There’s a timeless truth contained within the corseted, torso-shaped bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique fragrance: what’s inside may have its own unique merits, but it’s the packaging that makes it desirable.
It’s a message that lies at the heart of women’s fashion — and perhaps all brand marketing — and don’t think Gaultier doesn’t know it.
Millions recognize the iconic Classique flacon, but considerably fewer are familiar with the scent it contains (it changes, and it can be customized, but there’s typically a light, floral base). Heaven knows how many Classique bottles are sitting on women’s dressing tables around the world, their unique pop-tops unopened, treasured as objets d’art by anyone with a reverence for the human form?
Since its debut as “EDP” in 1993, Gaultier has been dressing up that iconic bottle in all sorts of outfits, many copied from his couture womenswear and lingerie creations (and thus feeding the collectibles market that has grown up around it).
This summer, to mark the brand’s 20th anniversary, Gaultier released a series of commemorative images of Classique bottles over the years, along with an anniversary edition called ‘Beauty in a Corset‘ (below) that is based on the designer’s SS 2012 fashion collection. There’s also a new edition of his men’s fragrance called ‘Le Beau Male‘, featuring Gaultier’s signature Breton sailor stripes.
The Classique line started as a clever brand-development idea and quickly became a cash cow for Gaultier’s Parisian couture house, funding his fanciful design whims and carrying his name into the homes of thousands of women who otherwise couldn’t afford anything with JPG stamped on it.
It’s difficult to know exactly how many editions have reached the market over the past 20 years, since Gaultier collaborated with many star perfumers and produced several diffusion lines: Le Male, a men’s cologne that debuted in 1995; Eau d’Eté, an alcohol-free scent in 1997; and the X series that began in 2010. There have also been some memorable special editions, including the Fragile scent in a snowglobe bottle for Hermes in 1999, the MaDame set inspired by model Agnes Deyn in 2008, and 2011’s Kokorico with its supposedly aphrodisiacal effect.
Below we’ve got a gallery of past Classique releases (we’ll try to add product names and release dates shortly, so check back!).
It’s commonly believed that Gaultier’s Classique bottle was inspired by Madonna, with whom he created some of his most familiar corset-based runway fashions. But that’s only partly true. Gaultier says the bottle shape is meant to represent a tailor’s dummy, but he also admits it’s an homage to a similar perfume bottle: the 1936 Shocking scent from Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli (below), who said at the time that the shape was based on Mae West and influenced by Salvador Dali.
Classique may have started out as a marketing brainstorm, but it came to represent so much more for Gaultier. Like a child playing dress-up with his dolls, it gave him a template on which to create lasting tributes to his idols and sources of inspiration — the Madonna editions are obvious, and the 2013 edition was partly inspired by Amy Winehouse — and also to show off how his fashions yield to a women’s curves (imagine if you could take home a model from every couture designer to see how their pieces are supposed to look!)
At its heart, though, Gaultier’s bottle design is a crystal-clear symbol of what his design aesthetic is all about: a rapturous adoration of the human form, both male and female. (His most strikingly erotic edition, not surprisingly, was the chiseled male torso in the alabaster white Fleur du Male edition from 2007.)
It’s a ridiculous understatement to say that Gaultier loves the human body, and with his Classique flacon he offers the world an idealized version to be admired, envied, coveted and vicariously owned. Now that‘s good marketing.
But the real secret to this lingerie-clad perfume bottle’s success after 20 years? Unlike the rest of us mortals, it hasn’t aged a bit.