This website is about a man's admiration for the famous French
perfume house of Guerlain. Calling all honey bees and Guerlainophiles!
This website is about a man's admiration for the famous French perfume house of Guerlain. Calling all honey bees and Guerlainophiles!
I spy with my little eye something beginning with G
It seems that the soul of Guerlain is held together by the dedicated love of a small group of individuals who stalwartly continue to investigate the roots of this legendary house.
Happy New Look
Monsieur Guerlain wishes all of his readers a Happy New Year 2017. Thank you for the time and energy you've devoted to our discussions about what's been going on in 2016. Read more about Guerlain's new look
Danke, merci, thank you
A huge thank you to the thousands of Guerlainophiles who support Monsieur Guerlain's community page with comments, posts, likes and shares. Monsieur Guerlain on Facebook Image element credit
Kid in a candy store
Once so proud of always being the first to innovate, Guerlain has surrendered to the insatiable taste for candy in perfumery. This summer, the brand releases its first cotton candy fragrance. See more
A new habit
Guerlain introduces a new look for its masculine line. See more
To bee, or not to bee
You have made me realize that my Facebook page has become the community I always wanted it to be, and your feedback has heartened and touched me profoundly. See more
The bird and the bee
Monsieur Guerlain wishes all of his readers a Happy Easter.
Guerlain discontinues Nahéma Parfum as of January 2016. Read about Nahéma
One bottle, ten stories
In 1925, Paris was entranced by the exotic, the year Josephine Baker sailed from America to star in La Revue Nègre on the Champs-Elysées. Those were the colonial years. Shalimar's bottle turns ninety years old this year and tells us all the stories. Read more about Shalimar
Bees don't cry
A huge thank you to the thousands of Guerlainophiles who support Monsieur Guerlain's community page with comments, posts, likes and shares. Monsieur Guerlain on Facebook
Hooked on Habit Rouge
Guerlain launches its most addictive Habit Rouge since 1965. Habit Rouge Dress Code retains the original rose-leather accord, but infuses it with a tougher kind of leather together with spices and delicious praline. Read fragrance review of Habit Rouge Dress Code
The Guerlain time machine
If only we could turn back time and browse the rue de la Paix shop, say hello to Aimé Guerlain and inhale all those odours that are now restricted by decrees and marketing. Thierry Wasser fulfills our wish and transports us back in time to discover 135 years of Guerlain perfume creations. Read fragrance reviews
Maison Guerlain’s vintage perfume workshop invites us to discover fifty re-created scents and smell the story of Pierre-François-Pascal, Aimé, Gabriel, Jacques, Pierre, Jean-Jacques and Jean-Paul. Read fragrance reviews
Calling all honey bees!
Monsieur Guerlain would not have been the same without the invaluable input from other Guerlain lovers who comment or send messages. A huge thank you to the thousands of Guerlainophiles who support Monsieur Guerlain's community page with likes, posts, shares and comments. Read more about Monsieur Guerlain
Dead or alive: fine fragrance, philanthropy, and freedom
While the beauty and luxury goods industry generally is perceived as being ruled by shallowness, greed and egocentricity, many brands and companies do their best to build a more positive image, promoting themselves with "core ethical values". For example, LVMH has an entire program for environmental, social, economic, and cultural sustainability.
Guerlain's engagement of Angelina Jolie as its brand ambassador can be seen in the same light. Known for her unique blend of natural beauty, artistic talent, and humanitarian involvement, and as "the most admired woman in the world" as stated in Guerlain's press clip, Angelina Jolie lends not only enormous exposure to Guerlain, but also an aura of philanthropy. Jolie’s upcoming film about the victims of the Cambodian genocide, as well as her statement that she's donating her entire Guerlain modeling fee to charity, only adds to the good press.
At the worldwide press events for the fragrance Mon Guerlain, journalists received leaflets with prints of some of Jolie's famous political and self-help quotes. “The truth is I love being alive, and I love feeling free. So if I can’t have those things then I feel like a caged animal. And I’d rather not be in a cage. I’d rather be dead.”
We can ask ourselves if it's good taste to mix such serious, harsh statements with something as insignificant as a fragrance launch. Also, more broadly, it strikes us as offensive to glorify happiness and personal freedom in a world where at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. These people are unlikely to have the luxury of philosophizing whether they'd rather be dead or alive.
Mon Guerlain makes the quadrilobe bottle world-famous
Perfume aficionados marvel at Guerlain's legendary bottle art, yet only three of the historic bottle designs are known to the general public: the bee bottle (the Aqua Allegoria variant), the Shalimar bottle (somewhat modernized), and the heart-shaped stopper bottle (in which La Petite Robe Noire is housed).
