Who will save us from the vulgarity?

We are there now… vulgarity… as common as dirt… not from the perfumes but from the art and marketing directors.  I know Sécrétions Magnifiques came out several years ago but it still stands as a beacon (no pun intended) to bad taste… shining a light for all to see.  This is one case where the cliché “move away from the light” makes alot of sense!  It’s not enough for me that the perfume smells great and nothing like the ad campaign.  I want the whole package to transport.

Perfume bloggers are accused of looking in a rear-view mirror all the time… but with ad campaigns like this one, who can blame us?

Here’s another great example… Marc Atlan.  For his first foray into perfume his marketing people have described Petite Mort as… “Inspired directly by the only bodily fluid secreted solely through desire and brain chemistry, Petite Mort (Parfum d’une Femme) embodies the elusive substance that is created by a woman when she is about to climax.  Petite Mort’s fragrance exudes an animal carnality with salty hints of sweat and urea.”

Has this ad campaign inspired anyone to purchase one of the 100 limited edition bottles priced at $1000?  When you look at Marc Atlan’s Design website, he knows what he’s doing.  He has designed some very beautiful bottles for other perfume companies.  And, he chose Bertrand Duchaufour for his first fragrance… not too shabby.  But what possessed him to approve that ad copy?

And what happened to Marc Jacobs?  I don’t know much about fashion but I always thought his clothes were understated and of  good taste.  Then we get this advertisement for his latest perfume Bang… I mean… what was he thinking?

This is perfume, folks!  It’s about beauty!  It’s not about bodily fluids.  You know… we look at some of those older advertisements and it’s easy to be cynical… but I would prefer to be cynical than to be disgusted.

I can’t end this post without a nod to beauty.  I just can’t… and Leontyne Price singing La Vergine degli Angeli by the great Verdi is as close to beauty I can think of tonight.  Enjoy!

February 14th addendum : I’m adding a couple of photos here because they are referred to in the comments.

Nude, classy Samuel de Cubber advertisement for Yves Saint Laurent M7

Not so classy advertisement for Tom Ford for Men

Leave a comment


  1. FiveoaksBouquet

     /  February 10, 2011

    Beautiful music indeed!

    It’s ironic to think that the original purpose of perfume was to mask body odours yet today some companies seek to reproduce them. Yuk! To me saying to the customer “I think you would like something vulgar and disgusting and I expect you to pay for it” is an insult. I go for the sweet-smelling, well groomed aesthetic and I respond to companies that project class.

    • Classic beauty will never be trumped. All of this is fanciful gimmickry.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • FiveoaksBouquet

         /  February 10, 2011

        Normand, may your words be prophetic! To answer the question in the title, I think the only people who can save us from vulgarity is ourselves. The market will respond to what people buy. If people don’t buy it, it will go away.

  2. Richard Townson

     /  February 11, 2011

    Bravo. Both to you and to Leontyne.

  3. I completely agree Normand! Etat Libre d’orange just seems like a bratty teenager, the way they try to shock with their names and logos. And Tom Ford! That is not even the worst ad. And now this, et tu, Duchaufour?

    • Yep… I was kind of surprised to read that Bertrand Duchaufour was involved in the Marc Atlan perfume. How many perfumes does this guy create in one year? And that Tom Ford advertisement… I had forgotten about that one! Wake up people! Hiding one’s crotch with a bottle of perfume… so, so tacky!

  4. I do so agree , yet somehow I am pretty sure someone or three will be thinking what a boring up-tight old hag she is .

  5. Yeah, the petite mort is…well, I mean, what next, petite merde? Thankfully it hasn’t permeated the perfume enthusiast’s consciousness much yet. I posted what was intended as a satire of the Petite project last week, thinking everyone would immediately apprehend the references, and it dawned on my that not everyone has heard of the project, as eminently laughable as it is.

    The Petite Mort website is truly like a Saturday Night Live commercial parody, back when they were worth watching. I lifted most of my ad copy for Petite Fart directly from their own. What I’ll give Marc Jacobs, though I generally class him with Tom Ford, is a sense of humor (self serious Ford lacks one).

    And I’m a pretty staunch defender of Etat. I continue to feel that what they do/have done is poke fun at the stuffy sensibilities of an enterprise like Petite Mort and the perfume industry in general, illuminating the hypocrisy of selling sex “tastefully”, a practice which is standard procedure for the fragrance industry. I actually think the spurting phallus is exactly the illustration the fragrance needs, matching its anarchic rigor pretty sublimely; it teases out the subtext we mostly refuse to acknowledge in fragrance advertising.

    I’ve always felt that Etat gets the joke. Marc Jacobs and Ford and many others, to me, however Puckish, are totally narcissistic, using that sex sell to promote the brand of themselves, inserting (no pun intended) their own naked images right into the salacious bullshit.

    You couldn’t find an interview with Jacobs last year which didn’t feature a nude photo spread of the guy. Ford turned a fantastically somber Isherwood book about grief and loss into an extended, uncharacteristically “tasteful” commercial. To me, that Libre phallus points a finger at their bullshitty self-important hypocrisy.

    I appreciate that in an environment where everyone wants to show his balls but has none worth looking at, where everyone pretends to be tasteful, slumming around sexually like the noble rich. As for Petite Mort, it really is the end of my already waning interest in Duchaufour and in these ridiculous “collaborations” and so called briefs which ask nothing of their collaborators but beefcake and bodily fluids.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write your comments! I’m going to add the Tom Ford photo as an addendum to the post because several comments refer to it . And yet why is it that the Samuel de Cubber ad for YSL M7 didn’t come off so trashy? It’s a great photo… nude, but not vulgar.

      I think I have a love/hate relationship with the perfume industry. The day that it becomes just one or the other… I’ll probably stop writing and collecting. But in the meantime, this industry continues to get under my skin. I’m going to review some État perfumes shortly because, aside from the silly names and images, they get great reviews and probably know what they’re doing. And… I agree with you. They know that their images are provocative and poking fun at an industry that is WAY over the top sometimes.

  6. brian

     /  February 14, 2011

    yeah, that M7 is great. Maybe m7 didn’t sell so well because he isn’t using the bottle as a toy?

  7. Oh. MY. Quel manque de classe de la part des publicistes ! Brrr

  8. Oh dear lord. I have never seen these ads before. I am pretty taken aback. Appalled really is a better term. I won’t even be sampling his fragrances anymore, I don’t want to support such absurdity. And oh my gosh, where the heck are her labia majora?! Geez…Sorry…I’m just shocked and disgusted here.

  9. Tara C

     /  June 22, 2011

    I liked the original M7 ad with YSL himself in it better, because he was nude but it didn’t show his entire «business» like the above one does. Perhaps it works because there is a perceived vulnerability and softness to it that is not present in the other photos.

    • I know that there were two ads with Samuel de Cubber. This one, which appeared in Europe, and another one which appeared in North America, where we didn’t see his genitals.. but I didn’t know that Yves Saint-Laurent posed nude for M7. Thanks for the info.

  10. Sophie

     /  March 29, 2018

    Ah! Rien de tel qu’un aria chanté d’une voix de cristal pour nous faire oublier la vulgarité de ces photos publicitaires!


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