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!
"Among our customers there are, of course, a small number of passionate and highly educated people, but many are just looking for a rare perfume," says Guerlain’s marketing director. A big thank you to the thousands of Guerlainophiles who contribute to this community page and help to protect an endangered species.
Let them eat caramel
Guerlain is currently gearing itself to become a player on a huge, international market. “Mon Guerlain is a manifesto to the world," says the brand’s CEO, Laurent Boillot. Read more about Mon Guerlain
This is MY Guerlain
The name of Guerlain's new international release, Mon Guerlain, is born out of the trend of personalization 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.
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
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
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
The remains of Guerlain's bottle art
Once known for its prolific and varied bottle art, today Guerlain aims at a uniform look for both its feminine and masculine lines. It reflects a style in niche perfumery, where brands sell all of their scents in the same bottle in order to show that what counts is the fragrance, not the packaging.
In the Jacques Guerlain era, it was common practice at Guerlain to reuse the same bottle for different perfumes, but after Jean-Paul Guerlain took over, every new fragrance came with a unique bottle design. As such, Guerlain's recent standardisation of packaging follows both a historic and a modern trend.
Now, the brand replaces the individual Parfum bottles for Samsara, Champs-Elysées and L’Instant de Guerlain with the standard quadrilobe bottle, and the individual EdT and EdP spray bottle designs for Samsara, Champs-Elysées, L’Instant de Guerlain, Insolence and Idylle with the standard bee atomizer. Above, you can see what is left of Guerlain’s bottle designs. Note that only two of Robert Granai’s numerous creations remain, namely the Chamade bottle and the masculine Eau de Toilette bottle. Read more about Guerlain's bottle standardisation
Guerlain's Shalimar was not the first Shalimar
When Guerlain launched its now iconic perfume Shalimar, the name was already taken by Dubarry Perfumery Co., an English cosmetics brand established during World War I (not to be confused with an American cosmetics brand named Du Barry). A legal battle ensued, forcing Guerlain to temporarily relabel the perfume for export with its stock catalogue numbers, "No.90", "No.91" and "No.92".
Shown here is an ad for Dubarry's Crème Shalimar, a scented hand cream "for those who want hands of refinement, culture and charm." The first known ad for Crème Shalimar is from 1919, thus predating Guerlain's Shalimar. Dubarry's Shalimar included other scented products, like face powder, complexion cream, manicure preparations, and brilliantine.
During the later part of the colonial era, Europe was entranced by all things foreign and exotic, which was widely made use of in commercials. According to the hand cream ad, the Shalimar name was taken from a traditional Kashmiri song: "Pale hands I loved beside the Shalimar... Pale hands, pink tipped, like Lotus buds that float on those cool waters where we used to dwell."
The Dubarry factory in Hove, situated on the south coast of England, is now transformed into an apartment complex, but you can still find the original Shalimar name on the building's facade. Read more about Dubarry's Shalimar
Credit: Photos by mikeyashworth on Flickr, Shalimar by Guerlain blog, and Hove In The Past blog.
The facts and foibles of Mon Guerlain
The launch of Mon Guerlain has been the brand’s most debated fragrance launch ever, not least thanks to the choice of Angelina Jolie as spokesmodel, but also because of some controversy about the scent itself.
Many reviews, mine included, described Mon Guerlain as identical to Mon Exclusif (2015), albeit lighter and blander, while others thought it was a whole new fragrance. The latter was being supported by beauty magazine articles, based on official PR, saying that the fragrance was inspired by Angelina Jolie.
Thankfully, in a world of luxury dominated by corporate lies and false advertising, Guerlain is refreshingly different, which is one more reason to love the brand despite its blatant efforts to become mainstream as of lately. We speculate that Thierry Wasser, widely known for his eagerness to dispel myths and state the truth, has much to do with Guerlain’s exemplary honesty. His finest hour was when he invited bloggers to Maison Guerlain to show them how different Jacques Guerlain's classics originally smelled from today’s reformulated versions.
In a series of interviews following the launch of Mon Guerlain, Thierry Wasser and Guerlain’s CEO, Laurent Boillot, have declared the following:
• Mon Guerlain is a rerelease of Mon Exclusif, which Guerlain issued in 2015 in order to get feedback from customers and to test suppliers' capability to deliver the required amount and quality of raw materials.
• Wasser explains that for the Mon Guerlain release, the caramel and toffee notes have been slightly toned down in order to make the opening appear fresher.
• Angelina Jolie has nothing to do with the scent, which was completed long before she came into the picture. "Angelina Jolie was never in my mind or anywhere else,” Wasser says, “but our president, Laurent Boillot, absolutely wanted to collaborate with Angelina Jolie.” As she liked the fragrance, she accepted to become its spokesmodel.
• The fragrance is deliberately designed to appeal to an international mainstream audience, thus having what it takes to become a blockbuster. However, Thierry Wasser’s initial vision was to celebrate Guerlain’s historic tradition of paying tribute to a woman, using ingredients that to him symbolize aspects of a modern woman’s personality: truth, social skills, resilience, and motherly love.
• The massive launch of Mon Guerlain, the brand’s most expensive campaign to date, is just the beginning of a long-range plan to turn Guerlain into a major player on the international market. The company will open 100 new boutiques worldwide over a ten-year period.
The sliding gates of heaven
Luca Turin, who has stopped writing fragrance reviews, recently spoke at Esxence 2017, reflecting on a very positive change within the spirit of the perfume industry. "The gates of heaven have opened," he says, quoting Michael Edwards. That is, except at Guerlain.
