- Interview with Marc Rosen
I actually have my first book coming out at the end of this month. It's a coffee table book called Glamour Icons: Perfume Bottle Design, which has not only my designs, but 100 years of bottles I've chosen that I consider iconic and glamour icons. The way I handle it is that I go decade by decade, and I talk about how the definition of glamour has changed in each decade.
And how that got reflected in perfume bottles. That sounds like a wonderful topic.
What I say in the book is that glamour is in everyone's DNA. Everyone craves it on a different level, even if the definition of it changes by decade and by personality. So today, if Snooki from Jersey Shore is considered glamorous by certain people, as opposed to Elizabeth Taylor some years ago, it doesn't mean glamour is dead. It just means the definition has changed. The last chapter of the book is called, "Enduring Glamour." Will it endure because of reality TV and all the things out today that are kind of tawdry and not very elegant? Will that destroy the perception of luxury and glamour?
How long does the history of this fascination with glamour and fragrance go back?
Designer perfume really appeared on the scene in 1910. What happened was that in the late 19th century with the Industrial Revolution, the middle class started to have money and an interest in fashion, so commercial perfume began. Prior to that, there were perfumery shops that developed scents for wealthy people, but those were poured into bottles with simple white labels. Poiret designed the first designer perfume in 1910. He named it after his daughter, so it was Parfum de Rosine. Of course, then fashion designers like Worth, who was a great Victorian designer, started doing fragrances. While it was considered perhaps not elegant for women to wear makeup—only women of the evening wore makeup—perfume was something historically men and women had worn, so it was acceptable.
The bottles themselves, however, immediately became a very important draw for people to buy the perfumes. So, for instance, Lalique began designing perfume bottles around that time, as did Baccarat and others. Then Francois Coty started creating his own fragrance house. All the French houses like Guerlain and many, many others followed. Each developed beautiful bottles, and in the book, I've chosen just the most spectacular designs. I call them small pieces of glass architecture, and they really are.
Then there are the many designs I've done with the Fendi sisters, Arden, and all the major companies I've worked with over the years. There is a chapter on how you design and manufacture perfume bottles and create a logo, the cartons, and the point-of-purchase materials, the marketing for it. Then I talk about famous people I've worked with over the years beside the designers, like Lagerfeld, Joan Rivers, Christina Aguilera, and Princess Grace. I actually met my wife, who is the actress Arlene Dahl, by designing her perfume! So designing perfume bottles has figured dramatically in my life. Of course, I've been teaching, for 25 years at Pratt Institute, the only graduate course in the world on designing perfume bottles. I've been writing a column for years, and there has been a scholarship dinner at Pratt every year for years and years, the Art of Packaging Award. So the book was inevitable.
It's amazing how fascinated people are with perfume bottles. We think only women collect them. But Anthony Quinn, this big guy, Zorba the Greek, was collecting these little bottles. People for years have been collecting them.
I was on an airplane once by myself, the flight attendant chatted with me and asked, "What do you do?" I usually say, "Guess," because I figured they'll never guess. Because of the beard, they'll say, "You must be an actor or artist." Eventually, I told her what I did, and she said something which was amazing and cathartic for me: "My mother collected...