Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Importance of Perfume Bottle Design

"I bought Daisy because I liked the bottle. Is that bad?"Lauren Wilkey, a 25-year-old style blogger from Old Bridge, N.J. wrote on her blog. "You want the bottle to be so beautiful and unique that somebody wants to keep it out in the open. Then they are more likely to use it," says Kecia Coby, founder of KCR Consulting who worked with the Kardashians on their fragrances.

 Just two quotes from a longer article on the Wall Street Journal on the current commercial importance of perfume bottle design. As the number state: "The faster cycle is driving U.S. sales of fragrances, which neared $5.8 billion last year, up 7.6% from 2010, according to Euromonitor International. Sales of so-called premium fragrances (defined by price, retail outlet and other factors) topped $4.8 billion, up 11%. Celebrity fragrances get a lot of buzz, especially among younger shoppers, but they make up less than 5% of sales, says Karen Grant, global beauty industry analyst at NPD Group". "Maybe before, when not every celebrity wanted a fragrance, when not every designer wanted a fragrance, you could focus maybe a little less" on the bottle design, Mr. Lekach said. "It's become incredibly important—certainly as important as the actual fragrance."
photo via


  1. Rappleyea14:58

    A sad commentary on our superficial, appearances are everything society...she says cynically!

    Count me in the group who greatly prefers a screw top pharmacy bottle with great juice!

    Have a great weekend, E.

  2. D, true, but it does play a role in purchasing (or wanting to at least sample).
    The owner of MDCM told me once "you have to offer something different visual to draw attention to yourself". It's a valid point.
    I do prefer a simple bottle, though, as well. Lutens bottles are perfect as far as I'm concerned. ;-)

    Have a great w/e too!! :-)

  3. noetic owl16:38

    I do appreciate a beautiful bottle and when I have several ejpties in different sized from one line (such as Annick Goutals-love the shape and look of those bottles with that beautiful gold cap) I often use them to decorate my bathrooms. However, I do agree that the juice should always come first and at times I can be put off by a fragrance because of an "annoying bottle"-example-Gucci Rush, which I loved yet abandoned because the sprayer was always defective and leaked out the juice. My co-worker's husband hammered off the cheap red plastic outer shell only to reveal a cheap plastic sprayer underneath.

  4. NOwl,

    the Goutals do look beautiful in that goudron design. But yes, the juice comes first.
    No wonder there was a cheap plastic thing under the videocasette plastic exterior of Rush. Who would see it?
    The most annoying bottle I have had has to be the small size of BLV by Bulgari (25ml or so?): stopped spraying mid-stream on the first application and was just this close to throwing it against the wall ever after. It was hellish to use. I regretted buying the smaller instead of the fully functional bigger one. :-(

  5. Miss Heliotrope01:42

    Most of us like pretty things, and an attractive bottle does get attention in a crowded market.

    A simple bottle so one can concentrate on the scent is of course still playing the appearances game: for people who take the scent seriously; for the more chic rather than O! Sparkles! type; and so on.

    Doesnt mean I dont prefer simple, it just means playing the appearance of the bottle game in a different way.

  6. Holly02:07

    I have never been tempted to buy or even try a scent solely by a beautiful bottle, as much as I may enjoy and appreciate its beauty. However, when I buy it is because I've fallen in love with the scent and also the entire aesthetic including the bottle - it all has to satisfy me. Silly as it sounds, I've been put off enough by bottles that I haven't been interested in sampling the scent. Dahlia Noir comes to mind; the bottle seemed masculine and uncreative.

  7. Anonymous03:50

    Well, I like a pretty bottle but not at the cost of buying a perfume I don't love. However, if I like what's inside it's a different story. I recently fell in love with Hermes Eau de Merveilles and I did hunt down the limited edition "Constellation" bottle on ebay. Loved the perfume AND loved the bottle! It was the icing on the cake! ;)

  8. M,

    good point. It's an attention grabber but it could be a disadvantage for minimalism types.
    It's best when the best of two worlds are combines (like with some classic Guerlains, for instance!)

