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Vintage Perfumes For Sale

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Niki de Saint Phalle c1982

"dangerous but worth the risk..."

Niki de Saint Phalle was launched in 1982 in association with Jacqueline Cochran, Inc..

For the launch party, Jacqueline Cochran had a street blocked off and live snakes when she introduced the Niki de Saint Phalle fragrance in New York. It all began with closing off East 32nd for a street fair that even included a performance by an acapella group called The Dream, finished with a party at La Coupole, hosted by Andy Warhol.

When she decided to introduce the fragrance at Bullock's Beverly Center, it was a bit more toned down, but nevertheless a swanky event. Over a gazebo in Bullock's home furnishings department, florist Tom Pearce invoked the Garden of Eden by draping greenery and orchid sprays. Inside were delectable treats, the usual pate and cheese trays but also, cookies cut into the shape of the famous Nana balloons created by Niki. Enjoying the background music of piano and strings by Ron Rubin, the guests enjoyed hors d'oeuvres by Pennington and cocktails before a lavish dinner at L'Orangerie, hosted  by Bullock's President Franklin Simon, Lyn Kleinholz and the Music Center's Michael Newton. 

Guest Carlo Bilotti, explained how the fragrance came into fruition, "I knew her (Niki's) work and I asked her if she would be interested in designing a bottle on commission. Later I realized her name was well known." From 1970 to 1987, he developed and managed Jacqueline Cochran, Inc., which marketed other top-of-the-line cosmetic and fragrances such as Nina Ricci, Carven and Pierre Cardin. In 1973, he was named president of the company. Bilotti owned several of Niki's works of art and was a fan of her Nanas sculptures. He realized that a perfume by the avant garde artist would startle, stimulate imagination, invite controversy, admiration and attract a large audience. She initially declined, she worried about compromising her reputation as a serious artist. Only when she was guaranteed total control of the product did she agree to the idea. "It had to be as good as a work of art," said Saint Phalle.

For the party, Niki wore a fanciful turban headdress with intertwined snakes of gold lame and silk, and a blue panne velvet dress as an homage to the perfume flacon. The gown and the headdress were both made by Marc Bohan of Dior and it featured appliques of the same colors on the bottle's mini snake sculpture. The ensemble was accompanied by bright red stockings and red flats. Later for the dinner, she changed into something more "comfortable".

She is devoting a large percentage of the perfume's profits to completing a large garden on land in Sicily given to her by her friends. The sculpture garden will contain 22 large Tarot cards. The garden will cost a great deal of money. ''So I decided to be my own patron,'' she explained. ''If the perfume succeeds, I can finance the garden." But when she was asked where was located, she mischievously replied, ''I'm not telling where; it's a secret.''  She had mentioned that an astrologer had once told her she would create the crowning masterpiece of her life in Italy. "The perfume industry has allowed me to become self-sufficient," says Saint Phalle, saying that the money she gets from selling the perfume bearing her name has allowed her to realize "the dream of a lifetime" in devoting herself to a sculpture that she says is revolutionary and represents a garden. Using part of her funds from the sale of her fragrance, Niki de Saint Phalle worked on the Tarot Garden for 20 years. It opened to the public in 1998. 

Fragrance Composition:

''I went out and bought a lot of perfumes,'' Miss Saint Phalle said in an interview with the New York Times. ''I mixed them together. I wanted something seductive, rather Oriental and with a strange quality about it. Something that would fit the bottle.'' "A perfume that makes you feel both seductive and optimistic is right for you, and for the busy career woman, it must be a lasting fragrance," said Saint Phalle.

Saint Phalle explains that "I wanted something that represented what I feel when I put on perfume. I wanted it to express the fantasies and eroticism which is in my life and work. Now I share it with you. The ingredients are a mixture of fantastic flowers...a bit of sun...the amusement of the serpents...the mystique of the moon and stars, and a dash of love. A bottle of perfume is a dream, a hope."

So what does it smell like? It is classified as a chypre floral fragrance for women.
  • Top notes: marigold, artemisia, mint, green notes, peach and bergamot
  • Middle notes: lily of the valley, tuberose, carnation, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cedar and rose
  • Base notes: cedar, vetiver, patchouli, leather, sandalwood, amber, musk and oakmoss



The bottle is made up of rich, cobalt blue glass, the artist's favorite as it represents joy. A first edition perfume sculpture features two entwined snakes, one gold and one covered in colorful stripes and dots.

