A recent discussion on BOTO got me thinking about how fragrance houses deliberately manipulate the colour of the juice to add to the mental picture you will have of the fragrance. Most perfume comes in shades of gold: pale or deep. But sometimes the juice projects the style of the fragrance.
Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely springs to first to my mind. I really like its silvery pink colour, which I think is rather unusual, and admire the way that colour is carried through to the packaging and the marketing. In the video ad SJP wears a silvery pink party dress while she languidly – but very stylishly – sits around doing nothing much. This delights the six-year-old girl buried even in me.
Chanel No 19 is a classic green fragrance: the EDT is bright green, and the EDP and extrait are a deeper, almost olive green, and the new Poudre is pale green.
Orientals and ambers are usually a deep golden colour, perhaps because of their ingredients, but perhaps not always. Youth Dew? Say no more. I know you are picturing it in your mind right now. Giorgio of Beverly Hills is screamingly yellow, and matches the stripey yellow of the box, and also the awnings that hung off the original store on Rodeo Drive.
Purple fragrances? Lavenders, of course. And is there a violet soliflore that is not coloured violet, either in the juice or packaging? In the 2000s Yardley’s beautiful April Violets came out in a deep shade of violet. I used to see bottles of it on eBay from time to time. After a pause on production it was released again in about 2009, this time in a clear juice. (This was my mother’s favourite fragrance. I keep a bottle to scent my handkerchiefs.)
Clear juice has been popular for years now. There are now eleventy-million clean and airy fragrances which often they contain little or no colour. The fragrances of Issey Miyake must be among the earliest entries in this category. So are Calvin Klein’s CK One and EL’s Pleasures. No wait – Chanel’s Cristalle came out in 1974. And 4711 in 1792. Beat that Issey!
Blue fragrances? Armani’s Acqua di Gioia is, unsurprisingly, a watery blue/green. Ah, but what about Mugler’s Angel, which is blue. (Or is it just the bottle?) The blue comes from ideas about stars and angels and things, obviously, and yet how different is the character of the scent with the style of the packaging.
Colouring the bottle is the obvious solution if you don’t want to colour the juice. Hello Samsara!
Which leads us to red fragrances? Um … I’m stumped there. There don’t seem to be any, are there? Too much like raspberry cordial. Or blood …
Not all fragrance houses play the colour game. Presumably natural perfumers never add artificial colours. And many of the niche lines remain aloof from colour, just as they don’t vary the design of the bottle or the label. They presumably want us to focus on the scent, not the image. The Malles are a case in point. But of course even by avoiding image-making, they still create an image.