BYOB: L de Lolita Lempicka (2006)

Anticipating the mermaid trend by nearly a decade, the French designer Lolita Lempicka presented us in 2006 with a perfume bottle that looked like something washed up on a fairy-tale seashore.

The fragrance itself, created by Maurice Roucel, was a spiced-citrus gourmand with salt-musk “solar notes.” It was a wonderful scent—it’s been discontinued, alas—but I’m sure I’m not the only person who purchased it “unsniffed” just so I could own that bottle.

Designed by Sylvie de France, L de Lolita Lempicka’s vessel was curved to fit naturally into the palm of the hand.

Its upper half was adorned with details that required you to keep rotating the bottle in order to see them all: an atomizer top that resembled a a bit of wire-wrapped sea glass…a crystal shaped like a drop of water…a shred of gilt fishing net……an embossed starfish shape…another starfish, bound into the net…a curving, diamanté letter “L.”

Viewed from above, the bottle (which was simplified and stripped of several details in later product runs—it couldn’t have been cheap or quick to assemble) would be seen as the shape of a gently lopsided heart. The glass itself was aquamarine blue.

The Buffalo Evening Times, 1925

I’ve always had a suspicion that Sylvia de France took visual inspiration from a fragrance released by designer Paul Poiret’s perfume house, Les Parfums de Rosine. Rosine’s Coeur en Folie (1924) was offered in a heart-shaped bottle nestled in a fabric frill and a heart-shaped box, like an olfactory Valentine.

(Coeur en Folie translates as “heart madness” or “crazy heart.”)

Color photographs of the few surviving Coeur en Folie bottles (designed for Poiret by Jacques de Brunhoff) show that they were molded in deep red glass, with delicate stoppers of translucent, satin-finished wings—too tiny to bear the heart aloft, maybe, but enough to make it flutter.

If someone was indeed looking back to Rosine for inspiration, they could have adopted the bottle’s overall form and added the necessary colors and details, transmuting Coeur en Folie’s suggestions of air and blood into L de Lolita Lempicka’s sea-water and sand.

We’ll never know the exact process behind the L bottle’s creation, and it’s a shame that the fragrance is no longer being sold. If you do come across some L de Lolita Lempicka in your own travels, reach for it and dive in.

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