Back to Nature

If there is one decade I am colour-wise allergic to it is the 70ies. Many buildings still suffer from this “style”. Orange tiles in bathrooms and kitchens, olive green or dark brown carpets. Not to forget the wooden (of course brown) ceilings that make sure a room looks like a box. Buildings that were constructed around 1910 typically have high ceilings that are embellished with stucco. Only about half of it survived the 70ies.

If I read about the 70ies it looks as if people wanted to go back to nature. I did not know that stucco is the enemy of nature and neither was I aware that only autumn (orange, dark red, brown and olive are the dominating colours in the European autumn) are natural.

Disco and Punk

Now I step off my soapbox.

The 70ies also gave room to the disco culture which stands for bright and cheerful colours such as pink, yellow, electric blue, red and also black. John Travolta’s white suit and Karen Lynn Gorney’s red dress in louche darkness should become legend. Alluring Donna Summer appeared in sparkling dresses, blue boots and big hair.

Not to forget another rebellious crowd: the punks. Granted, their outfits were mainly black – or at least dark. But think of their hair: blue, green and pink or a mixture of it all. Although a Mohawk reminds me to cockscomb going back to nature was not their mission.



Jacques Guerlain was born the grandson of the founder of the House Guerlain in 1847. Jacques’ predecessor was his uncle Aimé Guerlain who also was a renowned creator of perfumes.

One of his creations by the name of “Jicky” is still on the market. The scent was named after Aimé’s son Jacques whose nickname was Jicky.


Shalimar sounds like a story out of “1001 nights” and indeed it is not so far away. The origin of the name Shalimar seems to be unknown but the Shalimar Gardens as famous and inscribed in the World Heritage List.

They were constructed in about 1642 under the reign of Shah Jahan. Legend has it that the reason the gardens existed was a love story. The prince fell in love with Princess Mumtaz Mahal with whom he later had a large family. When she died in childbed he ordered the Taj Mahal being constructed and dedicated it to her.

See, creating a fragrance that matches such a story is quite a challenge.

However, Jacques Guerlain managed this in 1925. The perfume “Shalimar” was a best-seller and nowadays it is an evergreen.

According to Guerlain’s website these are the ingredients:

Shalimar Cologne opens with a luminous, refreshing and sparkling surge of bergamot, lemon and grapefruit.

The Calabrian cocktail then gives way to a heart of freesia, jasmine petal and rose, brought together like a bouquet of freshly-cut flowers.

The composition culminates with an addictive and enveloping base of white musk, vanilla and iris.

Do I need to repeat that it was of course created in the 1920ies when exoticism was discovered so to speak?



The 60ies were dominated by the era of John F. Kennedy. When he was elected president of the United States in 1960 hope and optimism was in the air. When he was assassinated in 1963 all hope seemed lost.

Politics and Fashion

The First Lady was renowned for her elegance. In 1962 she travelled India. The influential Life Magazine published photo reportages of her doing all that tourist stuff and still looking ravishing in pink and red robes. Inspired by this Vogue published articles about Indian textiles which of course even enhanced the glamour and Indian textiles soon became a hit. At the same time the American poet Allen Ginsberg travelled to India and fell in love with this country.

While Jackie Kennedy heavily influenced fashion Ginsberg triggered people’s interest in Buddhism. Some say that the two of them were a large inspiration for the Hippie generation to pilgrimage to India in order to find illumination. Even the Beatles went to an ashram in India.


According to Vogue’s editor in chief pink was the blue marine in India. In other words a wardrobe without pink was not complete.

In the article about the roaring 20ies we discussed the discovery of exoticism. In the 60ies it had a revival. The slogan “black is beautiful” said it all and magazines like “Life” and the “Lady’s home journal” put a black model on their cover page in 1969.

Pop Art

The movement of Pop Art already emerged in the 1950ies. In the 60ies, Andy Warhol developed a brand new technique for his art where even soup cans became iconic.

Besides Campbell soups (I guess their market value exploded with Warhol’s fame) his most famous model was Marilyn Monroe.


In the pilot article of this series I shortly introduced Pantone. During my research for this article I found more facts on this system.

