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PERFUME AS POLITICS

This website is about a man's admiration for the famous French perfume house of Guerlain. Calling all honey bees and Guerlainophiles!


Perfume is often seen as the "cash cow" of luxury goods companies, offering a steady stream of income with little creativity, man-hours, and expenditure on raw materials. Compared to, say, an haute couture wedding dress, perfumes can be produced by the tankful and are therefore the least expensive of all luxury items. Most people from the lower middle class and up can afford to buy a fragrance from time to time.

Helped by the influx of funds from global luxury conglomerates, in the late 1990s fragrance firms like Guerlain began to launch collectible editions in an aim to stand out from the ever-growing mainstream market and add a touch of exclusivity to the brand. To name just a few such items from the Guerlain repertoire, we've had vintage Baccarat reissues, Muguet, Guerlinade, Guet-Apens, Plus Que Jamais Guerlain, Nuit d'Amour, and Les Secrets de Sophie. If you had a few hundred Euros to spare, Guerlain offered an exciting possibility to make your personal perfume collection even more special.

During the last decade, however, the price of high-end luxury goods has skyrocketed — even when we adjust for accumulated French inflation in the same period of around fifteen percent, it has multiplied several times. (As a footnote, the average French income has increased by around twenty percent in the last ten years.)

The Guerlain catalogue from 2005 lists that year's special Baccarat edition (Plus Que Jamais Guerlain, 500 ml quadrilobe bottle) at 1,500 €. Compare that to the latest Baccarat edition (a 490 ml quadrilobe), exquisitely decorated by designer Jana├»na Milheiro with coloured feathers and pearls to evoke the four seasons, which goes for 16,000 € per bottle.

I will argue that forcing an haute couture approach, at such extreme prices, onto something that in essence could have been made very affordable and for a larger audience to enjoy, is a way of turning a product into a political statement, shamelessly and unnecessarily trumpeting the sad fact that we live in a time of immense decadence and greed. Does Guerlain really see us as being that primitive?

P.S. If you're looking for an investment, you should choose gold over Guerlain. Auctioned perfumes, even the more affordable ones, barely hold their original value. The value of gold, on the other hand, has increased by three hundred percent since 2005.
(September 2016)


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Some images courtesy of guerlain.com


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