Monday, September 22, 2014

Vintage Advertising Champions: In the Trenches

Today's vintage advertisement comes equipped with the romanticism that has become expected from one of the classic perfumes by the historical house of Guerlain, L'heure bleue. The pictorial representation takes on the approach of fragrance as a "memory maker", a concept very popular with the fragrance industry because it seems to allow for the manipulation of someone else's emotional response; or so the thinking goes…(whether it is successful or not you'll be the judge of that, I'm sure you have many related experiences to relay in the comments).

The text for the Guerlain advertisement reads:

"1914, a fragrance creates deep, deep memories.
Guerlain introduced a perfume named for the twilight, L'Heure Bleue. No the skies darken and the western world is swept into the forces of the Great war…
A weary French officers finds a moment of peace. He pulls a letter from his tunic and inhales the fragrance lingering in the worn pages. 
It is the fragrance she wore the last night they spent together. L'Heure Bleue, named for that moment hen the sky has lost the sun but not yet found the stars. 
He reads the letter for the hundredth time…."

The advertisement is of course destined for the American (and English speaking) market as clearly shown by the choice of language, the capitalization of the name's initials (in French it's L'heure bleue) and the emphasis on the nationality of the officer (so you know for sure it's French!) But the really interesting part is that this ad, although an older advertisement, isn't that old as could be imagined. It's not a print ad from a 1920s magazine, nor even from the 1930s, or the 1940s….Can you guess?? It's a print ad clipping from a ……1974 magazine!!!! The Great war is irrelevant for all practical purposes by then, the "deep deep memories" echoing the trenches in which soldiers fought all over Europe are but a subconscious bond of "perfume as Proustian madeleine", a notion that is the bread & butter of any aspiring beauty editor experiencing writer's block. In this particular case it comes sheathed with seduction purposes too; desire and connection through language, orchestrated with Lacanian skill. The emotional bond with the product is part of what makes for repeat purchases. It also creates brand awareness.

But the mythology of Guerlain is firmly in place (yes, even by the mid-70s). The genius concept of presenting two of their legendary ~and commercially successful, let's not forget~ perfumes, L'heure bleue (1912) and Mitsouko (1918), as bookends to the first world war, is already gaining momentum. The reality is different: L'heure bleue, conceived to represent the love of its perfumer for Impressionist paintings is destined for the blondes shopping at his Parisian boutique, whereas Mitsouko, paying homage to the orientalia rising at the time of its creation and into the 1920s, is meant for the brunettes.

But you can clearly see where this is going: that which begins as a brilliant advertising campaign very soon becomes perpetuated into history guides, into fragrant lore, into our very perception of how things  are supposed to be….

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Are we focusing enough on giving the consumer a reason to buy a second time?"

The Fragrance Foundation hosted the inaugural Executive Roundtable Discussion: “The Fall and the Rise of the Fragrance Industry,” at the French Institute / Alliance Française on Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

The Fragrance Foundation President, Elizabeth Musmanno, led panelists Robin Burns-McNeill, Chairman and Co-Founder of Batallure Beauty; Michael Gould, former Chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s and Frederic Jacques, VP of Fine Fragrance NA at Takasago in a discussion that ranged from the challenges of growing the business in today’s economy, to the role of mobile and online retailing, to how best to reach millenials.

“The key to doing it right is to build desire and awareness. You have to understand who your consumers are and what media they use, and you have to build an imaginative plan to reach them,” said Robin Burns-McNeill, “There is a lot of sameness out there. Without imagination and courage, you tend to stay in one place. You have to be very agile. You need ‘fast feet.’”

“The challenge is not in the launch,” said Michael Gould. “The issue is what we do after. We need to build transactions into relationships. It’s about what creates excitement. People want an emotional connection. There is not a lack of traffic, there is a lack of conversion and a lack of follow-up.”

“We need innovation from the bottle to the packaging,” said Frederic Jacques. “Are we focusing enough on giving the consumer a reason to buy a second time?”

The Fragrance Foundation President, Elizabeth Musmanno ended the evening saying, “Clearly there is an opportunity for an innovative product to stand out.”

The Executive Roundtable series was conceived by The Fragrance Foundation to bring together industry veterans twice a year for a no-holds-barred look at the state of the fragrance industry.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

New Perfume Book: Dior, Les Parfums

For the first time, an official Dior perfume-centered book is set to launch this September: Dior Les Parfums (or "Dior The Perfumes"). The book reprises the history, the artistry and the description of the Christian Dior fragrances from 1947 (the year of the original Miss Dior perfume, currently circulating as L'originale; for valuable info on distinguishing Miss Dior editions consult this link) right up till 2014.

