did a split of Prowl. Here are the notes:

          Black Pepper
          Green Tea
          Ylang Ylang

          • March says:

            Yum!!!! That sounds delicious! 😡

          • Musette says:

            Well, tell ALL! What are your thoughts?

          • kathleen says:

            I luv it. So that should tell you that I don’t get a lot of civet. If we are lucky enough, debbie will come on and give you a brilliant description (as she does). She finds it very animalic. I find it to be a very spicy, tea scent. There is floral but it isn’t insipid, it’s rich and dark. I’ve just worn it once, and I usually need a couple of wears before I can get all of the nuances. Hah, I bet you thought I could come up with something you could work with. Not yet, but I have improved from “ooh that smells nice”. So that’s something…

          • Debbie says:

            Oh, Kathleen, you absolutely describe them as well I do, maybe better. I feel like I need to wear it more to get a better handle too. However, the imagery is so strong in my mind, I may not be able to go beyond it or further into. Like a “vision”, if that isn’t too corney of a thing to say.

            Anyway, xxoo. Thanks for the encouragement.

          • Debbie says:

            I described it as this before I found out the notes:

            “This is a tiger prowling near a tea plantation. He could smell the flowers very briefly as he padded by them silently, but he is more interested in other smells.”

            I was so caught up in the imagery, I forgot to mention that it smells like luscious green tea leaves all the way through. That tiger is what gives the fragrance it’s animalic side. It isn’t a waterfall or something at the end that interests him, obviously. It’s the smell of people, animals, his own intensity….if that makes any sense. It goes from being a walk through a tea plantation on the outskirts of the village, through flowering plants, and then the village itself. But don’t worry, it does *not* get to the Secretions Magnifique stage. Ugh. No blood to smell here, thank heavens.

            This green tea is not the thin green tea smell that is evident in Bulgari or Elizabeth Arden. It is lush, right along with the flowers and the animal(s).

            I definitely believe this is about a real predator and not the kind that dresses up in gold chains and frequents clubs. Ish. I haven’t discussed it with NM, though.

          • kathleen says:

            Like I said…

          • Shelley says:

            Can’t add to description, but I sure am glad I’m going to be able to meet this “Prowl”!

            Dare I ask if Spectral Violet is among the samples?

          • Musette says:

            Yeppers! The testers are a lovely cross-section of NM’s lines.<:-p

          • Shelley says:

            Woo-hoo!!!! :d/ =d>

    • jawhara says:

      For my SL bell jars, I got myself some inexpensive pocket atomizers and dropping glasses/pipettes (is that the term in english???) and now always decant them. No mess at all and perfectly portable!

  • Musette says:

    I’m still having trouble with ‘Charnel’. I know it translates to ‘carnal’ in French but all I can think of is rotting flesh and stinking houses of death. 8-x

    But on to more pleasant thoughts: I think a generally cohesive look from a perfume house is a very elegant way to go. Patou, Chanel, Caron (as you mentioned) all have an elegance that is evidenced by their restraint in design. Little differences in the labels or the stoppers is all the design change you need, in my opinion – the juices and the house speak for themselves! Heck, just the sight of a bottle of Les Exclusifs juice makes me feel like pulling out the pearls! More than one bottle calls for dupioni silk curtains and a quietly elegant chaise longue!


    • March says:

      I like all those classic bottles too! I am not even the giant Caron fan, but their bottles are so gorgeous (and I wonder if their basic shape was the inspiration for Annick Goutal?) Yes, the Chanel bottles look so effortlessly elegant. @};-