Now, with the advent of Mon Guerlain, the brand's first major feminine launch since La Petite Robe Noire in 2012, we find another of the old flacons coming into mainstream distribution, namely the quadrilobe bottle. For this release, Guerlain has turned it into an atomizer, with a clear plastic cap embellished with an embossed gold band. "An iconic bottle: a tribute to elegance and modern femininity," says Guerlain. Thanks to Angelina Jolie, who is the face of the marketing campaign, the quadrilobe bottle will soon achieve the fame it deserves.
Inspired by chemistry laboratory glassware, the quadrilobe bottle is one of Guerlain's most geometric and handsome designs, created in 1908 by Aimé Guerlain’s brother, Gabriel, for the perfume Rue de la Paix. This scent was the only one ever issued by Pierre Guerlain, Jacques’ older brother. The stopper of the bottle looks like a quatrefoil ("quadrilobe" in French) or a champagne cork. The quadrilobe bottle has mainly been known as the bottle for Jicky, but it was really a standard bottle, having contained most Guerlain fragrances. Guerlain eventually issued a refillable bulb atomizer version of the bottle, the so-called Prestige Atomizer, which has been used for several limited edition fragrances. The quadrilobe bottle has recently been used for Le Bouquet de la Mariée, Ne m'Oubliez Pas, Le Bouquet de la Reine, and the Four Seasons collection, as well as for a coloured bottle series made for existing fragrances. Read more about Guerlain's bottles
Guerlain needs more brand awareness
Guerlain has revealed that its forthcoming international fragrance release for women, promoted by American superstar Angelina Jolie, is called Mon Guerlain. Let’s be honest, it’s not the brand’s most sophisticated fragrance name ever, but it’s not stupid either, all things considered.
First, the name is born out of a marketing strategy that promotes everything as being "mine", such as My Insolence, Mon Précieux Nectar, Ma Première Robe, Ma Robe Sous le Vent, Mon Habit Rouge Taillé sur Mesure, and Mon Exclusif. We imagine two little girls fighting over a bottle of perfume: “This is my Guerlain!” — “No, it’s mine!” — “No, it’s mine!”. Soon you’ll be able to buy Mon Guerlain for 75 € at any airport in the world, but the name still has a certain ring of exclusivity to it.
Secondly, and joking aside, using Guerlain's brand name as part of the fragrance name is a clever way of increasing brand awareness, especially considering that world-famous Angelina Jolie is the face of the campaign. We imagine two colleagues talking: “You smell good! What are you wearing?” — “I’m wearing Mon Guerlain, the new fragrance by Angelina Jolie.” — “Wow! I need to get it too! How do you spell Guerlain?”
It’s no secret that Guerlain’s brand awareness is lagging catastrophically behind, especially outside of France. On its US Facebook pages, Guerlain’s weekly PTAT (People Talking About This) number rarely exceeds 100 persons. With her six million followers on Instagram, Angelina Jolie will no doubt contribute immensely to Guerlain's popularity and brand awareness worldwide. Jolie’s statement that she's donating her entire modeling fee to charity only adds to the good press.
Celebrity pays off
The recent announcement of Angelina Jolie as “the new icon” of Guerlain has enraged most of the brand’s French Facebook followers. They note that (1) celebrity fragrances are bad taste, and (2) Angelina Jolie is American and extremely thin, all of which is seen as being un-Guerlain.
However, selling perfumes has since the very beginning involved what we'd today call celebrities. Perfume is essentially an elusive and useless product that requires quite a lot of skilful marketing to be worthy of any interest. Had it not been for the French Empress Eugénie, who in 1853 appointed Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain Imperial Purveyor, maybe Guerlain would not have been around today.
It definitely wouldn’t be wrong to call Eau de Cologne Impériale the celebrity fragrance of the day. Having a queen, emperor or princess associated with a product helped sales, and apart from the French Empress, Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain received credentials from the Queen of Belgium, Queen of England and Prince of Wales.
The investment in Angelina Jolie’s face has paid off: in just three days, Guerlain has received more international media coverage than in the past 188 years combined.
Mon Guerlain: can a mainstream fragrance really be "mine"?
Guerlain reveals that the brand has hired American actress, celebrity and humanitarian Angelina Jolie to promote the forthcoming fragrance launch, called Mon Guerlain. With her nearly six million followers on Instagram, Jolie — who has been cited as Hollywood's highest-paid actress — will no doubt contribute immensely to Guerlain's popularity and brand awareness worldwide. Jolie has stated that she will donate her fee from Guerlain to charity. However, the reactions to Guerlain's sneak preview on social media are mixed, to say the least.