Its author, Chandler Burr, is best known to fragrance aficionados for his fascinating book on the industry, his NY Times scent critic stint, his MAD tenure and his scent dinners.
In 2013 Christian Dior Perfumes approached Burr and proposed a collaboration in which they would create a list of works Burr independently considered aesthetically and intellectually important—commercial scents like “Higher Energy”, though financial successes for Dior, were therefore not included. While writing, the author worked closely with Frédéric Bourdelier, Brand Culture & Heritage Manager of Christian Dior Parfums. The photography is by Terri Weifenbach, fine art photographer and teacher.

Dior, Les Parfums ("Dior, The Perfumes") is published by Rizzoli USA (115$) and comes out on the 24th of September. The book measures 9.75 x 13.75 and costs $76.16; you can preorder it on Amazon following this link.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Christian Dior fragrance reviews 

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Jewels of Mumtaz Mahal: a Guerlain Exhibition

A meeting between Laurent Baillot (President & General Director at Guerlain) and Vinita Jain (an aficionado and collector of Mughal jewelry, an entrepreneur and part of the family possessing the Darjeeling plantations at the slopes of the Himalaya) during the shooting of the Shalimar perfume commercial in India resulted in an exhibition that is currently being shown at the flagship boutique of Guerlain between 3rd September and 14th November 2014.
Their common passion for the Taj Mahal is the trigger that brings us The Jewels of Mumtaz Mahal, the love story of whom is enshrined in the famous Guerlain parfum phare, Shalimar, commemorating the gardens in which she took promenades with her husband Shah Jahan.

But the image of the great beauty, Mumtaz Mahal, doesn't correspond to the favorite wife of the most mighty ruler of Asia, the contemporary of Louis XIII. She accompanied her husband during his travels and visits to the utmost posts of his empire and even to his military campaigns! And it's during one of the latter that she died, giving birth to her 14th child.

The three spectacular jewels of Mumtaz Mahal that Vinita possesses (a necklace torque, a "secret" ring and a headpiece jewel)  became the focus of the exhibition that Guerlain's president is all too proud to present today. Three months worth to admire the jewels worn 400 years ago, worthy of A 1001 Nights.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Le Labo Cuir 28 (Dubai exclusive): fragrance appreciation reprisal

Far from the crowd pleasing orientalism of Benjoin 19 (Le Labo's Moscow "city exclusive") which I had reviewed for Fragrantica last autumn, Cuir 28 by Le Labo reprises some of the butcher elements of the great leather perfumes tradition and marries them to a woody-peppery chord with unisex appeal. This brings it at a no man's land of leather scents, as it doesn't fit the mold of any category really; is it like Bandit (Piguet), Cabochard (Gres), Cuir de Russie (Chanel), Cuir de Lancome, John Varvatos Vintage, Tuscan Leather (Tom Ford), Bel Ami (Hermes) etc etc? It's like none of these things.

Phenols (tar-like notes resembling melting asphalt) resurface in Cuir 28 as a leathery note aspect on top; agressive and oozing with bitumen, the "cuir" note in Cuir 28 is unpresentable, tough and butch, probably an echo of Parchouli 24 which also presents an odd and visceral experience, especially if you're an acolyte of the school of sweet orientalized "suede" leather scents. The hardcore leather bar crowd however should find it eminently intriguing due to this very reason, although a bit of vanilla does surface later on; a respite of human affection after the hate fuck.

The fragrance segues into a iris-peppery combination that makes for the prolonged elegance of Chanel Les Exclusifs 31 Rue Cambon, diverging into two slices in the Le Labo creation, a still dry and with hints of vetiver earthiness medley that feels like a different person has walked into the room. The two slices do not meet in the pie and remain sort of disjointed throughout, which produces an odd but trippy experience for the wearer; in a way it's probably a test of whether you'll have your perfumista card revoked: do you have the patience to discover the unfolding?

The final phase of Cuir 28 comes through a hint of musky vanilla that tries to efface the butch factor of the top note, small comfort for the wild ride. For the full review please consult this link on Fragrantica.

Though a Dubai exclusive (Le Labo reserves some of its fragrances for city-specific distribution only resulting in the City Exclusive) for the month of September 2014 ONLY Cuir 28 can be found online at the official Le Labo site and Luckyscent. (I had been able to review this thanks to a generous procurer of the sample; you know who you are, thanks)

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