Friday, January 12, 2007

Colour of the jus

Have you ever wondered if the colour of your perfume is not a haphazard choice? Have you asked yourselves if you would love it equally if it were a different hue? Or more importantly if the people involved in creating it have actually exerted any brainstorming about this?
A funny incident happened a while ago and made me consider the issue from another angle than the mere personal.

On a fine lunch hour shopping spree I passed from that shop that was inspired by Moses' wife and rhymes with catastrophe in Greek (which is what my significant other always mutters when he sees a bag with the white-on-black logo of it). I am referring of course to Sephora.
As I was browsing, nodding to myself "already tested", "already tested", "already tested", I come close to a couple at the Lauder shelves. Casually dressed but well groomed (the european groomed casual chic), around 30 both.
The girl, a dark haired one, rather pretty, grabs the tester for Knowing and ooohs and aaahs saying "Oh, this is my favourite perfume in the world, wore it so much". (I am thinking she wanted the guy to take the hint and buy it for her- and she was not the mercenary type at all). The guy seems uninterested and browses beside her, going "uh huh". She then picks up Cinnabar, as they have the older Lauders all grouped together. "This is nice too" she comments smelling the bottle.(I agree) She gives it to the guy, who says they are both rather heavy, vetoing the decision. She is even motioning to pick up the Youth Dew, when he intervenes and says : "Imagine how heavy that one must be; it's almost black!!" She never finished the motion to pick it up and sniff the bottle, as she didn't do it with Aliage either (which is also quite dark). And immediately he goes on and picks the nearby Alien (Sephora places them alphabetically and Mugler is after Lauder). "Now this is lighter, better" he quips. (the "light" thing merits its own discussion in another post) She made a face. I just about wanted to smack him at that point! Both because he denied her what she obviously liked and because he showed his prejudices about perfume picking. I didn't follow them to see what they bought in the end. I didn't have the luxury of time. Maybe they didn't buy anything. If they did however it was not what she wanted, she seemed crestfallen....
I don't see these two making it to the aisle and that doesn't refer to the shopping kind.
The little story has a moral though. People judge with their eyes as much as with their noses.

There is another great story that has been recounted to me by J, known as Teacake, a sweet Australian-based lady. She mentioned that someone young (a teenager actually) who was a friend of her daughter had proclaimed upon viewing her collection that "yellow/golden juices don't smell nice, only pink and blues do". That comment has been a mini-epiphany for me. Seriously: it made me realise that indeed the colour of the jus really denotes the target market as well as the olfactory family in most cases: fruity florals and "fresh" scents which were all the rage with the young some nanoseconds ago are indeed pink or blue!

I don't think this is an accident. I believe it has to do with the mentality that yellow jus is older, classic perfumes that are associated with natural ingredients (no naturals are coloured pink or blue, except chamomille of course and they don't use it in most commercial perfumery because of that unstable blueish tint that might ruin the general effect).
If one stops and thinks about it most of the classics are pale golden or light ambery: Shalimar, Femme, Mitsouko, Joy, Chanel #5, Bois des iles, L'heure bleu. They all vibrate at some variation of wee colour. There are a few notable exceptions like Chanel #19 or the afore mentioned Youth Dew, but still no pink or blue or even purple coloured perfume existed till quite recently. Certain natural ingredients do have a deep colour: Peru Balsam is molasses dark; natural jasmine turns almost orange with the passing of time, sometimes alarming us into thinking that a perfume containing it has turned.

Pink and blue juice on the other hand usually has a highly synthetic construction that guarantees the stability of colour and the unnatural hue of the finished product.
Personally, I have a deep seated aversion to the colour blue in fragrances, although I do appreciate it in other permutations (the sea, glassware and jewels come to mind). I think it shows an insurmountable lack of imagination on behalf of the person who opts for it; especially if it's a man, I'm afraid. It's such an easy, safe choice! What's your favourite colour? 9 out of 10 men reply blue, if asked out of the blue about it (am I being punny?). I don't hear fuschia (too gay), chesnut(too difficult; do they even know it's a shade?), vermillon (it sounds like a french recipe for something involving snails or frog's legs) or even black (the odd rocker/goth/outcast/mysterious Lothario picks that one up out of the 10.....thank God fot that)
In perfume terms it usually denotes an overload of the dreaded fakeness that is the "marine" note. Yeah.....marine for people born and raised and living all their lives in the Chezh Republic(a landlocked country); having no passport on top of that. I am categorically adamant that the sea does not smell like any of the marine fragrances out there I have ever smelled. I do keep hoping some day they will catch the elusive trail. I live in hope.

Anyway, younger folks tend to associate the hip and new with those pastel hues, dismissing the rest as "old ladies' perfume". In their desire to mark their territory and draw the line, maping their own identity, revolting from what their parents wear, they go for the pink and blue, with the odd inclusion of purple for those who like a smidgeon of mystery (or so they imagine).
So companies churn out perfumes in those colours. It's all marketing, I'm afraid.