The printer Lawrence Herbert was sick and tired of his client’s complaints that he did not deliver exactly the shade they ordered. One day he had THE idea. In 1963 he contacted 21 ink manufacturers and introduced his idea on the Pantone Matching System. At this time he had the 10 first colours specified. Each had a clear formula and a number. Within two weeks he had contracts with 20 of these manufacturers. The 10 shades remind us a lot to the ones Andy Warhol used for his art.

On 1964 he brought the Pantone colour specifier to the market. More colours were added to the system. Today Pantone comprises several hundreds of different shades; specified and numbered.



The Maison Houbigant is probably one of the oldest perfume manufacturers that still exist. Their company history is full of fame and legends.

Some History

In 1775 a young man by the name of Jean-François Houbigant set up a fragrance shop “à la corbeille des fleurs” (the flower basket) in the very heart of Paris. Houbigant offered what every perfumer offered at that time: selling pomades and perfumes and scenting leather gloves.

Apparently, he did very well since legend has it that Marie-Antoinette made a detour to Houbigant’s shop when she was on her way from Varennes to the guillotine. She took some phials of perfume that should give her the strength to meet her fate. Perfume seems to be agnostic to politics; some years later Napoleon Bonaparte and his first wife Josephine belonged to Houbigant’s clientele. The “royal success” did not end there, many more should follow.

In 1882 the maison Houbigant invented the first male scent that incorporated an artificial ingredient called “coumarin”. It natural substance was first found in Tonka beans that’s French name is “coumarou” or “coumarin”. Some years later, chemists could artificially produce coumarin. That’s when it ended up in the scent “Fougère Royale”.

Quelques Fleurs

In 1912 another milestone followed. “Quelques Fleurs” is the first multi-floral fragrance ever made. When I looked at the ingredients I felt that the entire botany was stuffed in just one bottle, so to speak.

According to Houbigant’s website the original recipe has never been published. But this is what it says:

It is a blend of soft, sensual flowers. Over 250 different raw materials and more than 15,000 flowers are necessary to create just one ounce of Quelques Fleurs Eau de Parfum. Still, today, the fragrance is produced in Grasse, France, where Jean Francois Houbigant first created his perfumes in 1775.

Head notes: Bergamot, Galbanum, Tarragon, Lemon

Heart Notes: Jasmine Absolute, Tuberose, Lily of the Valley, Violet Absolute, Rose Absolute, Ylang Ylang, Carnation, Broom flower Absolute, Orange Blossom, Beewax Absolute, Clove

Base Notes: Oakmoss Absolute, Sandalwood, Civet, Cedarwood, Musk, Orris, Tonka Bean.


See what I mean?

“Fougère Royal” and “Quelques Fleurs” can still be purchased today.

Just the location has changed. While Jean-François set up shop in Paris Houbigant resides now in Monaco. However, if you want to try before buying online every well-assorted perfume shop can help you with this.



It seems to me as if the fifties try to make undone all the horror but also all the progress that was made in the 20st century until before the beginning of WW2.


Home should be a place to be oneself and to be happy. There is nothing wrong with it. Men came back from war and expected things to be the way they were when they left. Women, on the other hand had to do the “a man’s work” during the war plus they managed the household and the kids.

First of all they needed equipment to get the work done faster and all the electric devices came in handy. Once their husbands were back home the old order was restored. Men earned the family income and their wives looked after them, the kids and the household. In 1950 an American TV show “Father knows best” represented the new ideal. The title says it all…

Mostly pastel colours were in use and also the darker shades were unobtrusive.


Hollywood always had a big impact on fashion and society. While women in the movies of the 20ies often were tough and strong-minded the beauties of the 50ies were the exact opposite. They were inline with the ideal of a perfect hope. Grace Kelly always the perfect lady dressed in cool colours. Or charming Audrey Hepburn who always looked innocent and wide-eyed.

I am a big fan of “Ben Hur”, “The ten commandments” or “Quo vadis”. Despite the ancient stories Hollywood’s interpretation is very 50ies.

Although I have to admit that I prefer the 20ies by far from the 50ies the reaction is understandable.

Abstract Expressionism

However, the anguish of war and the fear that was ignited by the Cold War were not completely banished.

Some say that Abstract Expressionism was a reaction to these events. Artists used different techniques for their creations. Famous Jackson Pollock for instance used knives or his bare hands instead of brushes.

