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Aesop’s new perfume pays tribute to an unsung hero of modernism

When intelligent design becomes aromatic inspiration.

Aesop’s new perfume pays tribute to an unsung hero of modernism
[Photo: Aesop]

Aesop’s design philosophy doesn’t exactly scream “look at me.” Its brown glass bottles are understated but have a weightiness that gives the user a sense of quality; its labels and ingredients pared down, functional, purposeful; a naturalist take on modernism that’s thoughtful and surprising.

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So it’s not so surprising that the Australian beauty brand would take inspiration from modernist French designer Charlotte Perriand for its newest fragrance, Rōzu, made in partnership with perfumer Barnabé Filliion. As a young pioneer of modern furniture design working with Le Corbusier, Perriand rejected excessive decoration and favored designs that put the piece’s function first. The results were modern and simplistic, with unexpected nods to natural forms. It’s a design approach that sounds remarkably similar to Aesop’s.

[Photo: Aesop]
The new unisex fragrance takes inspiration from Perriand’s time in Japan, after her initial stint at Le Corbusier. The scent strikes an unexpected balance between rosy florals and woodsy notes, inspired, according to the website, by a Japanese garden rose that was created in Perriand’s name. The “unbalanced” mix of aromas are meant to depict the lifecycle of a rose, from the earth it’s planted in, to the flower in full bloom, to the falling of its petals. The eau de parfum is $180 for a 1.7-oz. bottle.

As part of their larger design philosophy, Aesop describes their packaging as “created with utmost care to ensure they function with ease and are pleasing to our eyes.” As an industrial designer, Perriand followed a similar philosophy, and made functional pieces like swivel chairs into icons by following a doctrine centered on the “art of living”—finding harmony with your built surroundings.

[Photo: Flickr user jeanbaptisteparis]

Famously, when Perriand applied for a position with Le Corbusier in 1927, he initially dismissed the idea: “We don’t embroider cushions here.” Of course, Perriand did end up working with Le Corbusier, and along “Corbu,” as he was known, and Pierre Jeanneret, designed a series of now iconic chairs that incorporate elegant curved frames of tubular steel with rich leather.

Aesop’s aromatic tribute to intelligent, purposeful design is a bit of an unexpected inspiration, when most fragrances these days use art direction that’s out of touch. Take Dior’s ad spots, which involve Jennifer Lawrence biting into an apple poolside at a house few can afford to live in, or Natalie Portman standing in a boulevard flanked with palm trees on either side asking, “what would you do for love?” No thanks, I’ll take a spritz of Rozu behind the ears; Perriand is a force I’d like to be reminded of. (Even if I can’t have her historic LC4 chaise longue chair.)

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About the author

Lilly Smith is an associate editor of Co.Design. She was previously the editor of Design Observer, and a contributing writer to AIGA Eye on Design.

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