Perfume on the Radio: The Perfumer’s Cat

Miu Miu (2015)

My bio on Instagram reads, “Fragrance, fine art, felines.” While those may not be the only things I care about, they’re certainly three topics that occupy my mind continually throughout my waking hours (and some of my dreams).

I wrote a short post about cats in perfume ads a few years ago and I’m always keeping an eye out for other cat-meets-fragrance imagery, so I was delighted when Saskia Wilson-Brown invited me to mention some of my favorite such images for a new episode of Perfume on the Radio. You can hear that episode, “The Perfumer’s Cat,” here.

This might be my favorite line-up yet, because it brings together one of my favorite perfume-people, Laurie Stern; Robyn Price, an art history friend-of-a-friend who’s also part of the scent-o-sphere; and Jackson Galaxy, whose TV show “My Cat From Hell” I inevitably end up watching every time I stay in a hotel room with cable access. And more!

Anyway: here’s a visual key to perfume advertisements I’ll be discussing.

Lanvin My Sin (1924, created by perfumer Madame Zed) had already been around for three decades when Lanvin started running these mid-1950s magazine and newspaper ads featuring an illustration of a mischievous-eyed black cat and her kittens. “A most provocative perfume!” (Too bad it’s discontinued…)

In the mid-1960s, Lanvin recruited a new, live model with a shiny black coat and a hypnotic gaze. My Sin is still “most provocative,” but now it’s also recommended for its “wicked, wicked charms” in the finer print. Appropriately, this cat even has visible claws.

My Sin’s Art Deco bottle was also brought into the picture, literally, for this campaign. I like to imagine the cat’s eyes as being golden, for perfect harmony with the black-and-gold bottle.

Barbara Herman’s ERIS Parfums recently appropriated and adapted one of Lanvin’s ads for Ma Bête—“my beast” (Antoine Lie, 2016). I think the cat herself would approve, especially since many ERIS fragrances have a “vintage” mood.

Jacques Griffe brought in master illustrator René Gruau to create a mascot for Mistigri (1949), a fragrance that took its name from a card game and a slang word meaning “kitty-cat.” Gruau’s hybrid woman-cat is sly and seductive….in lipstick and a bow on her, er, tail.

And, in 2010, Katy Perry decided to don a vinyl catsuit and a mask and get on all fours to promote Purr, her newest fragrance. I personally find this approach less intriguing or memorable than the Mistigri illustration, which leaves more room for my imagination.

I hope you’ll listen to “The Perfumer’s Cat,” whether or not you’re a cat-person! If you do, let me know what you thought.


    • Me, too… is she really just a woman in a cat costume? but if so, WHY?… it’s deliberately unclear, I still think. And more than a little “bizarre,” like you said!


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