Tag Archives: guerlain

Self-Portrait Reflection in the Window of the Guerlain Boutique (1930)

This self portrait was taken by the American photographer Lee Miller around 1930 in Paris. The surface reflecting her image was the window of the Guerlain boutique.

The two bottles are flacons bouchon coeur, designed by Raymond Guerlain in the early 1910s to house three fragrances in their extrait version (L’Heure Bleue, Mitsouko and Fol Arôme). The front labels are not readable, so it’s impossible to know exactly what perfumes they contained. We can make some assumptions, though: all the three fragrances I’ve mentioned above are good candidates, because they were released well before the 1930s (L’Heure Bleue and Fol Arôme in 1912, Mitsouko in 1919). One may also include Shalimar as a possible candidate: launched in 1925 in the famous flacon chauve souris, somehow it was available in the flacon bouchon coeur, too, although it’s an anomaly, as beautifully explained by Dimitri Dimitriadis.

Another question that arises is about the location of the shop. Where was this picture taken? The French perfume house was founded in 1828 and had its first shop at 42, rue de Rivoli in Paris. In 1840 the flagship store was opened at 15, rue de la Paix. When Miller took this picture, the flagship store was at  68, Champs-Elysées, the same location it has today. That is where the beautiful picture above was taken and that is where Miller’s picture was taken as well.

Miller took other pictures outside the Guerlain store, and from them we can see the location was indeed the Champs-Elysées (see the characteristic arched windows).

Special mention to the shot Exploding Hand, which shows the scratches left by thousands of rings, worn by Guerlain customers, on the glass entrance door.

Picture source and source.

Thanks to my friend Rocco for sharing this photo with me.

Cargo (2017)


guerlainshalimaredt_jadejagger_bornunicornWhat perfume would survive a zombie apocalypse? In case you were wondering, wonder no more: Guerlain Shalimar is the answer! At least that’s what happens in Cargo, a zombie survival film set in Australia, currently shown on Netflix. The Jade Jagger-designed bottle of eau de toilette [1] appears several times, and we soon learn why. The protagonist, Andy (Martin Freeman), first take it out of his backpack and sprays some fragrance in the air.

cargo_bornunicorn (7)He smells his own hand.

cargo_bornunicorn (6)And in one line explains why he’s carrying it in his survival kit. He tells his baby daughter Rosie that he “can smell Mommy.” Shalimar literally stands for someone who is no more.

cargo_bornunicorn (5)Later, when Andy and Rosie meet Lorraine (Caren Pistorius), the bottle pops up again.

cargo_bornunicorn (4)The perfume calms Rosie down: it’s her Linus’ security blanket.

cargo_bornunicorn (2)Finally, the bottle can be seen in the hands of Thoomi (Simone Landers), the girl whom Andy and Rosie end up travelling with. She sprays some perfume while alone: she wants to smell the fragrance which seems to have such an importance for father and daughter.

cargo_bornunicorn (1)We last see Shalimar again in the hands of Thoomi. This is a very beautiful and touching scene (no spoilers!): the sprays of perfume here are like a caress, a chance for closure, a sweet goodbye.

Now let’s see why Shalimar – and not another perfume – was given this function in the film. Yolanda Ramke, co-director of Cargo, when asked about it at a Q&A session on Reddit, explained:

It wasn’t scripted as being Shalimar but it was a member of our art department who wrangled out that arrangement, and the reason why it worked out was that the guy who ‘founded’ that perfume, his wife had passed away and he read our script and he realized that the story was about a man honouring his wife with this perfume – and so he allowed us to use it because of that component of the story.

Lots of interesting information here. The “founder” Ramke is referring to is Jean-Paul Guerlain, who worked as master perfumer until 2002; the script is very emotional, so I’m glad the last perfumer of the Guerlain dinasty appreciated the intensity of the family bonds depicted in it. Plus, it’s important to notice how Shalimar was created as a homage to another tragic love story [2]: it’s named after the Shalimar Gardens near Lahore, a symbol of the love between the emperor Shãh Jahãn and the favourite member of his harem, Mumtaz Mahal. When she died of childbirth, the emperor built the Taj Mahal in her memory.

[1] I think it’s the eau de toilette, because the eau de parfum is almost golden in colour, while this one looks definitely lighter in the bottle.

[2] You can read a thorough history of Shalimar on Monsieur Guerlain’s website.

Id source.

Karami-ai (1962)


karamiai_bornunicornSenzô Kawahara (Sô Yamamura) is a rich businessman who has been diagnosed with cancer. His wife rejects his sexual advances, so he starts an affair with his secretary, Yasuko Miyagawa (Keiko Kishi). She doesn’t like him, but he pays her (“10 brand-new 10,000-yen bills” on their first encounter), so she quickly gets used to it. The first purchase she wants to make is the most expensive perfume by Guerlain.

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guerlainvoldenuitLater in the film, we get to see what she bought: the inimitable flacon rayonnant of Vol de Nuit! The director Masaki Koyabashi shows the perfume bottle with a perfect shot.

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karamiai_theinheritance_bornunicorn (3)Senzô sniffs the perfume and declares it’s “not bad.” He could have shown more enthusiasm for the Jacques Guerlain creation, a homage to the second novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, but I guess the “not bad”, coming from a ruthless businessman, can be considered a compliment, after all.

karami-ai_bornunicornAt the end of the scene, the bottle is on the floor, next to a bottle of Courvoisier cognac.

