Fragrance and colour – what’s the connection?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Fragrance and colour

These days, fragrances come in bottles of all shapes, sizes, designs – and colours. In fact, with many of them, almost as much thought goes into the packaging as into the scent itself. But what does the colour of the container say about the perfume? Is it a reference to the olfactory experience triggered by the fragrance and the scent notes within?

The answer is both yes and no, says fragrance advisor Candice Macranas – it really depends on what goes into the design process, and what the relevant perfume creators want to reflect. For instance, with Hermes’ Un Jardin Sur le Nil, the answer is a resounding yes. This fresh, sophisticated scent is exquisitely packaged in a green-washed glass bottle that perfectly conveys its grassy, citrus and “green” notes  – “you can almost smell the foliage,” smiles Macranas.

Giorgio Armani’s Aqua de Gio range of subtle, marine-inspired scents is also well represented by the brand’s design ethos – the pure, clean shapes and translucent aquamarines bring to mind a soft sea breeze, as does the fragrance itself. And of course there’s Deep Red, by Hugo Boss – a potent, fruity-floral aroma with top notes of blackcurrant, blood orange and pear, and undertones of freesia, ginger, wood and musk. This sultry, full-bodied fragrance is absolutely in sync with its name, and has the vivid crimson packaging to match.

But then there’s other packaging that is more closely tied to the creator’s identity or brand than to the scent itself, points out Macranas. Also of the fruity-floral variety, but lighter and more playful than Deep Red, is Issey Miyake’s new scent, Pleats Please. The pinks, oranges and whites of its floral-motif box do describe the scent itself – which is optimistic and exuberant, with notes of pear, peony and sweet pea – but the geometrically faceted glass bottle is a reference to Miyake’s ultra-modern clothing designs, which are often inspired by technology and tend to play with angles, pleats and dramatic lines. “I have always been interested in conducting research that yielded new methods by which to make cloth, and in developing new materials that combine craftsmanship and new technology,” explains Miyake.

“Similarly, The tartan-embellished perfume boxes of Burberry Brit are trademarks of the company’s original creation, the trench coat. The packaging is not really connected to the ‘personality’ of the fragrance,” explains Macranas. “And Bvlgari’s ring-shaped perfume vials are iconic of his primary profession as a jeweller, rather than of the scents themselves.” Another currently popular example is Ralph Lauren’s new Pony collection. This quartet of fragrances is packaged in vivid electric tones – cerise, lemon yellow, peacock blue – but some of these scents are more subtle than their boxes may suggest.

So at the end of the day, it comes down to the cardinal rule – don’t judge a book (or a fragrance) solely by its cover. Some perfume packaging may represent the scent notes within, but keep an open mind and you may be surprised at what you find…

Other articles you may be interested in:
Fragrance notes: citrus and fresh
Let us spray: How to wear perfume
Build your fragrances wardrobe
Smells like fame
Scents to walk you down the aisle

Written by

After spending most of the last decade working as a journalist and editor in Thailand and travelling the East, Cindy returned to the Mother City in September 2010. She has written for a wide spectrum of online and offline publications in both South Africa and SE Asia and is passionate about reading, writing, food, globe-trotting and cats.

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  1. Kariwo

    The colour and packaging are what attract me first…before anything else

    4 years ago •

  1. CherylGD

    very interesting and without a doubt the bottle influences my choice of which new perfumes to try out. I unconsciously gravitate to the lighter and clean looking bottles like CK, DKNY, Chanel, Caroline Herero and avoid the fussy, busy looking bottles.. and I always find what I’m looking for

    4 years ago •

  1. Adele

    Gee love these bottles, the perfume must also be great

    4 years ago •

  1. MariaMeyer

    Love the lovely colorful bottles and shapes the perfumes come in nowadays, but I buy according to smell

    4 years ago •

  1. ABeauty

    Hmm I havent actually thought about it, I normally go to a fragrance store and ask for smells, for e.g. something with a vanilla undertone or floral etc and see what they suggest and come back with.

    4 years ago •

  1. AmyR

    A pretty bottle might catch my eye but a great scent – even in a average bottle -really goes a long way!

    4 years ago •

  1. Talia

    The packaging is important for me because that’s the initial appeal I get when deciding on a fragrance. I love unique shaped bottles.

    4 years ago •

  1. Carlene

    I’m often ‘seduced’ by packaging even before testing the perfume and even though I may be missing out on a lovely fragrance due to unappealing packaging it will always be the first thing that attracts my attention. I’m not attracted to black or neon colours on perfume packaging, but aside from that love a wide range of colours and designs. (It’s because of people like me that the fragrance houses have to spend so much time and effort on packaging design, LOL).

    4 years ago •

  1. NaturalDiva

    I have never given the packaging so much thought. While I know that the colour of the bottle or the way it is shaped has a marketing strategy behind it, I had not thought deeper. I don’t tend to judge a perfume on it’s bottle but I am drawn to the design or colour of the bottle.

    4 years ago •

  1. Sammy

    Oh wow who knew so much detail going into the processes of creating the perfect scent, the bottle colour or shape of it.

    4 years ago •

  1. Goddess

    I actually never thought about the possible link although when I think about it , I am never attracted to bright colour bottles or bottles which have very light colours like pink and purple because I used to associate those with sweet scents- of which I am not a fan. I tend to look more for streaks of gold or gold bottle tops and the like though Clinique happy isn’t on the list. So far, the result has been good bebecausecuae the Estee Lauder Woody Mistique in the gold bottle has really outscored many other perfumes that I have liked over the years such as Kenzo Jungle and Flower, even your True Religion whose bottle is really misleading.

    4 years ago •

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