The name of the fragrance, Mon Guerlain, is born out of a marketing strategy that promotes everything as being "mine", such as Mon Précieux Nectar, Ma Première Robe, Ma Robe Sous le Vent, Mon Habit Rouge Taillé sur Mesure, and Mon Exclusif. This in turn reflects an individualistic Western culture and the quest for exclusivity and uniqueness. But what is really less exclusive and unique than a global mainstream fragrance?
Jacques Guerlain's first perfume
Historian and perfume expert Élisabeth de Feydeau's book, Le Roman des Guerlain, especially contains one piece of information that shatters the world of any knowledgeable Guerlain fan: Jacques Guerlain’s very first creation was really Jicky!
Feydeau suggests that Jicky (1889) was not made by Aimé alone, but was a joint creation between him and his talented 15-year-old nephew, Jacques, whose extraordinary creativity likely contributed a great deal to what is now known as the world’s first modern perfume, and the inception of the Guerlinade. (In the photo above, Jacques Guerlain was of course a grown man.) The genius of Jacques Guerlain is already well established, but now we learn that he’s synonymous with practically everything that has made Guerlain legendary. Read book review
Testing before investing
Considering that La Petite Robe Noire began its life as a stand-alone Exclusive limited to Guerlain's Parisian boutiques, its success as a global pillar fragrance is astounding. The international launch of La Petite Robe Noire came three years after its debut in Paris, and it's by now Guerlain's most lucrative franchise.
"Making a blockbuster fragrance, there is no recipe for that," says Thierry Wasser, so testing customers' response to a new fragrance locally, before deciding if a massive worldwide ad campaign is worth it, seems like a sound business strategy. We're actually surprised that it's not employed more often. Guerlain didn't use the same strategy for L'Homme Idéal, and it appears that the sales figures don't meet the expectations, given the high costs of the ad campaign. The face of Jon Kortajarena isn't exactly cheap.
Guerlain still has a few boutique Exclusives whose popularity is being tested, so who knows if one of these eventually will end up as a new world-famous Guerlain fragrance?
Shown here is the latest limited edition bottle for La Petite Robe Noire, featuring fifteen different label designs. Read more about the different versions of La Petite Robe Noire
There are actually no flankers to La Petite Robe Noire EdP
Each year since 2012, when La Petite Robe Noire was launched on the international market, Guerlain has released a new limited edition bottle of this popular scent. Making special bottle editions of an existing fragrance is an economical way for a brand to maintain consumers' attention in an inundated market, and to inspire the excitement of bottle collectors and brand enthusiasts.
However, these bottle editions are often marketed in a confusing way, with subtly differing ways of describing the fragrance notes (for instance "black cherry" instead of "cherry"), even though the formula is unchanged, leading many websites to mistake them for new juices and flankers of the original fragrance. The confusion further increased in 2015 when La Petite Robe Noire EdP was advertised as "Ma Première Robe". As a consequence, people tend to think that a seemingly endless list of La Petite Robe Noire flankers exists. In reality, the La Petite Robe Noire family counts only five different versions: EdP, Parfum, EdT, Eau Fraîche, and Intense.
Illustrated here are the limited edition bottles of La Petite Robe Noire EdP since 2012, all of them containing the same fragrance. Note that in 2012, the limited edition bottles were a trio.
Why doesn't the Guerlain website show the same products worldwide?
Many people have asked why several discontinued fragrances are still visible on Guerlain's website. The answer is that the Guerlain website, guerlain.com, actually consists of 15 different regional sites: France, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, United States, Canada, the Middle East, Russia, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and the rest of the world.
The product range shown on each of the regional websites is different from that on Guerlain's French website, and which one you will see depends on the location of your IP address. However, you can always enter the French site directly at guerlain.fr
As the French website also works as a webshop for French customers, it reflects more precisely what's in production and stock than the regional sites do. Often, the regional sites will continue to display a discontinued fragrance for many months after it has been taken out of production at the Guerlain factory in France.
Shown here is the example of Myrrhe & Délires, which was discontinued in 2015, however it's still visible on the US website.
The ebb and flow of Guerlain's bottle art
An important part of perfume marketing is designing a 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.
Previous to 1955, 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 unique bottle. An example of this was the heart-shaped stopper bottle, which was used for L'Heure Bleue, Fol Arôme, and Mitsouko. 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, Le Bouquet de la Mariée, Ne m’Oubliez Pas, and Les Quatre Saisons have all come in the quadrilobe bottle.
However, in recent years, as Guerlain has increased the frequency of perfume launches, the brand has begun reusing pre-existing 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, Jicky, Nahéma, and Vol de Nuit), and several men's scents being housed in the 1988 "Habit Rouge" bottle. Lastly, Guerlain has announced that the quadrilobe bottle is going to replace the individual bottle designs for Samsara, Champs-Elysées, and L'Instant de Guerlain.