Leni Riefenstahl (1988)

The German-born photographer took this picture in 1988 for Vanity Fair. Leni Riefenstahl was a German photographer and film director who had a strategic role during Nazism: she directed Triumph des Willens and Olympia in the 1930s, extremely effective and innovative propaganda films. Said to be part of Hitler’s inner circle, she was never charged nor associated with war crimes.

In this portrait, taken when she was 86 years old, she was holding a beautiful metal compact by Guerlain.

guerlainmetalcompactvintage_bornunicornIt’s a vintage piece, probably a limited edition from the 1970s. It’s made of metal and has the trademark double Gs decorating the front. It’s quite thick and rounded, in comparison to today’s compacts, which tend to be very thin.

Mr Selfridge S02E02

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guerlain_mitsouko_bornunicornKitty Hawkins (Amy Beth Hayes) is mad at Frank Edwards (Samuel West): he tries to make up with her and visits the make-up counter at Selfridges. He asks for advice: he wants to give something special to someone special (her ;)). She plays along: she suggests “a new perfume” by Guerlain, which happens to be Mitsouko in the traditional flacon bouchon coeur. This is a historically accurate choice, because the perfume was created in 1919, around the time in which the tv show is set.

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penhaligons_lilyofthevalleysoap_bornunicornOther products she suggests are Yardley facial cream (in the dark green glass pot originally used for English Lavender brilliantine) and a Penhaligon’s soap.

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Lady Primrose Royal Extract Body Cream_bornunicornLast but not least, she mentions Lady Primrose hand lotion: the beautiful fluted glass jar shown is actually used for the Royal Extract body cream.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

gentlemenpreferblondes_bornunicornWhen Dorothy and Lorelei get to Paris, they immediately go out shopping. One of the shops they hit is Guerlain. The screencap above shows the most famous fragrances of the French brand.

vintage-guerlain-shalimar-eau-de-cologne-splash-1-7-oz-new-rope-sealed-7cc19a1fb031c4c8f019950e9bc5749a (1)

guerlainmitsoukocologne_bornunicornThere are three flacons montres of Shalimar eau de cologne and two of Mitsouko eau de cologne.


guerlainparquetbox_bornunicornThere are five bouchon coeur bottles and two parquet boxes.

shalimarvintagead_bornunicornThere are also two chauve souris bottles of Shalimar.

voldenuit_guerlain_bornunicornLast but not least, two flacons rayonnants of Vol de Nuit and three zebra-printed boxes.

Id source.

Mr Selfridge S01E03

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guerlain_mitsoukospray_bornunicornThere’s a bottle of Guerlain Mitsouko on Ellen Love’s dressing table – a contemporary bottle which was given the vintage touch of an atomizer pump. Choosing this perfume may not be historically accurate – it was created in 1919, ten years after the time in which this episode takes place – but it totally suits Ellen’s vampy and flamboyant style.


vlcsnap-2015-05-03-01h50m19s122When Mr Selfridge asks his mistress to be the testimonial for the first Selfridges perfume, her mind immediately goes to one of her personal heroines – Emma Calvé, the most famous French opera singer of the Belle Époque. Ellen certainly loves the opera singer for being talented and successful, but is also fascinated by her lifestyle, which includes using Guerlain perfumes. Who knows? Maybe Ellen wears a Guerlain perfume herself to emulate her idol.

La caduta degli dei (1969)


guerlain_mitsouko_bornunicornThere’s a Guerlain perfume bottle on the dressing table of Olga (Florinda Bolkan), Martin Von Essenbeck’s mistress. It’s the flacon bouchon coeur with the classic heart-shaped stopper. Designed by Raymond Guerlain and Baccarat, it was launched in 1912 and originally contained extraits of Mitsouko, Fol Arome and L’Heure Bleue.

The film is set in Germany during the Third Reich (1933-1945), so a bottle of the three perfumes above would be historically accurate: Mitsouko was launched in 1919, Fol Arome and L’Heure Bleue in 1912. I can see Olga wearing Mitsouko, though, because it perfectly fits her vampy attitude and her dreams (fulfilled at last) to replace Martin’s mother in his life. The Guerlain perfume on her dressing table symbolizes the rich and powerful life she longs to live, refinement and luxury; it’s not a coincidence that Sophie Von Essenbeck exclusively uses Guerlain perfumes.

Mr Selfridge S02E01

mrselfridge_lheurebleue_bornunicorn (1)Kitty Hawkins (Amy Beth Hayes) and the girls at the cosmetics counter are ready to welcome Delphine Day (Polly Walker), a businesswoman and nightclub owner who’s the talk of the town: sexy and independent, she’s presenting her novel at Selfridges. Lots of Guerlain flacons bouchon coeur can be seen, including a giant factice bottle.

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mrselfridge_lheurebleue_bornunicorn (3)When Delphine stops by the counter, Kitty asks her if she wants to try a “new scent,” which happens to be Guerlain L’Heure Bleue.

guerlain_vintagelheurebleue_bornunicornThis is historically accurate: the Jacques Guerlain creation was launched in 1912, two years before 1914, year in which this episode is set.

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mrselfridge_lheurebleue_bornunicorn (5)Delphine can’t help but loving it!

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mrselfridge_lheurebleue_bornunicorn (7)Kitty, who’s a skilled sales assistant, explains the composition of the perfume, a “floral bouquet” with notes of “bergamot, aniseed and a velvety base of vanilla and tonka bean.”