Pic was sent to me via mail uncredited, probably courtesy of an advertising campaign (MAC maybe?)
Not sure, but great photo nonetheless.


  1. Late to the party, as always.
    I wonder what is the deep aubergine colour of Sarrazins.
    Also, I love all things blue... and I found basically three shades I'd venture to wear - blue jeans, black-blue and eau de nil. If I were totally filthy rich, I'd want my floor paved in lazurite. I adore blue flowers. Etc. It just doesn't suit me. Fuchsia does - and woe upon me if I went mad and got something in fuchsia but for clothes and nail paint.
    It's 'Czech', by the way. Weird word.
    And, I recall smelling a fragrance that reminded me of slightly rotten water in a port. No idea which it was.

  2. I thought about this recently, too. In case of many mainstream fragrance launches, I couldn't help but notice that the juice seems to be the colour blue, pink or completely clear. I personally dig golden and dark colours in perfumes, because those hues do give me the impression of being of higher artistry and plushness. Also quite a few, if not all, of my favourite perfumes are golden or yellowish, so I kind of associate new fragrances of these colours with a certain style of perfumery I favour much.

  3. wow. a couple of weeks back, one of my trainees asked me (i'm a fragrance trainer in the philippines) why did nina ricci decided to update the 1980s NINA and change almost everything (bottle, juice). for a lack of a good answer, i replied, "marketing strategy."

    so i wasnt far from the truth....

  4. I have never owned a blue perfume until now. At least I think it's blue, the bottle certainly is.

    Based on your review of L de Lempicka and a sudden price reduction I decided to buy it. Previously I had seen it, ignored it since it was blue, and moved on. However, I was intrigued after reading your post and decided to go for it.

    I am glad I did. I like it far better than the Lolita which is in fact a greyish liquid but the colour is hidden behind the golden filigree and is therefore not as noticeable.

    It is interesting to me since I have always considered primary colours to be a warning against rather than an enticement. I include here all such consumables as fast food and fluorescent clothing.

    Further on the blue issue, blue isn't a colour I would normally associate with intimacy, and perfume is about intimacy. Warm colours work better for me as an image, and when image and scent are properly married, you get a potent chemistry which lodges in your neurons and doesn't fade quickly.

    Therefore, amber, golden and even tea coloured liquid is what I would associate with perfume. Blue and pink I would tend to associate with pharmeceutical products or else ToysRUs.

    Clearly what you see is not always what you get.

  5. Bella,

    thanks for sharing your experience and glad you found L to be contradictory to the bottle color! ;-)

    It's very true what you say about how people saw perfume and why most perfumes used to be yellow, golden, ambery etc. in the past. This is however exactly why a new generation of perfumes ruptured with this tradition (to denote a difference with their mothers' and grandmas' scents) and started painting everything pink and blue and purple. The anecdotal data I presented is very representative of how very young people are made to feel by the industry ("it's pink, it's for us, young things, girls!" "it's blue, it's a sport cologne for men like me")

    Furthermore nevertheless the majority of contemporary juice is transparent to begin with (most synthetics don't have a vivid shade) and is afterwards colored on purpose. So the color reflects an aesthetic and marketing angle which is very determined and thought out, not vice versa.

  6. Cheri,

    you weren't far from the truth, even though I'm late in replying. Thanks for offering your professional perspective!

  7. Anonymous23:43

    Hi, first off, I really love this post and your blog! (I'm a big perfume lover obviously :) ) But about this post - very intriguing. A couple weeks ago I was choosing some fragrances and I told offhandedly the sales woman that I don't usually like purple perfumes. I only own a couple purple hued perfumes probably bc purple isn't one of my favorite colors in general and it even crossed over into my choice of perfumes. I'm not a fan of green perfumes really either. I love blues a lot, pinks, reds, black (which I used to avoid bc I associated with colognes) and golds/yellows (I also used to avoid but a lot of classic/older perfumes have this hue and one of my recent favorite scents Cinema is golden so I've fallen for the yellow shades more and more.). Now, after reading this- I for fun I may end up counting all the different color perfumes I have and see which color rules my collection :) -S

    1. Thank you S, it's very flattering your saying so.

      Yes, color is an intriguing concept in relation to smells. Some people are slightly synesthetic about it and lots of people (me included) have associations with colors and smells which overlap. Thinking purple we think a certain smell sometimes, probably due to having sniffed many purple perfumes from purple bottles being alike. Same with green, with blue, with yellow....
      As you say, lots of classics have yellowish golden tones, so it's not a good category to shun. Cinema is a lovely choice, good on you, enjoy!!

      Thanks for visiting and hope to see you again on these pages.


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