Columns Pierre Dinand: A Living Legend

Pierre Dinand: A Living Legend

04/26/13 19:24:25

By: Serguey Borisov

Normally there are a lot of interesting lectures and round table discussions on the program of the Milano perfume fair Esxence: The Scent of Excellence. The fifth edition was no exception: events at the conference hall were scheduled from morning till night all four days. I want to talk about one of them—the lecture of legendary designer Pierre Dinand, named “Masterpieces of Perfume Bottle Design.”

A rather immodest name, it would seem, as this lecture was dedicated only to the bottles designed by Pierre Dinand. However, you should know that Pierre Dinand is a legendary person. A man who created the profession of bottle designer. For 54 years of a career at Atelier Dinand more than 1000 bottles were created for French, Italian, American, Japanese and German perfume houses as well as for exotic Brazilian, Arab, Indian and Turkish brands. Dinand himself was involved in the creation of about half of all the bottles. (Here you can find a list of bottles created by Pierre Dinand).

Pierre Dinand’s lecture was better called a presentation of the Designer himself—not for clients but for those who are interested in his work. The Maestro was thumbing through the photos of the bottles with perfume and brand names, providing some of them with historical anecdotes or technical notices about manufacturing problems overcome and unique technical solutions. For example, Azzaro pour Homme fragrance was noted as being the first fragrance to have a bottle made of colored glass—beer bottles are actually made of it.

The Eau Dynamisante Clarins bottle, made of red glass, appeared to be originally colored in the depth by the salts of heavy metals. Now it’s being varnished in red from the outside. The same problem occured with the Leonard pink bottle.

The Van Cleef & Arpels pour homme bottle turns out to be very complicated to manufacture, though it seems to be made of simple black glass. The problem is that visual control is impossible with opaque bottles; undetected splits and blobs are imperceptible. It’s known that Pierre Dinand was a pioneer in many things: metal galvanizing of plastic (Calandre Paco Rabanne), an all-aluminum bottle (Rive Gauche Yves Saint-Laurent), usage of Surlin plastic (Obsession Calvin Klein) and Nylon plastic (Opium Yves Saint-Laurent), etc.

The audience was particularly interested in anecdotes related to the designers, many of whom Pierre Dinand was acquainted with and whom he met during project discussions.

"This bottle is interesting because of the fact that for the first time glass was framed with metal. Actually, this is a plastic grid, covered with a thin layer of metal—electroplating. Why do you think? Paco Rabanne wanted this fragrance to recall sex in a car. I protested from a practical standpoint—it’s uncomfortable to have sex in a small car. Maybe we can imagine a bigger car, like a Rolls-Royce for example? Paco replied that a Rolls-Royce is ok and we have finished discussing it. But what should I take as a Rolls-Royce symbol? The door? The logo? Finally we arrived at a bottle recalling theradiator enclosure of this car—which is, by the way, reflected in the fragrance name.” So, our lovers moved from the cabin to the motor hood.

"To make a box with a design inspired by a Rolls-Royce's varnished woody panels was far more difficult than making a bottle. It was also the first time in my life—as well as the last one!—when, after confirmation of the design project, I was told, 'It seems you take little money for your project! Don’t you want to take more?'”

"It was a didactic order. Some unknown American designer addressed me with the request to create a bottle for his first scent. For remuneration he had offered to pay half of the amount by his enterprise stocks. I refused…In a year all the world knew Calvin Klein and his fragrance! His stock price increased by ten times in a year! Therefore, I arrived at an idea that I needed to understand more than just bottle design."

"The most difficult order of my entire career. Imagine: my work was judged by five Fendi sisters and Karl Lagerfeld himself! All the time they disliked something! It took me two years to complete this order. During this time I offered more than 200 different versions of bottles.”

"It was a very special order as the scent was created as wedding scent for Calvin Klein’s bride, Kelly. You know: eternal love, 'till death do us part.' I decided to use a religious motif—a cross shape. It’s a shame that they separated quickly.”

