Beauty and the Bottle

Le Labo Bottle

Le Labo Bottle

Bottles and packaging used to matter very little to me.  I was what your might call a reverse perfume snob, in that the prettier the presentation the more I thought the perfume inside the bottle would be a thin chemical mess.

Of course there was some justification for assuming that because in the past packaging for perfumes had taken up a good deal more of their budgets than the actual perfume, a  cart before the horse situation that predominated for a long time. Francois Coty’s old saying that you should offer a woman a quality product in the best packaging that you could afford seems to have gone by the wayside, but I wonder if after all he wasn’t right.Some houses seem to have a knack for packaging and even though their scents may not be among the best of the best, they still are gorgeous to display.  Such firms as Carthusia, Penhaligon’s, Ineke, Puredistance and Teo Cabanel go to lengths to make their products look as good as possible and these days when there is a glut of perfume on the market, frankly, that matters.

Frederic Malle's Lys Mediterranee by Edouard  Flechier

Frederic Malle’s Lys Mediterranee by Edouard Flechier

I’m not advocating the old system of flamboyant bottle and undistinguished scent, rather I think how the bottle looks should sway the buyer and they should feel confident that the perfume inside will be the best that can be managed, instead of dreck made for a few euros from the cheapest components.

I ought to make full disclosure here, which is that I like a good bottle.  There’s no real reason why fragrance shouldn’t come in a attractive packaging.  In fact when you consider what the cost of an expensive bottle is these days, and how much competition there is for the consumers’ money, is it a good idea to sell repetitive and drab?

Bouquet des Faunes the only Lalique Guerlain bottle

Bouquet des Faunes the only Lalique Guerlain bottle

Small start up companies are at a disadvantage of course, but for the larger ones, making an effort seems not all that outrageous to me.  I like several of the Frederic Malles but do not care for their nondescript bottles.  I’d have to decant them and while I sometimes do this, it’s nicer not to have to resort to the bags full of antique bottles. (Yes I do go looking for antique bottles.)

You’ don’t have to be a collector or unusually demanding to think this is  reasonable.  The margin on perfume is already so high that finding a little extra to package the product well is worth it.  This sets your product apart   and  brings in the perfume bottle collectors.

Basically I think the combination of quality scent with good packaging is one of the efforts that sets the professionals apart from the amateurs in the perfume business, along with careful reformulations.  What do I see these days?  An awful lot of generic bottles.  I might buy one if what is inside is really good, but most of the time, I find myself not tempted.

Should the perfume business package attractively, and how much does presentation matter to you when you make a purchase?

 

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18 thoughts on “Beauty and the Bottle

  1. Interesting, I haven’t thought about this issue for a while. I take it for granted now that the expensive lines are produced in uniform bottles – Malle, Lutens, and the exclusive collections of Hermes, Dior, Chanel and Armani. The point I guess is to underscore the fact that the perfumes are meant to be unisex. It doesn’t bother me too much because as you say, it’s the juice that counts. But it’s all become a bit ho-hum, eh? I do love it when the juice, bottle, packaging and advertising are the perfect match. I’ve just bought a FB of Bottega Veneta (the original release) and it’s very satisfying to own.

    Ever noticed how ordinary the Lauder bottles are? They don’t bother with the Coty principle, clearly, except for their Private Collection flankers.

    • Yes I did notice the Private Collection Line, and I think they do nicely by it. But the Lauders have been an exception to the boring bottle rule. They still repackage their hits in new ways, or “anniversary” them which is a fine idea. Aromatics in White is I think just plain old Aromatics Elixir (I think) but the new bottle is very attractive. I shall ask while I’m at Saks if it’s the same formula…

      The Chanels are always beautiful moderns but I do miss some of the old baroque Laliques and Baccarats. Wouldn’t it be nice if Hermes or someone did a Lalique bottle? Bet it would sell out ;-)

      • Yeah, I guess so, but they would charge a mozza for it (do you have that expression where you live? pron. ‘motza’ ). Do you read those posts on NST about the LE bottles?! The crystal! The jewels! The tassels!

        • Actually I haven’t heard that expression but it sounds like something they’d say around here. Mutz usually refers to mozzarella chez nous in Jersey.

          Re bling, I think the current king of bling is Roja Dove with those big square cut bottles and the rhinestone caps. Yowza! That’s my expression when confronted with them and they do cost a mozza.

  2. I’ve never bought a fragrance only FOR the bottle. I only own one Penhaligon’s (Violetta), but it’s among the prettiest bottles I do own, bar none. And while my bottle of Alahine is gorgeous too, satisfying to hold and to look at, I have to admit that I don’t like the looks of the newish Teo Cabanel packaging (the cylindrical bottles) nearly as much.

    Even though many Chanel fragrances use the iconic rectangular bottle, I like them. There’s something very aesthetically pleasing about them. I like Guerlain’s classic bottles too. The Shalimar bottle is so distinctive… and I bought an empty 1/4oz Chamade parfum bottle to put my decant of parfum de toilette into simple because it was beautiful.

    I also admit that, as excited as I was to finally have my own bottle of Iris Poudre, the bottle itself is not a delight to the senses. I like the Maison Francis Kurkdjian bottles and the old-style Annick Goutal bottles; I like the L’Artisan bottles even if I have never really fallen hard for the juices inside them. Le Labo is ridiculous.