Just for the records: The abstract expressionists used very dark and very vivid colours. Useless to look for pastel shades there.



The forties were divided into two halves; 5 years of war and 5 years of rebuilding.

Fun and Fantasy

Fun and fantasy are essential. Even more so in times of crises where one needs some distraction to survive. This might be one of the reasons for the success of Disney’s “Fantasia”. Disney’s picture shows us a world full of wonders, magic and brightness. The colours of this movie are bright, clear and happy. The exact opposite of the political situation that put so much of chagrin into everybody’s life.

The Hardships of War

During the war almost everything was allotted. For that reason fabric for cloths was hard to come by. But still people something to dress. While before the war clothes were heavily decorated with frills and bows they became very simple during the war. Turn old into new was the motto.

The puristic uniform of General Dwight D. Eisenhower – who should later become president of the United States – became a fashion icon, so to speak. Military purism was “the latest fashion” and the dominating colours dominated. You know, army green, grey-green and so on. The only real colours were the so called “blithe” which is a shade of blue that reminds to cyan and “paprika” a kind of orange-red.

The New Fashion

In 1945, when the war was finally over, people had enough of uniforms and purism. They needed some fresh colours and flowers. The Hawaiian shirt was born. (Unfortunately it seems to stay forever).

Luckily fashion should take off again soon and Bally shoes and in 1947 Christian Dior came up with a new collection that took the world in a storm. Although Christian Dior is known for his lavish fashion he could do without flowers. The colours were shades of blue, pink and pastel yellow.


Frank Sinatra’s songs were in complete harmony with the American Dream. After the war millions of Americans received credits for affordable homes or education. The “homy” colours were vanilla, rose, red-brown and apricot.

But the “film noir” which was far less comfortable came to the movies. This genre mostly is about war and crime. The colours match the subject. Black and white images, red lettering. The genre continued to exist until the fifties and the colours should have a revival in the 80ies.



François Coty’s huge success began with an accident. But let’s take it step by step.

François Coty was born Joseph Marie François Spoturno in Ajaccio the capital of Corsica. Not only was he born at the same place as Napoleon he also was a distant relative.

After some years in military service Coty met Antoine Chiris a wealthy business man whose family owned a perfume factory in Grasse where Coty started studying the art of perfume making.

La Rose Jacqueminot – 1904

In 1904, during his studies at the Maison Chiris Coty began to work on a scent he named “La Rose Jacqueminot”.

Single floral

“La Rose Jacqueminot” belongs to the fragrance family called single floral. Perfumes of this family are dominated by one heavy floral scent. In our case it is a dark red rose.

Bright floral

There is also a fragrance family called bright floral. These perfumes are also dominated by heavy floral scents such as rose, orchids or iris but also contain benzoin, musk, ambergris. Just one year later Coty creates such a scent by the name of “L’Origan” where he also used ingredients like peach and pepper.


François Coty was gifted in perfume creation and in marketing which is quite a rare combination. But even he needed luck. One could say that his luck came like a bombshell.

While business went rather slow he accidently dropped a bottle of “La Rose Jacqueminot” in the department store “Les Grands Magasins du Louvre”. This was not just breaking glass but Coty’s breakthrough. The entire place was filled with the scent of “La Rose Jacqueminot”. People were attracted to it like moths to the light and within a few hours Coty’s entire stock was sold out.

The Rose Jacqueminot made him a millionaire.



One could say that the 1930ies started in 1929; on October 25 who went down in history as “Black Friday”. The stock market crash in New York ended the roaring twenties and gave way to a deep depression in the US. Other countries soon followed and the global crises called “The Great Depression” should last until 1939. Well, nobody can say that times became easier since WWII started in 1939.

Luxury against misery

As it seems a lot of actions were taken to make the situation bearable. Jean Patou immediately set to work and created the scent “Joy” the most expensive perfume of the time.

The “Chrysler Building” an Art Deco “business temple” was opened in 1930 and only one year later the inauguration of the Empire State Building took place.

We know that Art Deco was a luxurious style. And so are the colours. Gold, silver, burgundy and jade-green were preferred.