 She said the perfume and its bottle were a "challenge" - to prove that commercial products could be of quality. And then there was the financial aspect of becoming involved with a potentially best-selling perfume. She added, "Today there are no more patrons (for artists, and if it is successful, I hope it will pave the way for people to ask artists to do more (commercial) things. "

But why snakes? Saint Phalle explains, "There were several reasons for choosing snakes. I work with themes and I had been using snakes in my sculpture because I find them very erotic. They are one of the oldest symbols in the world, treacherous, mysterious, wise. The image of serpents amusing themselves at love upon the bottle is the most sophisticated representation to date of the age-old fascination of man with the serpent- a new portrayal of our subconscious desires. That is what I am trying to convey. Also Carlo Bilotti wanted me to do something new. He was aware that many people perfume business imitate what has been done before and he approached me in the first place because he owns some works of mine and he suddenly though, why not get an artist instead of a designer to do the bottle." She says she came upon the color combination for the snakes because it seemed like a good idea and the way they are sensuously entangled, "shows that they seem to be enjoying themselves."

The idea of snakes seemed to make sense, even biblically. A New York psychiatrist Dr. John Schimel said that "This snake was the original temptor who introduced Eve to knowledge of sex and sexuality. She and Adam were introduced to forbidden pleasures, which are seductive. And aren't perfumes often called 'forbidden' this and that?"

It took her two years to perfect her final design for the flacon. Her first idea she said "I was going to do the snakes on a black base, but then I saw a beautiful old Guerlain bottle of cobalt blue and I knew that was the color I wanted."

When she submitted her bottle design to the Jacqueline Cochran company, ''They freaked out at the snakes,'' she said. ''They're a pretty conservative outfit.'' Carlo Bilotti said that "I thought snakes would turn women off, but Niki insisted on them, so we did some market research in several cities with women's focus groups, and we found that they were extremely receptive to the idea."

The company relented and her designs got approval and also veto rights on the fragrance itself. ''The snakes are the opposite of the way they are in nature where the male gets all the color,'' claimed Niki. ''The gold one is the male. The female is in glorious color, '' she added.

The Jacqueline Cochran company wanted the Niki de Saint Phalle line to be part of the prestige market to be sold only in top of the line department stores, so they priced it about 20% higher than it's L'Air du Temps line which had parfum sold in Lalique crystal flacons.

"I feel that I had the chance to offer to those who can not afford the purchase of one of my works exhibited in art galleries, to get their hands on a small sculpture of me," said Saint Phalle while she was on a promotional tour in Canada.

Performing Arts, 1982:
"Cochran is introducing a Woman's fragrance by French sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle, which will — we are told — fuse art and  smell into one medium. Saint Phalle, an artist internationally known for her "Nanas," enormous sculptures of grossly exaggerated and bulbous female forms, designed the packaging and containers to reflect the erotic atmosphere of her works of art. 
Two intertwining, three dimensional snakes stand atop a square blue glass bottle with a gold cap. The male serpent is electroplated in gold, and the female serpent is hand-painted in five colors. the motif is repeated in bas-relief on the eau de toilette containers and on a gold plated perfume purse spray. 
Serpents, says Saint Phalle, represent eroticism, wisdom, healing, and temptation. The perfume itself follows these themes, with the addition of being sultry and mysteriously oriental. Saint Phalle plans to use her proceeds from the perfume to fund a huge sculpture garden - featuring 22 giant tarot cards  - in Sicily.  
The perfume will be launched in September at Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles and I. Magnin's in San Francisco. It is an expensive fragrance: about $160 per ouncce, or $40 for the two-ounce eau de toilette spray."

Snake Parfum flacons:
  • 1/4 oz Parfum stands almost 3" tall.
  • 1/2 oz Parfum stands 3.5" tall.
  • 1 oz Parfum stands 4.5" tall.
  • Large Factice (dummy bottle) stands 14" tall.

Eau de Toilette Round Splash Bottles:
  • 5ml mini  stands 2" tall
  • 1 oz stands 3" tall
  • 2 oz stands 3-4/8" tall
  • 4 oz stands 4.5" tall

Ancillary Products:

The Eau de Parfum and French milled soap were introduced in 1983.