There may be several reasons for the use of uniform bottles in contemporary perfumery. Uniform bottles are obviously much cheaper for fragrance brands to produce and pack than individualized designs. Paradoxically, though, uniform bottles are also often perceived as a sign of luxury, because we tend to think that the lack of effort in bottle design means that more creativity and quality have been reserved for the juice. The latter is of course a naive presumption, but it seems to be an efficient sales strategy that many niche lines have employed.
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 pas bottle art is so prolific that that's not likely to happen, but as a consequence of Guerlain's standardisation of its packaging, there's very little left of Robert Granai's prolific bottle designs.
Sylvaine Delacourte recently announced her exit from fragrance development at Guerlain to promote her own fragrance brand. However, she will still be "a consultant" for Guerlain.
It was the advent of marketing in perfumery in the 1980s that ignited Sylvaine Delacourte's career at Guerlain. Jean-Paul Guerlain's role was reduced from solo artist to being part of a team when she became the brand's fragrance evaluator. Héritage (1992) was her first fragrance project with Jean-Paul Guerlain, and after the LVMH takeover, she invited other perfumers to become part of the team, like Olivia Giacobetti who collaborated on Petit Guerlain (1994). In 1996, for the first time Guerlain's marketing department chose an external perfumer's prototype (Olivier Cresp's Champs-Elysées) over that of Jean-Paul Guerlain's. Subsequently, perfumer Mathilde Laurent created several successful fragrances for Guerlain, of which Pamplelune (1999) is still in production.
When Jean-Paul Guerlain closed the curtain on an era with his retirement in 2002, the brand became a melting pot of various external perfumers, coordinated by Sylvaine Delacourte who devised the fragrance briefs. She had by then risen through the ranks to bear the official title of Guerlain's Artistic Director. "I am what you call a nose," she proclaimed in 2005, and she would often talk about the creations that ensued — L’Instant de Guerlain, Insolence, Cologne du 68, L’Instant Magic, the L’Art & la Matière and Les Elixirs Charnels fragrances, Mon Précieux Nectar, and La Petite Robe Noire — as entirely her own.
A confusion about who actually directed whom arose in 2008 when Thierry Wasser was chosen as Guerlain's in-house perfumer. Today, Guerlain seems to have openly and completely dismantled the traditional idea of the perfumer as a solo artist, stating that the company's olfactive output isn’t attributable to one man’s genius, but to the joint forces of a large, unstructured team of people with various professional backgrounds. Sylvaine Delacourte has said that "a brief can come from the girls in the marketing, from me, from Thierry. No one has the monopoly." Guerlain's creative team includes perfumer Delphine Jelk, who has been involved in the development of most of the brand's fragrances since La Petite Robe Noire.
The Guerlain image is founded on a distinct and firmly rooted olfactive DNA, but today, it seems to be ruled by anarchy.
Ten years with Mr. G and the bee
My editor, Linda Primeau (pictured to the right), recently reminded me that 2016 marks the tenth anniversary of Monsieur Guerlain, and suggested that I announce it publicly. I agreed, provided that she would be the author. I’m really quite phobic to self-celebration.
She says that I’m proof that the topics of Guerlain are inexhaustible, which exactly was my aim from the beginning. In 2006, facts about Guerlain, both past and present, were quite difficult to come by. Keeping track of the brand's twenty yearly fragrance releases, as well as the discontinuations, the design changes, and the reformulations, is no easy task either. But what particularly bothered me was that you couldn’t find any valid information about vintage Guerlain. Therefore, it has been a great pleasure for me to be able to write about Thierry Wasser’s project of re-creating 53 historic Guerlain perfumes.
I would like to use this opportunity to express a huge thanks to Linda, who is the quality controller of everything I post, and to all of you for your invaluable contributions to this site. Read Linda Primeau's offering
Perfume as politics
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 (equally a 500 ml quadrilobe), exquisitely decorated by designer Janaïna 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.
Guerlain packaging changes 2016
During the last few weeks, Guerlain has revealed some packaging design changes for several fragrances.
The refillable golden canisters are being replaced by the standard bee atomizer. At the same time, the label for the bee atomizer has been redesigned to reflect a cleaner look, featuring the Sun King logo which Guerlain revived in 2013. The design of the label for the quadrilobe bottle has had a similar makeover to afford a more homogeneous look to the brand.
The masculine line has been rendered uniform with the classic "Habit Rouge" bottle, adding coloured faux wood caps. Only the bottles for the L'Homme Idéal line, the Parisien line, and Mouchoir de Monsieur are unchanged.