"One day I received a Telex from Marrakech: 'Please come. Yves Saint-Laurent invites you for a meeting.' I arrived. He said: 'I want to make a scent, inspired by the East.' I asked: 'What is the East for you?' 'It’s fireworks!' After a pause: 'If you do not see it press your closed eyes with your fingers and stop when you feel bad.' I tried this and saw yellow-red-violet spots floating in front of my eyes… So I determined the colors of the box. Seems everyone knows the story of Japanese inro boxes used by Samurai for keeping spices, salt, herbs and opium! My version of the fragrance name was Ichi, but I should say I’m happy that my design had helped Yves with the name, advertising and with the concept in general. I remember the Bloomingdale's chief buying up Opium across France and dispatching it by air to his shop in USA—that was a success!”

"I created this bottle and after that did not interrupt my designer career. However, for your information, there were only 600 bottles in the initial batch!”

"The underwear company wanted to create a scent as a gift for clients. It was planned as a short run but success forced them to continue with new fragrances.”

The same story happened to the L`Occitane de Provence bottle—it was planned to make 20,000 pieces—now there are about 1.5 million bottles issued and fabrication continues. Unknown for the European audience, and not one of the most original bottles, Exsultate (Natura) deserved more than 2 million consumers' favor in Brazil, thanks to the aroma. Another mass-market fragrance—Perle Noir (Avon)—was so large-scale that three manufacturing companies were involved in the process of creating 5 million bottles for Avon Brazil.

Some of the mentioned fragrances have not had worldwide popularity. Some are familiar only to older generations, and others had a marketing outlet only in one country, as, for example, Borsalino, Casbah (Avon), Ja (Jun Ashida), Nympheas (Kanebo) and Solo (Soprani).

Other bottles were never created, like Salvador Dali’s bottle: “We met with Dali, his wife Gala and their representatives, many times in New York and Spain. But all his ideas were so far from reality that it was impossible to embody them. However, I never refused to meet them—it was too interesting! I remember once at a French restaurant Dali had ordered the most expensive wine. He was brought a bottle to taste the wine. He took a drink, lifted his eyes and stood for a moment... Then he said: 'The wine is excellent, but the ceiling is painted awfully!' and asked the waiter for scissors. When he received the scissors he cut a piece of his tie and gave it back, saying: 'Paint it in this shade of red!' The ceiling was painted the next day!”

Having started his designer career with the Madame Rochas bottle in 1959, this 82-year-old Frenchman with a formal education in architecture, Pierre Dinand, still continues working. At Esxence 2013 you could see two brand new bottles created by him: these are the Pozzo di Borgo column-bottles, and the bottles for Neela Vermeire Creations and Carla Fracci. By the way, Atelier Dinand is now working separately from its creator.


Serguey Borisov

Serguey Borisov has been known in the Internet world of perfume under the nickname moon_fish for more than 10 years. Now he writes about perfumes for and, and contributes on the subject for glossy magazines.





Oh, this is awesome. Perfume bottles designs always fascinated me... And Mr. Dinand sounds like a lovely gentleman... I wish I could meet and learn something from him!


This is a very interesting article and the man certainly is a class act! I'd love to take the flacon artist Dinand out for a lunch.


I was at the lecture. Fascinating and instructive. I took the courage to ask Mr Dinan a question about the bottle of Teatro la Scala by krizia. Yes, the bottle was inspired by the real Teatro la Scala, the greatest opera house of the world, my favourite place of my home town, Milano. Mr Dinan is genial.


Great article. It's quite wonderful to read about these client relationships and influences on the design process. Surprising to me - Dinand rarely mentions any influence of the actual fragrance on a creation. I guess both the fragrance and the bottle develop at the same time so it's quite difficult. Thanks for writing.


Wow, what an excellent read! Thank you so much for this article. I adore the first illustration with the rendering of the prayer stone-shaped Obsession bottle. Best regards!


What an interesting piece! That must have been a fascinating talk. Thank you for the report, I read every word with enjoyment. :-)


Lovely piece on Monsieur Dinand- truly a legend.
And such a gentleman <3


to me azzaro pour homme was a dynamic and energetic juice in a boring bottle,now that i had come to know that its a pioneer bottle for the antique pieces to come,i respect it more than ever.
love ya Pierre,you did a great job
manzoor rahman


What a great piece on Pierre Dinand. I contacted him some years ago concerning bottles and design, and he responded quite quickly, and he was friendly and helpful. I was, and still am, grateful for his time and knowledge. Pierre Dinand is a classy man and a gentleman.

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