Dani Killam, Assistant Registrar at the FIDM Museum, brings you this post examining how masculine archetypes are reinforced through the design and packaging of fragrance bottles. The bottles discussed in this post are part of a larger exhibit currently on display in the Annette Green Fragrance Archive. Images of Men: Looking Beyond Fragrance features a variety of classic and contemporary fragrance bottles along with garments and accessories. This exhibit is free and open to the public; make sure you stop by when you visit Re-Designing History.
When discussing men’s fragrance in her essay “The Wasteland,” Tania Sanchez states, “[W]hen feminine fragrances are reformulated and cheapened enough, they begin to smell like masculine fragrance.”1 In the exhibit Images of Men: Looking Beyond Fragrance, we consider this view and put scent aside, drawing our full attention to the name, bottle and packaging of the product. By focusing on the aesthetic components we are able to see different themes brands have invoked to showcase their product.
The typical eau de cologne used by men until the nineteenth century was not drastically different from the scents for women. An emphasis on good hygiene followed by advancements in technology began a split between the two appropriate formulas for each sex to wear. Today there are a variety of masculine scent families with continuously expanding sub-categories. Green, citrus, lavender, spicy, floral, chypre, fougère, woody, leather and musk are the main categories, each having identifiable characteristics.
Like all products on the market, there are sought after target consumers that each item is intentionally designed to reach. This exhibit seeks to show the different roles and images of men that the fragrance industry has focused on in order to seek their lucrative business.
The use of makeup by American women grew exponentially during the first half of the twentieth century. In the beginning of the century, makeup was primarily an urban phenomenon, gradually spreading to other areas through increased marketing and a wider range of available products. By the 1940s, makeup application was a generally accepted part of a woman's daily routine. For many women, however, daily makeup consisted primarily of lipstick, rouge and powder, as the more exotic mascara and eyeshadow were worn primarily by the most daring and fashion forward women. During World War II, wearing makeup was considered almost a patriotic duty for women of the Allied nations. Despite the limitation of some ingredients due to wartime shortages, many types of makeup were widely available.
In the late 1940s, makeup colors and packaging were tuned to seasonal changes in fashion. Women began to purchase specific lipsticks or nail polish for each season, as they did clothing. Packaging was often extravagant and fanciful, as demonstrated by this late 1940s Lucien Lelong lipstick tube.
French couturier Lucien Lelong first began creating perfumes under the name Parfums Lucien Lelong in 1926 with the introduction of the ABC perfume trio, followed in 1927 with J (for Jasmine) and N (for Natalie Paley, Lelong's wife.) Lelong clearly understood the potential benefits of diversifying into perfume, as he established a Chicago branch of his perfume company almost immediately. This company produced Lelong's perfumes for the North American market, along with other Lelong-branded cosmetics. The couturier took a very personal interest in the appearance of his perfume and cosmetics, often designing the packaging himself.
Apples are grown around the world in thousands of varieties, so it is not surprising that they are an undying symbol in mythology, fairy tales, and popular culture. Putting aside the more contemporary connections to John Lennon and Macintosh computers, the apple plays a pivotal role in the story of Adam and Eve, the trials of Hercules, and the fairy tale of Snow White. These associations take physical shape in a variety of perfume bottles based on the apple.
In the case of Lolita Lempicka’s First Fragrance, the connection between Eve and the Tree of Knowledge takes on a more romantic association, as the designer explains, “I drew on my distant memories to recreate this intense moment when a girl is waiting to become a woman.”1
Our post today was researched and written by FIDM Museum Registrar, Meghan Grossman Hansen!
In the Least Likely of Places: Discovering Counterfeit Chanel No. 5 in a Museum Collection
“Bathtub Perfume Traps Pool Shark”1
“Pair Arrested in Sale of 11c Perfume for $15”2
These are just a few headlines that tell us about the rampant problem of piracy in the perfume industry, a criminal activity that is prevalent in any field in which luxury goods are involved. For an example of the legal battles that can ensue from the selling of pirated fashions, check out this New York Times blog post. Though Chanel’s fragrances were not the only French perfumes targeted by counterfeiters, Chanel No. 5 consistently turns up in smuggling arrests, counterfeit busts, and consumer warnings about cheap perfume scams. Chanel No. 5 has a cachet that everyone wants, but where does this reputation come from?
In addition to our our garment collection, the FIDM Museum also houses an extensive fragrance archive. The Annette Green Fragrance Archive was donated to the FIDM Museum by Annette Green in 2005. A leader in the fragrance industry since the 1960s, Annette Green originated the FiFi Award in 1972 and is currently President Emeritus of The Fragrance Foundation. Consisting of bottles, perfume presentations and documentary ephemera dating from the late 1880s to the present, the Archive has its own dedicated exhibition space on the 2nd floor of the Los Angeles branch of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. These exhibitions are always free and open to the public!
Above is an image of the entrance to the Annette Green Fragrance
Archive. As you can see, the exhibition space is intimate, allowing visitors a close-up
view of the fragrance bottles and their labels. Currently featured is High Style: Perfume and the Haute Couture. This exhibition features fragrances and fashion accessories by well-known haute couture design houses, Christian Dior, Chanel, and Yves Saint Laurent. Also included are fragrances and accessories by James Galanos, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta, well-known American fashion designers whose work exhibits the same standard of quality found in French haute couture. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with our upcoming exhibition High Style: Betsy Bloomingdale and the Haute Couture, which will open on October 21, 2009.