The Exclusives have been re-dressed in a dark amethyst leather box decorated with a bas-relief of the Sun King logo. For the L'Art & la Matière bottle, a new on/off bulb atomizer design has been introduced. The old bulb atomizer design had a serious issue with leakage, which the on/off functionality should solve. Also, the golden metal strip carrying the name of the fragrance now features the Sun King logo as well as the revived 1930s' Futura font, which Guerlain has adopted recently for most of its presentations.
The 8-Step Program To Beat Sugar Addiction
Some perfumes can cause sugar addiction, which seriously harms the wellbeing of your surroundings. Here’s the 8-Step Program To Beat Sugar Addiction.
1. Go cold turkey.
Wear Mitsouko for one month straight.
2. Know your high risk situations.
Lock up all sugary perfumes and throw away the key. Or better yet, give them to a charity. Leaving them around will only tempt teenagers who are prone to addiction. Stop reading fragrance blogs, forums, and Facebook pages, and delete the Instagram app from your smartphone. Avoid fragrance shops, physical and online. If you insist on visiting Maison Guerlain, go straight upstairs to attend a vintage workshop, and don’t stop by the Nouveautés section. Go to the opera instead of discos. Dress down and wear less makeup.
3. Be accountable to someone.
Having a sponsor to be accountable to is part of any recovery program. Say to your spouse, friend or colleague, “I will not wear Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie again.” And then remember that if you try to wear it on the sly, you’ll be noticed a mile away.
4. Distract yourself.
“Perfume is such an irrelevant thing,” says Luca Turin. Focus on more pertinent pursuits instead, like cleaning the house, reading Tolstoy novels, or having conversations with your spouse.
5. Get some buddies.
It works for Girl Scouts, depressives, and addicts of all kinds. Have six numbers programmed into your phone, so that it’s easy to reach someone who can say, “You’re doing just fine, and Mitsouko smells so much better on you.”
6. Be the expert.
You have to fake it ’til you make it. You'll feel stronger after having helped someone who is struggling with sugar addiction.
7. A slip is not a relapse.
A single squirt of La Petite Robe Noire Intense doesn’t mean you’re doomed and might as well use up the whole bottle.
8. Do nothing.
If you do absolutely nothing, that means you’re not getting worse, and that is perfectly acceptable most days. After all, tomorrow is another day.
P.S. Make an appointment to see your dentist to check for cavities, and your doctor for an evaluation for diabetes.
New Guerlain label design
Guerlain is currently changing the look of several of its fragrances. Shown here is the new label design of the bee spray bottle. The new design is cleaner than the previous one, with more empty space and using the geometric Futura font. In addition, the label features the gilded Sun King logo. The Sun King, the Futura font and the cursive brand name logo all represent historic Guerlain design elements.
Guerlain's cursive logo
Since 1828, Guerlain has redesigned its brand name logo several times. It has even been common practice to have different logo designs in use at the same time. As Maison Guerlain underwent its first restoration in 2005, Guerlain reintroduced the rounded cursive logo, which most fans know from Shalimar’s bottle stopper, for the new exclusive lines and for the bee bottles. This logo dates back to the Belle Epoque era and can still be seen on Maison Guerlain’s facade. Later, the logo also appeared on the bottles for Idylle (2009) and La Petite Robe Noire (2012). In 2011, the logo was used for the masculine Eau de Toilette bottle for Habit Rouge and Vetiver.
This year, Guerlain changes the look of its masculine range, which will now come with the geometric sans-serif logo first seen on L'Instant de Guerlain in 2003, and launched more broadly in 2013.
Guerlain Futura: back to the 1930s
Although some of Guerlain's bottle designs are well over 100 years old and are still on the market as a testament to the brand's durability and timelessness, Guerlain has nevertheless regularly updated its image to conform to changing tastes. Due to the advanced age of the brand, this year celebrating its 188th anniversary, there is a constant concern at Guerlain to not look like a museum or, even worse, something that has seen better days. In the last few years, Guerlain has been busy trimming its visual appearance to become more streamlined and uniform. The Shalimar atomizer got a sleeker shape by Jade Jagger in 2010, and in 2013, Maison Guerlain received a total makeover by cutting-edge New York architect Peter Marino. While the historic Art Nouveau shop area was largely left untouched, all unnecessary ornamentation was discarded, such as the richly decorated sucrier tester bottles. At the same time, a reinvigorated website and brand name logo were launched, both made with clean, minimalist lines.
When Guerlain released L'Homme Idéal, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum and Terracotta Le Parfum the following year, they all came with the geometric Futura font on the labels and boxes, which is the same font now used throughout Guerlain's website. The font was eventually extended to include the La Petite Robe Noire boxes. This font had already been used, in a slightly modified form, on the redesigned white labels for the Eaux Fraîches. In 2016, Guerlain's spray bottles for all masculine scents and most of the classic feminines, as well as the quadrilobe Parfum bottle, will be repackaged with the Futura font.
