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The Complex Stories Behind Some of the Best Perfume Bottles Ever Designed

The story behind a perfume bottle is just as complex as the fragrance inside. The designers behind some of the best bottles in recent years distill their creative visions.

Perfume bottles. Photography by Jess Bonham & Josephine Schiele for Vogue Arabia May 2020.

Ormaie Les Brumes

Baptiste Bouygues launched Ormaie with his mother in 2018. Based in Paris, the brand produces scents made with sustainable, all-natural, non-synthetic ingredients

“I grew up in the countryside, so I felt very close to nature and the people who cultivate the land. When my mother and I decided to collaborate on a collection of natural fragrances, it was important that we partner with local artisans who shared our love of creativity and know-how. I worked with Jade Lombard, our artistic director, to design the bottles, and then we set out to find the right craftsmen to bring them to life. Our glassmaker cuts recycled glass into bottles with 12 facets. To me, they represent the hours on a watch, because we put time into everything we do. Each bottle has a hand-carved topper sculpted from sustainable beechwood. The print shop that does our labels still operates a 19th century Heidelberg machine. All of these components give our products an emotional, soulful quality. In French, the words beau (beautiful) and bon (good) are close. To make something beautiful, it also has to be good.”

Veronique Gabai

Veronique Gabai developed designer fragrances for more than 20 years before launching her own luxury lifestyle brand last year. Her namesake collection includes nine signature scents, all inspired by the light and glamour of her native Côte d’Azur.

“Quite frankly, I believe that living in a digital world has dulled our senses a little, so I wanted to create a beautiful product that brings joy and almost reminds us of what it is to be human. For this reason, I designed my bottles to encourage touch. The weight, the shape, and the polished metal have a timeless, permanent feel. It’s a refillable object that you touch every day, and that’s how it becomes yours over time. I chose gold because luminosity is the thread that connects the entire line. Each individual scent tells the story of the Côte d’Azur. Artists come to the South of France to study the light, so sunshine is the medium I chose to work with.”

Lancôme Idôle

Architect and industrial designer Chafik Gasmi creates sculptural pieces for brands such as Baccarat, Kenzo, and Bulgari. In 2019, he crafted one of the world’s slimmest perfume bottles for Lancôme’s newest scent.

“I never imagined the bottle standing vertically. Never. In my mind, women didn’t need another object to put on their bathroom shelves. I pictured a flat, refillable, ultra-portable bottle with the proportions of a smartphone, which the hand is already used to. I wanted to create a bottle so thin that we had to construct various ways to create it. The glass stuck together and exploded when we used traditional blow-molding methods. Finding the solution was a real work of science. In the end, we designed the edges with enough volume to allow the air to circulate. I’ve loved creating an object that has tension between sturdiness and softness. It adds dimension to the way we experience fragrance. When people tell me, “But it can’t stand!” I simply answer, “But who cares?” [Editor’s note: What you see in the photo at left involved sticky wax and very careful balance.] Placed in your hand or carried in a bag, the bottle is close to you. It becomes an extension of you – an emotional, tactile, visual extension.”

Glossier You

Senior designer Laura Yeh engineered the Instagram-famous bottle for Glossier You, the digital beauty company’s first fragrance.

“This bottle was my first project for Glossier. I think that being a young designer gave me some creative freedom because I wasn’t bogged down by ideas of what a perfume bottle is ‘supposed’ to be. We just knew that we wanted to create something simple and iconic that reflected the concept of the scent itself. For inspiration, I did a lot of online research to see how fragrance bottles live in personal spaces. The goal was to create a sculptural object that you can engage and interact with. That’s how we landed on the idea for the hand-carved finger notch. I think it makes the bottle feel tactile and personal, as though it was created just for you. And the red cap is a call to action, directing you to remove it. The scent itself is composed of base notes that come alive when you use it, and I think the same is true of the bottle.”

Paco Rabanne Crazy Me

Jerome Leloup is general manager of the French fashion and beauty label Paco Rabanne. Based in Paris, he oversaw the development of Pacollection, a line of six unisex fragrances housed in flexible bottles.

“Our first fragrance – it just celebrated its 50th anniversary – is called Calandre, the French word for the metal grille on the front section of a car. It was a game changer because it explored new territory. Pacollection embodies this same spirit. The inspiration for the soft, unbreakable bottles comes from the freeze-dried meal pouches that Nasa sends into space. The design is playful, but there’s a practical dimension – it’s easy to carry in a bag or suitcase. It’s truly nomadic. We wanted to reinvent how people enjoy perfume. The bottle’s gentle feel places it at the center of the fragrance experience. It’s a totally different approach.”
Originally published in the May 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia

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