Glass Houses

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | August 2, 2013

While its primary function is to store and protect, fine fragrance packaging continues to play an increasingly more prominent role.

In the simplest of terms, a home is a shelter. It protects. But that home can be a Cape Cod, split-level or a Frank Lloyd Wright, and the design elements associated with each style appeal to different people and can provide a glimpse of the homeowner who lives inside. The same can be said about fragrance packaging. Sure, the bottle’s primary job is the protect the juice (because that’s what really matters), but in today’s competitive, style-driven market, the right bottle and box design (and even the dispenser) must be executed with thought and precision, say experts.

For starters, the design must be inspirational, according to Drina Karp, a beauty package designer based in New York who has worked on packaging and advertising for companies such as Estée Lauder, Elizabeth Arden and Coty, creating upscale fragrance designs for brands such as Kate Spade, Vera Wang and Marc Jacobs.

“Fragrance is about beauty and inspiring the imagination and the packaging has to convey this,” she said. “Fragrance packaging is a very important part of packaging direction as it is not encumbered by the same necessities of practicality that exists with other beauty products and is able to set an example of beauty. In any marketplace, and particularly the highly competitive one that exists today, packaging is what focuses the consumers attention and creates sales.”

And that’s why it has become “hugely critical,” in the words of Sophie Maxwell, futures director at Pearlfisher in London.

According to Maxwell, fragrance packaging has also “phenomenally changed direction” in the past five years.

“Fragrance has always been looked to as a leader in the cosmetics arena and probably has more scope than any in this industry to dial up a mood, a time, a feeling,” she said. However, with restrictions such as weight, it can be more difficult to truly innovate and make a mark.

“But a truly flooded marketplace means there is constant need for innovation,” Maxwell stressed.

A Fashionable Flacon
“In fragrance, the bottle is one of the key elements” and “definitely an important facet of the marketing mix,” noted Lori Singer, group VP, global marketing, Marc Jacobs/Balenciaga at Coty Prestige, which this year walked away with the Fragrance Foundation’s Best Packaging of the Year honor (for women) thanks to Florabotanica, which is described as a feminine, floral, woody and modern scent.

“In some ways, it can be considered as a ‘work of art’ and we put a lot of energy into designing a bottle that will reflect the values of the fashion brand,” Singer told Happi.

Coty was able to accomplish that task via a simple, streamlined bottle with unexpected features—think graphic stripes, vivid red and dark purple blue on different edges and “the largest dip tube on the market,” according to Singer, who said the flacon reflects the “DNA of the fashion house.”

“Architectural lines, black and white lines, vivid colors and floral prints are all elements recurrent in Balenciaga’s fashion,” she said, noting that facets of Balenciaga inspiration can be seen in the outer box as well.

The outer box was designed with a “specific floral print with venomous flowers. The combination is bold, daring and makes a real statement. It is really in line with the concept of Florabotanica, and the bottle reflects this beautiful yet dangerous garden,” Singer said.

Put It In the Book
Eight & Bob is another award-winning fragrance package; it took home an ICMAD 2013 CITY award for fragrance packaging. This juice, like Florabotanica, is also housed inside a rather simple bottle. But what sets this fragrance apart is secondary packaging that resembles a book, which is part and parcel to its history.

The original cologne was created by Albert Fouquet, son of a Parisian aristocrat and a member of the elite French society of the early 20th century who created various essences for his own personal use, aided by Philippe, the family butler. Although the scents were in demand with his exclusive social circle, Fouquet rejected proposals to market his fragrance.

But, in 1937 he met a young American student named John F. Kennedy who was touring France in a convertible. Kennedy’s charm persuaded Fouquet to leave him a sample of his cologne. Fouquet later received a thank you letter from the future US President, informing him of the success the perfume was enjoying among his friends. In the letter, JFK requested eight samples, “and if your production allows, another one for Bob.”
Although Fouquet would soon after die in a car accident, his butler carried on with production, even as World War II broke out. He went to such lengths to hide the books inside books as to prevent seizure by the Nazis—so the story goes, and therein the inspiration, according to executives at Intertrade Europe, the company behind the recent incarnation of this long-lost scent.