Originally conceived in 1927 by typeface designer Paul Renner, the Futura font favoured simple geometric forms: near-perfect circles, triangles and squares. The font became representative of visual elements of the Bauhaus design style, and has gained widespread popularity thanks to its air of efficiency and modernity. As Guerlain adopts this font today, it's actually a revival of a visual style that the brand employed extensively during the 1930s, for such creations as Vol de Nuit, Sous le Vent, the lantern bottle, the war bottle, and Coque d'Or. Today, Guerlain aficionados mainly know it from the watch-shaped Eau de Cologne bottle (1936), which was sold until the late 1990s.
Guerlain introduces a new label design for the quadrilobe Parfum bottle. It matches the new bee atomizer label, which is solid-coloured and features the Sun King logo.
The quadrilobe bottle was created in 1908 by Aimé Guerlain’s brother, Gabriel, for the perfume Rue de la Paix. This scent was the only one ever issued by Pierre Guerlain, Jacques’ older brother. The stopper of the bottle looks like a quatrefoil ("quadrilobe" in French) or a champagne cork. Today, the quadrilobe bottle is mainly known as the bottle for Jicky, but it was really a standard bottle, having contained most Guerlain fragrances, and the label often varied for each edition. The original label design persisted however, with only minor design changes being made throughout the decades.
The original label was framed by a laurel garland, and had both the perfume’s name, the brand name, and Guerlain’s address on the rue de la Paix printed on it. When the Champs-Elysées shop opened in 1914, the address on the label was changed accordingly.
Eventually, as Guerlain opened up more and more shops, the address was deleted from the label. Also, the brand name logo was modernized and moved from the top of the label to become more visible at its bottom.
The new quadrilobe label is bigger than the old one, covering most of the bottle’s front facet, and the design is much more streamlined. The laurel garland has been removed, and the size of the writing is significantly reduced. The clean geometric Futura font, which was first used by Guerlain in the 1930s and reintroduced in 2014 for L'Homme Idéal, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum and Terracotta Le Parfum, is now applied to the perfume’s name, while the brand's name is written in the rounded cursive script that Guerlain employs for some of its presentations. The cursive brand logo dates back to the Belle Epoque era, and you can still see it on Maison Guerlain’s facade. Finally, the Sun King logo, which had a comeback in 2013, embellishes the upper part of the label, partly masked by the silk tassel.
Guerlain has announced that the quadrilobe bottle is going to replace the individual bottle designs for Samsara, Champs-Elysées, and L'Instant de Guerlain. Read more about Guerlain's bottles
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The perfume style known as gourmand, a caramel-fruit-patchouli accord first invented in 1992’s Angel, has now been ruling feminine fragrances for a quarter of a century. It makes it the industry’s most influential and enduring trend since the introduction of the oriental fragrance category more than ninety years ago. Like the latter, it hits upon the primordial taste for sweetness, but with a candy-like flavour freed from the voluptuous, carnal qualities of vintage perfumery, which fell out of fashion in the minimalist 1990s.
Due to its popularity and lucrative potential, this three-component accord has locked perfumery in a vicious cycle of supply and demand, in which everyone is busy doing more of what’s already there.
This summer, Guerlain introduces its first cotton candy fragrance, with notes of blackcurrant sorbet, fresh-floral bubble gum, clean cotton, sugar-dusted patchouli, and caramel fudge. Read review of La Petite Robe Noire Intense
Guerlain has announced a new addition to its successful La Petite Robe Noire line, called "Intense", which features a deep blue juice and a Marilyn Monroe dress pictograph. The scent is described as a mix of cotton candy, blackcurrant, raspberry, bergamot, rose, jasmine, orange blossom, white musk, vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli.
The infantilization of perfumery, with sweet fruit, cotton candy, caramel, and chocolate, began with Mugler’s Angel (1992), igniting a pandemic for which no cure has yet been found. Lancôme launched La Vie Est Belle to immediate success two decades later, the same year as the international release of La Petite Robe Noire, and it seems that Guerlain, like most other brands, has been in constant competition with Lancôme's blockbuster caramel floral ever since, issuing sugar bombs like French Kiss, Mon Exclusif, Le Bouquet de la Mariée, and now, La Petite Robe Noire Intense.
The golden canisters replaced by the bee atomizer
Last year, Guerlain disclosed that its golden canisters were going to be phased out and replaced by another bottle design in 2016. We now know that the new bottle in question is in fact the standard bee bottle atomizer, bearing a label that features the Sun King logo. The new bottles will appear little by little as boutiques run out of stock of the canisters.
