Hey there APJ good lookers!
Bauhaus celebrates its first centenary this year. Its influence is all around us in all aspects of life. Quality products with pleasing aesthetics for the everyday people. It is an ethos seemingly embraced by many of our most prominent industry leaders. Think of Ikea, the humble Nissan car, Apple’s take from Braun household item designs and the ubiquitous road sign typography. But what effect, if any, did the Gropius managed movement have on perfumery?
Bauhaus Influence on Perfumery
© CEphoto, Uwe Aranas
A quick Google search brings up perfume adverts heavily influenced by the Bauhaus movement, particularly those of the 30s. Given the close ties between art and industrial design in that same era, I have no doubt perfume bottles have been imagined and made in accordance with Bauhaus principles; anyone else get an image of Le Male or Classique bottles by Gaultier come to mind? But what about actual perfumes themselves?
As perfumery really has been considered a luxury item, probably until Estee Lauder’s desire for the ordinary woman to access a beautiful perfume, so goes the story behind Youth Dew, it is an object that does not fall under the rubric of Bauhausian concern. A case could be made for Avon to claim some interest for the ordinary woman to access affordable, good perfumery at a mass level, but we might debate the level of artistry involved in Avon perfumes. After Meyer’s take over of the Bauhaus helm in 1928, the ethos shifted to a greater concern for social needs, at lower costs to the people. Avon did indeed bring working class women a chance to make an income and gave them access to an art form previously out of their reach.
It’s my feeling that Bauhaus focused on objects humans need, as opposed to want or desire. The main names associated with the movement are largely to do architecture, interior design, furniture and, at a stretch, graphic design. Perfume really does not fit the portfolio. Let us not forget that dance and art were also explored at the school, and afterward, when the students moved away from Europe at the outset of World War II. So, it is possible that somewhere along the way, a perfumer has been shaped by wanting to produce a scent that extols the Bauhaus values and hopes for humanity. Still, I am not sure any perfume can make any assertion it is Bauhausian.
In a way, I am relieved perfume wasn’t embraced by the Bauhaus, as much as I adore everything about the movement. Things have been pared down to minimalism, clean necessity and almost homogeneity as a result of Bauhaus’ universal appeal. I don’t want that happening with perfumery. If anything, perfumery may have gone into something quite antithetical; in a world so full of the same, perfumes give us a way to differentiate and personalise ourselves in such an intimate, and public, manner. Bauhaus may have thoroughly researched and documented the best height for door knobs, chairs and the reach of a lamp, but they left L’Air Du Temps to be interpreted and chronicled by our perfumers.
What are your impressions of artistic and social movements on perfumery? Do you feel society can, in turn, be influenced by perfumery, in the same way Bauhaus has shaped generations?
If you can think of a perfume that does bring to mind Bauhaus principles, please let me know. I am all ears!
May the Bauhaus be with you.