THE EBB AND FLOW OF GUERLAIN'S BOTTLE ART
An important part of modern perfume marketing is designing a unique bottle that will make it visually stand out from the hundreds of fragrances that are launched every year. The almost obsessive attention to bottle design has been a Guerlain hallmark since the very beginning, but the practice of designing a new bottle for each new fragrance first began with the creation of Ode in 1955.
Previously it had been common procedure to reuse a single bottle design for different perfumes. It's estimated that some four hundred perfumes left the hands of Jacques Guerlain, and logically not all of them could have their own bottle. In fact, the pre-1955 Guerlain catalogue only lists six bottles that were linked to one perfume alone: the tortoise bottle (Parfum des Champs-Elysées 1914), the fan-shaped bottle (Shalimar 1925), the Djedi bottle (1926, itself a reworking of the biscuit-shaped standard bottle from 1916), the snuffbox bottle (Liu 1929), the keg-shaped bottle (Sous le Vent 1934, albeit reused for the special edition Marie Claire in 1998), and the inkwell bottle (Véga 1936).
Today, only the bee bottle and the quadrilobe bottle are still used as a standard bottle for many different fragrances. For instance, both Le Bouquet de la Mariée and Ne m’Oubliez Pas come in the quadrilobe bottle. However, in recent years, as Guerlain has increased the frequency of perfume launches, the brand has begun reusing bottle designs again. First of all, the introduction of fragrance collections (Aqua Allegoria, L’Art & la Matière, Les Parisiennes, Les Parisiens, Les Elixirs Charnels, Les Déserts d’Orient, Les Absolus d’Orient etc.) has meant that whole groups of fragrances now appear in the same bottle. Also, we have seen the heart-shaped stopper bottle being reused for the La Petite Robe Noire line, the bee atomizer becoming the bottle for several scents (e.g., Jardins de Bagatelle, Petit Guerlain and Cologne du Parfumeur), and Vetiver being housed in the 1988 “Habit Rouge" bottle again, after years of having its own unique design.
In the more collectible department, Guerlain has reused the tortoise bottle for Parfum du 68 as well as for a new fragrance called Flacon Tortue. In addition, the 1937 bow tie bottle of Coque d’Or has been revived for the fragrance Mon Exclusif.
The reuse of perfume bottles is a delicate balance. On the one hand, we love when Guerlain gives new life to some of its historic bottle designs. On the other, we don’t want Guerlain to look as uniform as Chanel. Luckily, Guerlain’s bottle art is so prolific that that is unlikely to happen.
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