The refillable golden canister, called Habit de Fête ("holiday dress"), was introduced in 1982 for both EdT, EdP and Parfum, as a replacement for the "Delftware" enamel canisters from 1965. The design of the golden canister had a basket weave pattern, which was modernized with a furrow-and-hole look in 1996.
The bee atomizer first appeared in 1992, initially meant for the Eaux Fraîches. It was subsequently used for Petit Guerlain, Après l'Ondée, Chant d'Arômes, Mouchoir de Monsieur, and Parure as well, and in 2013 for Jardins de Bagatelle. In addition, it was used for the limited editions L'Insolente (formerly Precious Heart) and Place Rouge (formerly Quand Vient la Pluie). Recently, the bee atomizer has also become the bottle for the home fragrances. Read more about Guerlain's bottles
The repackaging-equals-reformulation myth
Guerlain is changing the look of its masculine line, rendering it uniform with the classic "Habit Rouge" bottle design and adding coloured faux wood caps that match the exclusive Parisien collection.
There is the widespread notion that a new bottle design means that the juice has been reformulated as well, although in reality repackaging and reformulation are unrelated. It seems that our brain wants to see a pattern even where none exists. While Guerlain continuously reformulates its existing fragrances as new IFRA restrictions come along, and suppliers stop producing some of their perfume bases, reformulations are not scheduled to coincide with the marketing team’s decision to change bottle or box designs. Reformulations are quite costly in terms of man-hours expended, and the job of a marketing team is in fact to reduce costs.
One reason that the repackaging-equals-reformulation myth lives on, is the simple fact that an announcement of a new bottle design will spur people on to go to the shop to smell new bottles of a scent they already own. They will examine the fresh juice and then compare it to a bottle they bought ten years ago. As the aged juice has gone through the normal steps of top notes diminishing and base notes rounding and deepening, critics will erroneously conclude that the scent has been reformulated. Expect a steady stream of online fragrance forum discussions titled “Guerlain reformulates XX” to appear in the near future.
La Petite Robe Noire — the family
Given the worldwide success of La Petite Robe Noire, it's hard to believe that it was originally made as an exclusive fragrance limited to Paris. The scent proved very popular among Maison Guerlain's customers, and in 2012 it was decided to put it into wider distribution, in a slightly reworked version. It was a clever move, as the concept seems to have endless potential. Guerlain has stated that the intent of La Petite Robe Noire is to cultivate a younger audience.
This summer, a so-called "Intense" version joins the family, a very sweet scent of cotton candy, blackcurrant, raspberry, bergamot, rose, jasmine, orange blossom, white musk, vanilla, sandalwood and patchouli. Read more about La Petite Robe Noire
The plastic bee bottle
Guerlain's new bath line, Les Délices de Bain, comes in a plastic variant of the bee bottle, similar in shape to the first bath bee bottles from the early 1990s (shown here). The design of the new bath bottle is more streamlined though, with a smooth cap and without the Vendôme column's fish-scale pattern on the upper part of the bottle. Read more about Les Délices de Bain
Women, horses and perfumes
Jean-Paul Guerlain has recently announced that he is to return to perfume composition and launch his own line of niche fragrances in 2017, named My Exclusive Collection.
We all know that Jean-Paul Guerlain's primary hobbies are women, horses and perfumes. He has described in several interviews how his feminine fragrances were always motivated by a woman who evoked passion in him. "You always create perfumes for the women you love, whom you admire, and with whom you live," he said, quoting his mentor and grandfather, Jacques Guerlain. The book "Parfums d'Amour" (2010) was written like a diary about the love affairs that inspired some of his perfumes.
It's therefore no surprise that Jean-Paul Guerlain's new brand logo features an equestrienne who looks a lot like his wife, Christina de Kragh. Like Jean-Paul Guerlain, Kragh has a deep interest in riding horses. Photo of Christina de Kragh taken from Facebook. Read more about Jean-Paul Guerlain's new fragrance line
500 new Guerlain perfumes in 20 years
When in 1996 Guerlain celebrated the 70th anniversary of Djedi with a Baccarat reissue, the brochure stated that the brand had by then created a total of 300 fragrances.
In 2016, Sylvaine Delacourte informs us that the list of Guerlain creations since 1828 counts 800 scents.
It means that Guerlain has made 500 fragrances in twenty years, or a little over two new scents each month. No wonder it's hard work to keep up with Guerlain's news feed.
Note: There’s obviously an error in the Djedi brochure, as Jacques Guerlain alone is cited as having created 400 scents.