"How many of you have smelled the latest Guerlain, Mon Guerlain? Did anybody actually like it? Consider the fact that a great firm like Guerlain is capable of producing such a terrible fragrance at a time when the world of fragrance is actually turning around.” See Luca Turin's speech
Shown here is Mon Guerlain next to La Petite Robe Noire Couture, now discontinued, which Turin in 2014 gave 4.5 stars out of 5. "One thing that especially endears it to me,” he wrote, "is the weird long-term freshness that Thierry Wasser somehow builds into the fabric of his fragrances, as if he alone was privy to a licorice-lavender accord that goes on forever. Beautiful work, and under the present low-cost, reduced-palette circumstances, borderline miraculous.”
We can't wait for Guerlain’s heavenly gates to open again. Read more about Mon Guerlain
Guerlain's perfumer duo: Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk
This spring, Guerlain releases L’Homme Idéal Sport, the brand’s fourth fragrance officially attributed to both Thierry Wasser and Delphine Jelk.
Delphine Jelk’s first perfume for Guerlain was La Petite Robe Noire in 2009. When exactly she was employed as a full-time perfumer for the house remains undisclosed, so we don’t know how many Guerlain fragrances actually bear her signature.
Thierry Wasser was named Guerlain's solo perfumer in 2008, but as he has said that he spends around thirty percent of his working hours on traveling to source raw materials, we understand why he’s unable to fulfil the task of composing Guerlain’s ten new fragrances per year by himself.
Historically, it has been a tradition at Guerlain to appoint a single master perfumer. This rule was broken in the 1990s when Sylvaine Delacourte entered as the brand’s fragrance evaluator and Jean-Paul Guerlain’s role was reduced to being part of a creative team. In 1994, when Guerlain was handed over to LVMH, for the first time an external perfumer was announced as the author of a Guerlain fragrance, namely Olivia Giacobetti for Petit Guerlain. Later came Olivier Cresp (Champs-Elysées) and Mathilde Laurent (Voile d’Été, Guet-Apens, Pamplelune, Shalimar Light), and after Jean-Paul Guerlain’s retirement in 2002, almost all of Guerlain’s fragrances were ascribed to independent perfumers: Maurice Roucel (L'Instant de Guerlain, Insolence), Béatrice Piquet (L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme), Randa Hammami (L’Instant Magic, Oud Sensuel, Garden Sensuel, Mon Précieux Nectar, Moscow), Francis Kurkdjian (Rose Barbare), Sophie Labbé (Cologne du 68, Parfum du 68), Olivier Polge (Cuir Beluga), Daniela Andrier (Angélique Noire), Annick Ménardo (Bois d’Arménie, Tokyo), Christine Nagel (Gourmand Coquin, Chypre Fatal, Oriental Brûlant, Boisé Torride, London), Delphine Jelk (La Petite Robe Noire, etc.), and Thierry Wasser (Iris Ganache, Quand Vient la Pluie, etc.).
Note the preponderance of women in this group, which goes against Guerlain’s patriarchal practice of having only men as perfumers. Sylvaine Delacourte has said that she would have liked to suggest a woman as Guerlain's next master perfumer, but because she wasn't allowed to, she chose Thierry Wasser. However, since Delphine Jelk was kept as Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, Delacourte’s wish has been partly granted. Read more about Guerlain's perfumers
Today's story about today's woman
"We're fighting against the big houses with the same weapons," Guerlain's CEO, Laurent Boillot, said in a recent interview, thereby explaining why we see fragrance brands pursuing the same ideas.
The uniform trends are not limited to the actual fragrance formulas, but also apply to the PR stories created around them. This year, it seems popular to make a tribute to womanhood. Interestingly, brands completely agree on what are the characteristics of "the woman of today".
Take Hugo Boss's new Ma Vie Florale, which comes with more or less the same PR and buzzwords as Mon Guerlain, although the Boss story is overall less elaborate than Thierry Wasser's version which includes references to the feminist movement and the developing countries. Where Boss uses the word "simple" to describe the modern woman, Guerlain says "truth", "spontaneity" and "simplicity"; where Boss says "conscious involvement", Guerlain says "outspoken"; and where Boss says "strong" and "independent", Guerlain puts "resilience" and "power". What the Boss story lacks is Guerlain's "motherly love", embodied by the scent of vanilla. That's probably only because Ma Vie Florale is a fresh fragrance, whereas Mon Guerlain is a gourmand.
So, when will we see Mon Guerlain Floral?
Notes of a woman
Magazines now refer to Mon Guerlain as "Angelina Jolie's first perfume". It was to be expected but surely not what Thierry Wasser wanted, saying that "Angelina Jolie was never in my mind or anywhere else, but our president, Laurent Boillot, absolutely wanted to collaborate with Angelina Jolie.” Wasser explains that the real inspiration for Mon Guerlain was Guerlain's historic tradition of paying tribute to women. Mitsouko, for example, was by Jacques Guerlain described as “the imaginary scent of a woman's skin.”
According to Wasser, Mon Guerlain is a portrait of women in the 21st century, who since 1828 have had to fight for independence and equal rights in several domains. "I decided it would be a good omen to create a portrait of women, not a portrait of one woman, but a portrait of all women." To him, each of the main ingredients of Mon Guerlain represents an aspect of femininity: truth (lavender), passion (jasmine), resilience (sandalwood), and motherly love (vanilla). Read more about Mon Guerlain
We understand why Guerlain finally embraces the trend of sweet, airy flowers, cotton candy, patchouli and white musk. These scents are popular, pleasing and comfortable, “maybe even motherly,” as Thierry Wasser says. Read more about Mon 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.
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
Some images courtesy of guerlain.com
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