  9. Holly,

    very interesting! I think from what I can surmiss both the bottle and the scent description in Dahlia Noir didn't entice you at all, right?
    It's always a perilous balance to do something that is feminine but not silly and sometimes "serious" intentions (noir this and noir that) can come across as masculine-looking.

  10. Anon,

    oh that's the best!
    And I do love the Merveilles bottle AND scent. In general the Hermes aesthetic is classy and the juice inside is interesting.

  11. I would say that I consider the relation between the bottle and the fume inside as in the cover and a book - it's good to have some correspondence. But the article seems to state that lately the bottle is more of a magazine cover - more attention grabbing. And infantile in a sense - "I want that pretty thing" - instead of a more complicated ways that we choose a scent.

  12. I must admit that I love some bottles just for their own sake. I however like thought-out design, not just shapes heaped one upon another. I hate the 'ladies' version of Annick Goutal for this reason, or most of the mainstream Guerlain - particularly the Samsara bottle, that's affront to red glass, and the old Shalimar urn, which is just... well, I keep my Shalimar in an old Kobako bottle. Admittedly, it's usually decants that are poured into vintage flacons.

  13. Anonymous16:49

    Admission, I bought the awful crap that is Vintage by Kate Moss solely on bottle design. I have a GF who loves it and will use it up leaving me with the bit I like. Bottle.
    Usually I'm not so shallow.
    Portia x

  14. Anonymous06:30

    I've never bought a bottle of perfume solely for the way it looks. In fact, I have mixed feelings about people who are the opposite of me and buy bottles on a whim for the purposes of "decorating." On the plus side, these people generally don't wear the perfume very much, so there's plenty of juice left when they are ready to pass it on to a true perfume lover. But the down side is that the juice will have been exposed to more light and heat.

    I keep mine in dark cupboards, cardboard boxes, and drawers. What they look like matters very little to me. Juice and the preservation of juice are the only two things that matter.

  15. Idomeneus,

    that's a good way to describe the relation between the two. Very straight and image-evocative!

    Yes, I think you're right. It's best when the idea within is expressed in a comparable concept on the outside (imagine a pretty, girly, innocent juice inside a phallic shaped bottle; incongruent!)
    But attention-grabbing seems to be the trend du jour, without a doubt. Since it usually happens with feminine bottles, I attribute it to the girly, youth-obsessed culture too and the bling-factor as well.

  16. L,

    like Idomeneus says so aptly above, it's best when there is some correspondence between the two. I guess that's not always feasible.
    The femme Goutals do look good in a girly setting, vanity with lots of brushes with silver-plated backs and the like, though I do agree with you that the men's version are much more pleasing to the eye (to me and you at least). I also loved the older Etro bottles for that reason as well: there was a orientalized heavy-motif story about them, and yet, they wouldn't seem too frou frou, too "busy", despite their motifs. I also love the older style Diptyques for the exact same reasons: the rectangular somehow fit the aesthetic very much.

    From the Guerlains, the umbrella bottles are perhaps the most successful in practical design combined with beauty. I also like the Vol de Nuit bottles and the inverted hearts of LHB and Mitsouko.

    You should be very organized and labeling everything if you decant decants in vintage bottles!! I swear I would have mixed up everything if I did that, though I understand your practice wasn't unheard of in the past (which makes vintage shopping sometimes the challenge that it can be!)

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend! :-)

  17. Portia,

    oh well, we do what we need to do. :-)
    Hope she finishes it up quick and leaves you the bit you enjoy!

  18. Anon,

    you're absolutely right! I feel the same way. I prefer to keep things stored right. You're wise to keep them so.

    I do bring out some bottles out for a little while, sometimes, but that has to do with being obsessed with something for some reason or other from time to time, rather than wanting to use bottles as decoration (if I need to do that, I might as well use the empties).
    A specifically dedicated, doors closed, piece of furniture serves my needs for now. But of course drawers are full of decants as well. Some things never change... *sigh*

  19. I own several perfumes because of the bottles, and if I'm really lucky, I'll love the perfume AND its bottle, for example, Hanae Mori's Magical Moon and Lalique's Perles de Lalique. On the other hand, if I love a perfume, I'll buy it regardless of container, and several perfumers have sent me their "newest" in lab bottles, and I treasure these as well.