    With regards to indie houses, the Ineke packaging is gorgeous; too bad there seems to be something in the base that disagrees with me and I have yet to find one I really like – even the Ineke for Anthropologie one that I own makes me queasy. (It was great in the decant stage. I should have finished the decant and left well enough along without purchase.) DSH’s bottles range from boring to little works of art. SSS bottles aren’t much to look at but feel solid in the hand.

    I’m much more forgiving, I think, of a less-attractive bottle that feels good to hold, or of a pretty one that’s awkward in the hand. I love Mariella Burani, and I like to look at that bottle but it is a PITB to spray. Ditto L’Arte di Gucci and the newer packaging for Silences.

  3. Mariella Buranis those were really good looking, and I also liked Cabotine and
    the Annick Goutal bottles are good- the Butterfly bottles in particular.

    You are right about the feel in the hand. A good perfume bottle should have heft, but also look like a small art work. In a way they’re decoration for the boudoir or the dresser. I like to see some effort being made in that direction because after all perfume is not mouthwash, it’s one of life’s indulgences. Luxury should look like luxury.

  4. BTW when I say antique bottles, this is the sort of thing I mean. This particular bottle is an inheritance from my Hub’s side of the family, but much nicer than a Le Labo to my mind :-)

  5. Wow, that antique bottle from your husband’s family is amazing!

    I usually like modern and/or laboratory-style bottles (I actually like the bottle for CK One, though I can’t stand the juice), but I always thought of the bottle as secondary at best. I’d rather have a high-quality sprayer mechanism – I decant often for friends and swaps, and I hate cheap sprayers where you can’t control the pressure. The Exclusifs line has top-quality spray mechanisms that I appreciate every time I use them.

    Granted, it’d be weird to find a cheap ugly bottle with a high-quality sprayer, but some of the more nondescript bottles are almost as good as the Exclusifs.

    I do have one bottle that I hate purely on aesthetic grounds – CdG Vettiveru is one of my favorite everyday frags, especially in warm weather, but the bottle looks *exactly* like it was designed for hair gel (plain round bottle, black plastic sprayer with a clear plastic overcap). Fortunately it fits right in the middle of my round perfume vanity tray, where all the other bottles surround it and hide it like they were ashamed or something. ;-)

    So I suppose I’d be most likely to buy quality bottles that aren’t too plain, too cheap, or too ostentatious/flashy/blingy (there’s a Goldilocks answer).

  6. Streamlined is attractive too, and didn’t CdG start the simple aluminum bottle look which seems to include most of their frags? Montale and the rest came after I think, but Stephen Jones is different and I have a sneaking fondness for that wackadoo bottle.
    As for sprayers-do not get me started! I had one drop off a bottle I was trying to decant from last weekend which leaked and I lost a good dollop of scent down the kitchen sink!

  7. I agree with Mals86 about the appeal of the Penhaligon’s bottles, also the classic Chanels and Shalimar. I have Parfum Initial and it is so cute, with a lovely contrast between the pink juice and blue tassle. Annick Goutals are quite feminine and dainty too. And I love me a nice bee bottle. By contrast, I find the Diptyque, PG, Le Labo and FM bottles rather clinical and boring. Serge Lutens has a bit more interest, granted. I think my stance is pretty middle of the road on this point – a dull bottle wouldn’t put me off, but I wouldn’t want too many like them in my collection!

  8. Dull bottles as you say don’t discourage absolutely but they do disappoint .
    I simply like attractive or pretty or heck…just an attempt at glam.
    The Penhaligons do very well by their scents-love the bow ties :-)

  9. Heya,
    Bottles can turn my head. I love the Nikki de Saint Phalle ones so much, Ramon Monegal look incredible and the feel of the CHANEL & DIOR Privee lines in my hand is yummy too. The Hermessence bottles and the Cartier L’Heures are others I love to look at and hold. Recently I grabbed a Cabochard parfum with the velvet ribboc, Shalimar parfum and yes, I agree with you all about the Penhaligons and L’Artisans. I don’t love Casmir bottles and the Serge Lutens Bell Jars because they are room stealers, the export Lutens fit so much more affably on shelves.
    Sorry I’m late to the party,
    Portia xx

  10. Hi Portia, glad you stopped by!
    I love those Niki St. Phalles too, ages ago I had a cherished little bottle but it got lost in a move, too sad. The Cabochard bottles are great, lucky you to find one of the original ribbon ones. When they started putting them in frosted glass “bows” later, they never looked as chic.
    The Bell Jars are awkward like those round pitchers you can never find shelf space for in the refrigerator without crowding the milk cartons into a corner.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to see some artists produced LE bottles like the Niki de St. Phalles? Now there would be some collector’s items.

  11. Love the title! :)

    Any perfume that is sold for $100+ just has to have a nice bottle! I can forgive an artisan brand if they go with a very simple bottle. But from a brand that wants to sell “luxury”, “niche”, etc. perfumes for luxury prices should pay attention to details. Otherwise I think: what other details didn’t they pay attention to?

  12. The ugly bottle syndrome bothers me in a two hundred plus price. I’m thinking of the Guerlain lines which are up and down. L’Art et Matiere line looked so like SLs and that wasn’t an interesting look to begin with; they do better with the Parisienne bee bottles. The Le Labos as you can see really annoy me…

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