Each year sees approximately twenty new fragrance launches by Guerlain, half of which are reissues or limited edition bottles. Of the latter, most are made for the Shalimar and La Petite Robe Noire lines. Making limited edition bottles is one of the very affordable ways for fragrance brands to keep up the sales momentum, as it doesn't involve the design of a new fragrance, bottle, and marketing campaign, nor any trademark applications.
In 2016, we get a second limited edition bottle for Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, with splashes of blue and turquoise paint applied to the front (pictured to the right). We wonder why Guerlain never issues limited edition bottles for its masculine fragrances. We'd love a collectible L'Homme Idéal bottle, wouldn't we?
Three generations of Muguet
This year's Muguet is advertised not only with its annual new bottle design, but, for the first time since 1998, with a whole new fragrance composed by Thierry Wasser. Until now, the varying Muguet bottles have all contained the same fragrance, originally signed by Jean-Paul Guerlain in 1998. With the advent of a Thierry Wasser version, Guerlain's Muguet will cover three generations of perfumers, reflecting how the lily of the valley theme is influenced by personal taste and history's sensibilities. Read more about Jacques Guerlain's Muguet
Muguet by Jacques Guerlain (1908). The earliest Guerlain catalogue had a Muguet cologne, dating back to 1840, and although Jacques Guerlain often used lily of the valley as a top note, he probably wouldn't have had much interest in making a proper lily of the valley perfume had it not been for the fact that it is quite a challenge to do. This flower, so strongly fragrant and pure, doesn't yield essential oils, so in order to source its fragrance, it has to be reconstructed in the laboratory by a sophisticated combination of numerous other natural and synthetic ingredients, called a base. Jacques Guerlain's Muguet was a powdery, musky fragrance with a soft, but distinct note of Nivea cream, faithful to the tastes of the Belle Époque, but unlikely to be popular nowadays. It came in a bottle with a bouquet of silk flowers fixed by a collar around the neck. Later editions of the bottle saw a simpler ribbon bow instead of the flower decoration.
Muguet by Jean-Paul Guerlain (1998). Ninety years later, Guerlain began a new convention of creating limited editions launched for special occasions. One of them was a new version of Muguet by Jean-Paul Guerlain, made to celebrate May Day, which the French sometimes call La fête du muguet. Jean-Paul Guerlain's Muguet fragrance was presented in a copy of the original bottle, but the scent was entirely different, a fresher EdT than his grandfather's musky Parfum. The lily of the valley note was still romantic, but effortlessly lifelike and crisp. We recognize the cheerful, sunny style of Aqua Allegoria, which Jean-Paul Guerlain introduced the following year. From 2006 to the present, Guerlain has issued a yearly edition of Jean-Paul Guerlain's Muguet fragrance, each year presented with a new bottle design.
Muguet by Thierry Wasser (2016). Thierry Wasser's new Muguet fragrance is described as "a remarkably natural and modern interpretation" with green notes, dewy rose, and jasmine. Its top note is more tender and vegetal than the hissing citrus opening of Jean-Paul Guerlain’s version, with a passing resemblance to the green note in Thierry Wasser’s Cologne du Parfumeur. The powerful citrus note was typical of Jean-Paul Guerlain, who preferred a very bold expression full of contrast and vibrancy. In comparison, Wasser searches for a lighter touch with subtle nuances and fine details. One reason for the gentler — and, as Guerlain puts it, "natural and modern", — feel of Thierry Wasser’s Muguet might be that it omits the lilac, that clean, bright and intensely floral note that makes some people think of old ladies' perfumes and air fresheners. Perhaps the most interesting difference is to be found in the drydown, which has a creamy, very comfortable note that goes hand-in-hand with the jasmine. Despite Guerlain’s description of 2016’s as a "modern interpretation", Wasser’s Muguet actually smells closer to the historic Jacques Guerlain version of 1908. The creamy note was completely absent in Jean-Paul Guerlain’s purely floral Muguet fragrance.
In 2011, Guerlain released the Aqua Allegoria Jasminora, a fresh floral fragrance worked around a tender jasmine, with notes of galbanum, cyclamen, freesia, lily of the valley, white musk, and a touch of amber. The scent proved quite popular, but was discontinued just in time to be reissued as Cour des Senteurs Versailles, featured in a Parisienne-size bee bottle to commemorate the opening of Guerlain's new Versailles boutique in 2013.
The choice of using Jasminora for the Versailles edition stemmed from the fact that it was marketed as inspired by Marie Antoinette's favourite flower, the jasmine.
The Versailles boutique closes in March 2016, but the scent continues to live on in a 550 € quadrilobe bottle edition, called Le Bouquet de la Reine, whose sale is going to support the restoration of the Versailles castle.
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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