Perfume Muses: Five Famous Women Who Inspired Perfumes
By Lisa-Anne Sanderson
"Of the women in my childhood, I retain above all the memory of their perfumes, perfumes that lingered - filling the lift with fragrance long after they had gone,” Christian Dior once said. Beautiful and famous women have inspired perfumes since time immemorial. These ‘perfume muses’ include royalty, ballerinas and actresses.
In each case the perfumer attempted to capture the personality of the ‘muse’ in the fragrance and also create one which could be worn by other women. These fascinating women include the Empress Eugenie, Anna Pavlova and Audrey Hepburn.
Napoleon III married the Spanish Eugenie de Montejo for love instead of for political reasons. This was unusual in those days when kings usually married to create alliances with or to further alliances with other countries and to produce children.
Elegant and fashionable, Empress Eugenie set many trends and inspired several perfumes. These include Eugenie by Rance and Eau de Cologne Imperiale by Guerlain.
Eugenie was a delicate and romantic perfume with lily of the valley and citrus fruit. Rance used the original blend to recreate the scent in 2006.
Eau Imperiale was created by the founder of Guerlain in the Empress’s honor. This blend of fruits and flowers so impressed Eugenie that she gave Guerlain the highest royal warrant, making him her Appointed Supplier. This perfume is still available and makes a fine addition to any collection, with its glass bottle adorned by the bee symbol of the French Royal family.
When Dr. Nadia Payot, Payot’s founder, met the great Russian ballerina, Pavlova, she noticed that Pavlova’s body was still well-toned and firm even though she was 38. Unfortunately, her face was rather wrinkled and lined. This inspired Payot to develop a beauty system which she thought would rectify this problem so she devised her famous 42 Step Facial Gymnastics. Payot also dedicated a perfume to Pavlova. Called Pavlova, this is a floral scent with hints of musk and cedar, making it suitable for evening wear.
The enigmatic actress, who starred in many movies, including Anna Karenina and Camille, once said: “Movies! We weren’t making movies, but perfumes!”
Crown Tanglewood Bouquet was inspired by Garbo. This woody, floral fragrance has the power to scent a whole room, according to legend.
The Italian fragrance, Ace of Hearts, by Bertelli is also said to have been dedicated to the stunningly beautiful actress.
Elsa Schiaparelli designed clothes for this voluptuous actress and modelled the bottle of her scent, Shocking, on West’s figure. Rochas also based the bottle of his perfume, Femme, on Mae West’s hour-glass shape and swathed it in sexy black lace. Rich and fruity, Femme, was designed as a wedding present for his new wife, Helene.
The heady and sensuous fragrance, Lulu, was created for dark-haired beauty and actress, Louise Brooks. Based on the Tahitian flower, Tiare, it was inspired by the role that Brooks played in the silent German movie, Pandora’s Box, in 1929. Brooks was a vaudeville performer who ruined the lives of everyone she became involved with in this film version of the myth in which Pandora opens a box releasing evil into the world.
When the gamine actress’s designer friend, Givenchy, created L’Interdit for her, Hepburn playfully said: “L’Interdit, it is forbidden”. L’Interdit means ‘forbidden’ in English. Soft and romantic and containing rose, iris and jasmine essences, this perfume captured the beauty of the chic star. Hepburn helped Givenchy formulate the scent. The pretty and romantic Spring Flower by Creed was also inspired by her. This has become a favourite among Hollywood stars, such as Gwyneth Paltrow.
Celebrity perfumes became somewhat unpopular for many years after the 1980’s when Lulu was the ‘in-thing’. Recently, fragrances inspired by women, mostly actresses, have been selling very well. Liv Tyler, Monica Belluci and Jennifer Lopez are some of these perfume muses. As glamour is back in fashion, scents which make women feel like movie-stars are likely to remain ‘the rage’.