Collectible Coffrets
Limited edition scents and flankers are prolific in the fragrance category these days—yet companies run the risk of rolling out a product that’s more of a gimmick than a “new, true, relevant and innovative representation of the brand,” said Maxwell.

“But it is an opportunity that fragrance needs to realize,” she continued. “It enables fragrance to keep pace with the fashion and lifestyle worlds and gives us a way to see and experience the new—updating and evolving with a new element while staying true to the heart of the brand.”

Cloudbreak Group has rolled out a limited edition 200ml bottle of its New York Yankees fragrance, which hit department stores this past Spring. The new flacon pays homage to New York’s (and particularly the Bronx’s) street art culture and what is commonly called graffiti bombing.

To accomplish this, Cloudbreak Group, New York, tapped New York street artists Mint&Serf (a.k.a. Mikhail Sokovikov and Jason Aaron Wall, also collaboratively known as MIRF) to reimagine the iconic New York Yankees logo.  While some may see graffiti as a nuisance or street art at best, the duo’s work is no stranger to upscale brands and properties. In fact, they have worked with some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Nike, Red Bull and Marc Jacobs.

The limited edition release has Mint&Serf’s distinctive “MIRF” on the front and back of the bottle while the secondary packaging takes inspiration from an important offshoot of baseball—collectibles and memorabilia. It was designed to mimic the crystal or plastic container that one would use to display memorabilia. Specifically, it is a Lucite container with an ABS base and a three-color silkscreen decoration, according to Cloudbreak Group.

“The final product is something that we feel is a modern, urban spin on the Yankees legacy and tradition, an interpretation that the original New York Yankees scent itself adapts to seamlessly,” said Alyssa Atzeff, marketing director.

According to Thomas Butkiewicz, CEO, Cloudbreak Group, “The limited edition for our brand is consistent with the limited edition strategy in baseball and certainly with the New York Yankees. History, authenticity, collectibles are a vital part of the culture in sport—baseball is a fantastic example; the bat that Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run (in 1927), the ball that Mariano used to capture his record-breaking save…”

He continued, “Limited editions create a buzz and story with the press, allow us to engage the team and players to talk about something, and certainly give the sports and fragrance fan a one-of-a-kind package and product, to be collected and or saved over time.”

Capturing Couture
Couture fashion designers are known to create one-of-a-kind collectibles, too. And for French designer Nabil Hayari, attention to detail mattered when he entered the fragrance category, first with Only for Her.

Today, Hayari’s scent offerings include Broderie and Goldy, the latter of which netted an ICMAD CITY Member’s Choice Award in June.

“Hayari Couture Paris’ gowns attest to an extraordinary savoir-faire and the very highest standards, composed of the finest silk organza, chiffon drapes, crystal beads, lace and embroidery, and just as they have all started with a sketch and a unique made-to-measure molding, Hayari Parfums Paris’ blossoming cases have gone though sketch and prototype stages to fulfill my wish to create a unique luxury case to hold Hayari’s unique fragrances close to the heart of unique women,” the designer told Happi.

According to Hayari, “each fragrance and, quite naturally, each fragrance’s packaging, embodies the various facets of the Hayari Woman’s personality: passionate, seductive and mysterious in turns.”

Hayari’s scents are packaged in 1.7oz barrel-shaped bottles topped with a crystal cap and housed inside a box that opens like a flower. The bottles are numbered, adding that couture touch.

Designing from the Heart
Despite all the pressure to create the next great fragrance, and along with it the next great fragrance bottle, the best designs will come from the heart, say industry experts.

“The packaging is how the perfumer treats his perfume…It shows how much he or she cares about the creation inside,” said one fragrance executive.

“This care given to the bottle and box will be understood by those who find respect in those things, not just in what the bottle or box says to the end consumer.” 

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