Illusion and Fake

Almost on third of Americans did not have a regular income and the news were bad. No wonder the movies boomed. Pictures told inspiring stories with happy endings. The leading ladies were beautiful, wore stylish dresses and were strong enough to carry on to the happy end.
The colours had noble names: Pearl grey, pearled ivory and so on.

1939 was a special cinema year. “Gone with the wind”, “Santa Fé” and the “Wizard of Oz” came out.

Nevertheless, times were bad and high quality material scarce. But limitation triggers innovation. Bakelite – a brand for a sort of plastic – came to the market. Telephones, jewellery, radios set, billiard balls and dishes were made of this material. Cheap and shiny. The manufacturers used colours that imitated more valuable material. Onyx black, amber, emerald green, etc.

A better world

In 1939 the world exhibition in New York took place. The organisers created it to get New York out of the crises. Financially, it did not work out. But it inspired 51 Million of people. The colours? Pure hope: deep blue, true blue, bright white and sunlight.



The 1920ies broke with a lot of old habits. The idea of decency changed drastically. Some of it must have come as a shock and maybe still would today.

In 1918 WWI ends and large parts of Europe lie in ruins. So does the old order and it is impossible – and probably unneeded – to restore it again.


We already discussed the Bauhaus which was founded in 1919 and created design that was functional, beautiful and fit for mass production.

The successor of Art Nouveau was Art Deco. While Art Nouveau uses a lot of scrollwork and materials like brass or beaten gold Art Deco artists prefer geometric and abstract shapes as well as cool colours like turquoise, pale yellow, Nile green and silver instead of brass.

The new Freedom

People began to question the idea that white men should be the indisputable leaders of this world. In 1920 American women obtained the right to vote. This newly acquired freedom was also visible in fashion and habit.

Women’s hair and dresses became significantly shorter and they started consuming cigarettes and alcohol. Moreover, the modern woman used make-up which so far was reserved for actresses and prostitutes. Women who sported this look were called flappers. The most famous flapper in Europe of 1920 was the French tennis star Suzanne Lenglen.


In this decade Europe discovered the charm of exoticism and realised that people of other continents indeed had a culture of their own. Swing that derives from Jazz, an Afro-American creation, came from America to Europe. The Afro-American dancer Josephine Baker was the star of famous “Folie Bergère” in Paris. She was daring, sexy and funny. After all that grief of during war that’s probably what the Europeans needed.

In 1922 Howard Carter found the tomb of Tutankhamun. This sensation literally led to an “Egyptmania”. Even the Maison Cartier created jewellery inspired by the Pharaonic style which turned out a huge success.

We – at least I do – tend to idealise the roaring 20ies. No doubt a lot of progress was made during this decade. But for most people life was still quite difficult. After all they had to rebuild their lives.



As it seems the 1910ies were dominated by warm and earthy colours and there was room for new toys.

The Cupid of the 20iest century

Kewpie cartoons had their first appearance in 1909 in the “Ladie’s Home Journal” and took people’s heart in a storm. They dominated the entire following decade and were published by various magazines during 25 years. In 1912 a German toy company manufactured Kewpie bisque puppets. They literally sold thousands of them.

The American illustrator Rose O’Neil invented the character of Kewpie along the antique figure Cupid. Her idea was to convey the message of benevolence, optimism and love. Therefore the character was a baby with wings on its back. Personally, I do not understand how such an ugly creature could make it to the top but as it seem Rose O’Neil did the right thing at the right time.

The dominating colours were red, brown and golden shades.


Last week we discussed Fauvism. One could say the cubism is the next logical step into the 20ist century. Cubism tries to visualise movements. Most of the artists use strong and mostly warm colours.


We already discussed Paul Poiret’s knack for oriental design. For most of Europeans “One Thousand and One Night” is THE oriental dream. The “oriental stream” also kept flowing using various shades of blue and pink.

War and Peace

In 1914 the World War I started. Politicians planned that it was over by Christmas of the same year. Just another prophecy that did not come true. It should take more than four years until the peace treaties could finally be signed. It meant saying good-bye and if one was lucky coming home again. So it seems logical to me that the notion “home”, symbolised by warm and earthy shades, was so much in demand. And maybe this was also the reason for the success of the naïve kewpies. But even they were given rifles as you can see on the picture above.

War always means revolution and change of habits. The latter will be visible in the roaring twenties which we will have a look at next week.