For the holiday season of 1983, a limited edition porcelain egg was offered which held 5 oz of her perfumed powder. An enameled blue serpent, her packaging theme, winds around the egg. This presentation was known as "La Poudre D'Or" and is quite rare to find today. This limited edition was only made in 1000 examples.

By 1984, eau de cologne and body lotion were available.

A fun gift with purchase was a limited edition bangle bracelet electroplated in 14kt gold and hand painted enamel with the artist's signature serpent motif. This was available along with a mini perfume for $45 in 1984. the bracelet was called "Dance of the Snakes."

In 1984, another limited edition was released for the holiday season, La Fantasie de Soie", a silken jacquard scarf available with a 1.6 oz Eau de Toilette. A second limited edition for the season was the "Delices de la Bain", a cobalt blue and gold lacquered two drawer jewel chest containing a bath kimono, one ounce each of body lotion, bath oil and gold flecked powder, a bar of egg shaped scent soap, and 1.3 oz Eau de Toilette. Thirdly, the limited edition porcelain Serpent powder dish from the previous season was also available.

By 1985, the line had expanded to include bath oil, talc, body lotion, body cream, and bath & shower gel.

Fate of the Fragrance:

In one week, Bloomingdales in New York sold over $20,000 worth of the fragrance. Bullock's in Los Angeles reported that pre-launch sales had exceeded the record set by two of its best selling perfumes. Marshall Field in Chicago also claimed that sales were extremely brisk. 

Even sales on the European continent were optimistic. Marketing magazine gave us a glimpse of the future: "Niki is the icing on the cake for us,' said Janice White, marketing manager for the fine fragrance division. "We've targeted conservatively for the first year, around £100,000 at retail, because the prices are so high,' she said. The brand will stay exclusively in Harrods for the first six months, then spread to to selected shops. Niki de Saint Phalle will oust Joy from its reputed position as the world's most expensive fragrance." 

American Cyanamid hadn't done well with all its fragrances. Earlier in 1987, it sold its slow-growth Jacqueline Cochran division (L'Air du Temps, La Prairie line cosmetics, Grey Flannel men's fragrance and Niki de Saint Phalle perfume) to the French company Sanofi. So if your bottle is marked under the Jacqueline Cochran brand, you can be assured it dates to before 1987. By 1991, the Niki line was owned by Parfumhaus Gottschalk GMBH (Germany).

In May 1996, French Fragrances Inc (FFI) this was a division of Alfin, Fragrances Inc., completed the acquisition of certain assets of Fragrance Marketing Group, Inc. ("FMG"), including contract rights under certain license and exclusive distribution agreements in the United States for the Ombre Rose, Lapidus, Faconnable, Balenciaga, Bogart, Chevignon and Niki de Saint Phalle fragrance brands.  In 2000, FFI acquire Elizabeth Arden (including Elizabeth Taylor and ex-Evyan scent, White Shoulders) from Unilever, and they change the company name to Elizabeth Arden inc, the next year.   

Other boxes are marked "PP Produits de Prestiges, SA" (Prestige Products, Ltd.) of  Courgevaux, Switzerland. These are import, export and wholesale distributors who are licensed to distribute the fragrance in various countries. I believe that the Prestige Products, Ltd. was used to distribute the perfume in the UK. In 1991, Pacific Concord became the sole distributor of cosmetic products under Niki De Saint Phalle to be sold in China.

I also see some boxes marked ABC (Advanced Beauty Care, Inc) of Neuchatel, Switzerland, I found that they retrademarked the Niki de Saint Phalle name in 2005, but have been selling them since the early 1990s. In 1990, the "Zodiac Collection" line was launched. This was used with the "Eau Defendue" (Forbidden Water) line and sold under the ABC brand. The Eau Defendue is simply an Eau de Toilette. It is reported to be a limited edition showing the 12 zodiac signs plus three shelter signs such as cat, bird & horse according to the Niki de Saint Phalle imaginarium. "A perfume of seduction which touches the depths of your innermost sensuality. Unabashedly feminine, it blends with all 12 signs of the zodiac."

In 2007, it seems the Niki line was still owned by both Alfin Fragrances, Inc and Major/Advance International (this is ABC Advanced Beauty Care, Inc).

1 comment:

  1. Any idea of worth of the egg? My parents had one in addition to small sculpture.


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