  20. Elena, labels are butt-ugly. I use a special everything-proof marker only on the purse sprays, both on the bottom of the case and on the bottle inside. It's not that difficult to figure out that Mon Precieux Nectar lives in the large Vol de Nuit bottle (why the hell was I so stupid to buy that much of the sweet crap, I wonder) while mistaking Shalimar for the actual Kobako is not a problem either.

    I admit that I should make some comprehensible notes before I go demented and die or else someone will be damn puzzled. (Thinking of it, I should start a foundation for preservation of my vintages, it would be a waste if some idjit gave them to their kids to play as it's old crap...)

    Anyhow, when I manage to put a bit of money together, I intend to get my place re-done. I'm afraid that there will be more urgent things like decent parquet floor in the craft room but I fully intend to get a dedicated cabinet for the perfumes.

  21. Marla,

    ohh...Perles de Lalique is exquisite in both bottle and scent (love the peppery accent on the musky theme)
    It's best indeed when the outer packaging matches the intent inside.

  22. L,

    I was thinking of creating your own labels, printing them in a hand-writing looking letterface, such as cursive or something. The haphazazrd ones are indeed ugly...

    I suppose yes, you couldn't mistake those scents, but then again, when you have hundreds like we do, it does need some organising. I do keep a dedicated piece of furniture to my perfumes, though it's not enough any more. There are (some) bottles, lots of decants and samples lurking in other places too. If only we had the time and energy to do the definitive masterplan of organizing them. Then generations next would have an easier time. You should definitely preserve your vintages for them and put a special clause for proper use in there ;-)

  23. I think the bottle of a fragrance has become important because we WEAR fragrances, just as we WEAR clothes. The fragrance might not be seen once it’s on us, but it certainly adds to our appearance as created by our outfits. The design of the bottle has become a great teaser or indication of what the fragrance itself smells like. Celebrity perfumes tend to have the most creative bottles. Katy Perry’s, which has a cat’s head as the top, is a great example. Then again, on the other end of the spectrum, there are perfumes like Rihanna’s Reb’l Fleur and Lady Gaga’s soon to be released Fame (the first black eau de parfum) that employ simple but very elegant designs that by no means detract from the fact that they are best worn for special occasions.

  24. While I, too, am attracted to bottles, some I find distracting if not off-putting. I appreciate the Lutens' bottle as a good example: it is subtle and elegant. The way I read it, the juice does not need a fancy wrapper to sell it. If the juice sells itself, it may well have value. The Balmain Vent Verte bottle comes to mind as minimalist but intriguing. Perhaps dated, but I've not since seen a square bottle with such refined edges; and who mounts a (mere) label split between two sides? Alas, I miss seeing the bottles for my own fragrances. Because I decant a small amount and store the bottle to protect again heat and light, I don't get that rush of association between the external representation of the olfactory delight within.

  25. Rob,

    there's something about fashions and design "compatibility" in regards to celebrity scents, influencing bottle design, but that mainly has to do with how WE as wearers perceive the connection and not others smelling us (who have no glimpse of the bottle). So, I agree that "the design of the bottle has become a great teaser or indication of what the fragrance itself smells like".

  26. Tmq,

    thanks for your intelligent comment! What an apt observation regarding the Balmain square bottles with the "split" label. As you say, the label being "shared" between two sides, smack down on the edge is lovely and memorable. I hadn't really realized it that it is the reason it is so appealing until you uttered the words.

    I could have a perfume in a carton of milk for all I care (if only it kept well in that, of course, which it doesn't!), as I'm mainly interested in the scent with the visual a far second. Decanting is a fine practice, because it allows us to experience a multitude of scents at a fraction of the cost and to really get a feel of a fragrance before committing, but after indulging in the practice for years, I find that I can't really "appreciate" a fragrance fully unless I at some point upgrade to a full bottle, spraying or dabbing with less consideration as to dosage or protection from air (which is a concern with dab on decants which often evaporate easiest). But that's just me, I guess.


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