Pierre Dinand is a living legend in the world of perfume packaging and design. His bottle creations are too numerous to list, but here are just a few examples: Givenchy Ysatis, Ivoire de Balmain, Tiffany, Coriandre, Caron Nocturnes, Lancome Magie Noire, and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Those of you who drooled over the recent special edition bottle of Mûre et Musc for L'Artisan — that is his design. So was the lovely green fig bottle for Premier Figuier that was released last year. On his website, you can read a brief biography, learn about the technical aspects of bottle design, find a list of some of the perfume bottles he designed, and see his recent sculpture work.
Your first perfume bottle was for Madame Rochas, which was released in 1960. You got involved with the project almost by accident. Can you tell us the story?
I was working in 1958 and 59 as Art Director in a advertising agency, who had clients involved in luxury goods, including champagne, cognacs and fashion. One of the companies, Marcel Rochas, liked my new graphic approach, and knowing of my architectural study background, asked me if I had any ideas for the shape of a new perfume that would carry the name of a beautiful woman, Helene Rochas. That was new to me but very challenging, I decided to spend time with Helene Rochas, falling in love with her. I got inspired by a collection of antique perfume bottles she had at home. The problem was to produce industrially something that was originally handmade. It worked and was a enormous success. I was immediately requested by many other fashion designers, Pierre Balmain, Pierre Cardin, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent. I always thought this would be the last and I would have to design some other things, but it kept going, increasing demands from all over the world...
Will a beautiful perfume in a beautiful bottle always sell, or does the bottle design have to be linked aesthetically to the actual fragrance in some way?
I used to work closely with the perfumer, Guy Robert for Madame Rochas, Edmond Roudnitska for Eau Sauvage, Michel Hy for Calandre, Sieuzac For Opium, but it is different now, many perfumers compete and I don't know the fragrance at the start. But I spend time with the noses, and try to exchange our views on the project. It is always better that the bottle and juice are worked together.
I love the bottle for Eau Sauvage. Can you tell me what aspects of the fragrance or the Christian Dior brand inspired the bottle, and how working with Edmond Roudnitska influenced the final design?
Mr Roudnitska was quite a character, very stubborn and impressive, he would not accept any change on his fragrances propositions. You like it or not.... But we agreed on a working method, he would let me draw sketches and then we would go and meet with Christian Dior's Manager, Rene Bourdon, father of the famous perfumer Pierre. The box design, taken from the inside of a Rolls Royce, was more difficult than the bottle, printed with 7 colors to achieve this precious wood look.
You created the statue now presented to winners of the Fifi awards. Tell us about the design, and how it relates the perfumer's art.
I was asked by Annette Green and Fernando Aleu to propose a design to represent the Fragrance Foundation. I made a statue representing a man and a woman linked by a drop of parfum. Made out of crystal, the award has never changed since 1973. This was a gift from me to the Fifi organization.
You have created around 500 perfume bottles, so I am sure it is hard to pick favorites, but can you name a few that you think were especially innovative or special to you?
Of course, I have favorites: Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Paco Rabanne Calandre & Pour Homme, Calvin Klein Eternity & Obsession, Givenchy Amarige, Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, Azzaro, Estee Lauder Pleasures, Burberry for women, and the latest Paul Smith London with InterParfums.
And can you name a few of your favorites by other bottle designers?
Of the others I didn't design, Chanel no. 5 is my favorite for its timeless class, or L'Air Du Temps for its baroque allure. Recently I have not found anything interesting and really new. People are copying each other, without creativity.
In this day and age, you would think that fragrance packaging would be more important than ever. To what do you attribute the decline in creativity in bottle design? Is it the increasingly rapid pace of fragrance releases, or something else?
Creativity is less important nowadays, now that marketing studies end up with the exact same recommendations, whatever the company. The result is levelling the design to the base, cutting everything too low like cutting grass in your garden, then the little flower blooming in the middle has no chance to survive thanks to the powerful P&G Marketing Gurus, invading the world of parfumerie. C'est la vie, or I should rather say c'est la mort. It is the death of creativity. That explains the shorter life of these products who are often dead in the egg. I must say that my work with Calvin Klein and Robin Burns [of Estee Lauder] was very unique and rewarding, because they wanted something new, not following trends but ahead of them. Same philosophy at the PUIG Group in Barcelona for Paco Rabanne, and Pierre Berge & Yves Saint Laurent for Opium.