At once an exceptional piece and a simple receptacle, a small jewel imbued with singularity and worthless glassware, the perfume bottle is in itself an enigma. Yet it is eminently strategic. Indeed, it is through it that the first contact is established with the consumer, creating desire and envy. Even more, it embodies a real gateway to the brand's olfactory universe.
This is why, from the designer's pencil stroke to the skilful hands of the master glassmaker, it is part of a long and complex process that requires a great deal of know-how and more than any other talent, as Sylvie de France, to whom we owe the bottles of Hermès or Yves Rocher, points out: « each bottle is a different story that needs to be told ».
A little look back…Glass bottles already existed in the time of the pharaohs, but it was not until the time of Ancient Greece that glass-blowing came into being. It is estimated that the first blown perfume bottles date back to the 1st century.
On the other hand, it was not until the 20th century that this production became both an art and an industry. Perfumer François Coty is considered to be the initiator of the movement. In 1910, he commissioned master glassmaker and artist René Lalique to create an original bottle for the perfume Ambre Antique and launched its production on an industrial scale. The perfume bottle as we know it was born.
The profession of bottle designerIt quickly became the honey of a small handful of professionals, the bottle designers. For Cœur Joie, his first perfume launched in 1946, Robert Ricci called on Marc Lalique, René Lalique's son. He designed a crystal heart with a hollowed-out center. It was an immediate success. A few years later, in 1951, Lalique composed for L'Air du temps (Nina Ricci) a whirlpool topped with two intertwined doves celebrating the newfound peace. Completely rococo and yet cult. In a completely different vein, and as early as 1921, proof of her pioneering talent and timeless style, Gabrielle Chanel imposed with her N°5 « a dry and naked bottle that was in contradiction with the mawkishness in favor among perfumers, a bottle as clean as a cube », says Edmonde Charles-Roux, her biographer. In the same vein as Coco, Bon Parfumeur bets on simplicity, and has designed its fragrance collection in the same simple yet elegant angular bottle. In René Lalique's defense, it has to be said that master glassmakers are more comfortable with Coco's style than with the eccentricities of the heir to the house's eponymous house…
Master glassmakers, the cornerstone of the manufacturing process De facto, the master glassmakers play a primordial role in the elaboration of perfume bottles. Far from being simple executors, they intervene upstream to define with the designer and the brand the framework of feasibility and the outlines of what can be done and imagined.
The story of Catherine Krunas is edifying. Having fallen in love with a magnificent bottle designed by designer George Delhomme for perfumer Armand Petitjean in 1949, a unique work that was impossible to mass-produce, she was inspired by it for Lancôme's La Vie est Belle L'Eclat fragrance.
To make this dream come true, master glassmakers are pushing the limits of the possible. With the help of new tools such as 3D, they succeeded « in working the glass with small diamond shapes and in mass producing a play of light that is like optical art »*. Magical.
One bottle, several stories…All of René Lalique's successors agree on one thing, behind every perfume brand is a designer who has a story to tell. Sometimes there isn’t much in it. « The way the designer Stella Cadente played with her hands gave me the idea of the bottle she wanted, something round, very feminine »*, says Sylvie de France. At Bon Parfumeur, the desire of Ludovic Bonneton, the brand's creator, to match his perfume to the mood of the moment led him to imagine a single bottle whose label color would change according to the juice: to each mood its own color?
As a worthy successor to René Lalique, Pierre Dinand was inspired by Jan Ahlgren de Vilhem Parfumerie's passion for ice hockey to design a puck-shaped bottle topped with a yellow-orange bakelite cap made of recyclable cellulose. When we open it, the cap emits a pretty sound, characteristic of luxury cars. As Pierre Dinand says, « the bottle addresses the sight, the touch and the hearing at the same time before releasing the perfume »**. Quite a program.