Monday, April 8, 2013

Kobako by Bourjois c1936

Kobako was launched by Bourjois in 1936. Kobako is a chypre floral fragrance for women. The nose behind this fragrance is Ernest Beaux. Kobako, refers to a lacquer or porcelain box containing incense, Kobako means "perfume-box" in Japanese.

In 1937, Harper's Bazaar reported that:
"So, for longer than two decades, KOBAKO perfume was the secret of only two people — its creator, and the beauty who used it. It is said that she had an almost superstitious belief in its power to stir the emotions. Today, Kobako Perfume, so subtle, so seemingly remote, yet so persuasive to the senses, is the exquisite, the thrilling gift for a charming American lady. In a bottle of Chinese design. KOBAKO BOURJOIS INSPIRED BY ANCIENT CHINA ."

Fragrance Composition:

It is classified as a modern leather chypre fragrance for women.

  • Top notes: aldehydes, citrus notes, lily, galbanum, 
  • Middle notes: rose, magnolia, jasmine, cloves, cinnamon, carnation
  • Base notes: vanilla, tonka bean, orris, civet, benzoin, frankincense, amber, oakmoss, musk and leather


The bottle for Kobako is a replica of antique Chinese snuff bottle, and was manufactured by Verreries Brosse in France. This bottle was not designed or manufactured by Lalique, as I sometimes see this erroneously attributed. The red and black Bakelite presentation case was meant to imitate aged and carved cinnabar, I believe that Eduard Fornells made the case. 

A 1936 newspaper advertisement reads:
"Kobako - Chinese for perfume container. Kobako - new and exciting perfume of Oriental allure - a modern version of the glory of 12th century China. Mysterious, fascinating and whispering to her of thrilling adventure. Matching the artistry of France with the subtle of an exotic Chinese vase. Kobako is entrancing."

Drug and Cosmetic Industry, 1936:
"With the Chinese influence strong in makeup and fashions, Bourjois is introducing a new Oriental fragrance in a typically Chinese container. Kobako," is the name of the new perfume, which we are told is translated to mean "beautiful perfume container" in Chinese. The bottle is of frosted glass, and said to be a copy of an ancient Chinese perfume bottle . It is encased in Oriental red embossed plastic box, which is a copy of a Chinese lacquered cabinet with a black base."

Arts and Decoration, 1937:
"Bourjois' newest perfume, "Kobako," in a jewel- like flacon copied from an ancient Chinese perfume bottle. Even the container is inspired by an old lacquered cabinet, also Chinese. The base is deep black and the cover is a dramatic glowing red."

A miniature version was also produced, this can be very hard to find. This bottle is rectangular in shape with curved shoulders, the bottle is molded with the floral design that matches the one on the luxury size bottle. A red screw cap tops the bottle. The mini bottle's presentation box is red cardboard and embossed with floral designs hearkening the Bakelite box's design.

photo by anicka

The purse size flacon, clear glass and molded with the floral motif. The bottle is topped off with a red plastic screw cap which ends with a tassel. The bottle has a small, round golden label. This is super rare to find.

photo by ebay seller xniide.

Fate of the Fragrance:

The last advertisement for Kobako I have found is dated 1951, so I assume the fragrance was discontinued around that time. It was discontinued for many years before being relaunched sometime in the 1980s.

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This is not your average perfume blog. In each post, I present perfumes or companies as encyclopedic entries with as much facts and photos as I can add for easy reading and researching without all the extraneous fluff or puffery.

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