Post by Greg Young
Gilvo Perfume Company
A Piece of Perfume Australiana
No. 7777 was sold in a range of sizes, including a 30 fluid ounce flacon (almost 900 mls!). My bottle looks like it is 2 fl. oz – the size is not marked anywhere.
Gilvo also sold a Cologne called Three Crown Stardust Bouquet, which appears to have preceded 7777 to market, having being on sale in 1945.
Gilvo were not only selling to women. By 1947, they were also selling an aftershave called Straight 8.
As early as 1940, Gilvo were selling perfume in major stores. This ad does not refer to the brands that were in use later in the decade, but to eau-de-cologne generically. There is no earlier mention of the company in the archives, so this may have been their first product launch.
Gilvo fragrances were stocked at both Myer’s and David Jones, and featured in their 1946 Christmas promotions.
A close-up of the DJ’s ad shows that Gilvo were keeping some pretty good company with the likes of Roger and Gallet and Bourjois and were commanding comparable prices to the imported fragrances.
The age limit stated may seem a little odd to us these days. I believe it was because there was a desire for single women aged 18–45 to work in wartime industries exclusively. So I guess the company was seeking to recruit from the ladies who were not required for those roles. Menfolk, of course, were expected to be in war service.
The company’s premises at 360 Little Bourke St was a tiny Art Deco building that is now called Melbourne House, next door to a pizzeria and nestled in the midst of a forest of outdoors shops such as Paddy Pallin. Not exactly perfume central these days!
This job ad appeared around the time that No. 7777 was launched. Notably, by then Gilvo was also describing itself as an export company, suggesting that they were possibly selling perfume into overseas markets.
The perfume business was still operating in Howard St in 1950.
By this time though, Gilvo had started to diversify into quite a different area.
Something does seem to have happened in the perfume trade, because all of the job ads in later years are for roles in Gilvo’s fabric printing business, the last of them in 1955.
This is typical of a series of job ads for printing positions from 1953 onwards, so it looks like Gilvo may have changed direction in the early ’50s, so that may be when No. 7777 was finally discontinued.
That would seem to indicate that my bottle is between 60 and 67 years old. Given that age, you can see from the photos that the bottle and box are in great condition. The packaging still has a sweet powdery smell, but the little juice that is left has turned an ugly inky-brown colour and the scent is pretty dubious, shall we say.
So, Gilvo were a small perfume company that operated in Melbourne and established a national brand that was able to compete in major retail stores with the imported big names for more than a decade. I guess they were the Tommi Sooni of their day! A little piece of Australia’s fragrance history.
Perfume Intelligence references
© Greg Young 2013