Some people seem to be eternal but then one day they bid you adieu. Elizabeth Taylor passed away yesterday and if her flame seemed to flicker in the wind, looking back at her body of work only helps reinforce the feeling that some people do carry with them a measure of eternity and a timeless presence.
We're continuing to memorialize Dame Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011) through her career in fragrance-making or perhaps better said, fragrance dream-making. Her most iconic perfume, White Diamonds, was her third launch and her second feminine scent after Passion; its tag line "The fragrance dreams are made of" referred implicitly to her status as a silver screen goddess who had inspired millions of people to dream other lives than their own. But perfume was not just a money-making machine for the actress within the show-biz-cum-fragrance-industry branch of entertainment but had reportedly been a repository of her own imaginings for a long time....
An old black-and-white picture shows a young Elizabeth sitting at a vanity table covered with perfume bottles, dabbing a precious drop on her ear lobe. The actress readily confessed to never facing the day without perfume. Taylor said that she had been dreaming about creating her own perfume 25 years before she actually started designing fragrances with Parfums International owned by Cheeseborough-Ponds, resulting in the debut launch of Passion in 1987 still advertized in 2011 as "the true essence of Elizabeth Taylor," as a scent which "reflects Elizabeth's own multi-layered personality." Yesterday, we published a quote which showed that launching a second celebrity fragrance inspired by the same person was unheard-of back in 1991 as it seemed to take away from the very concept of the celebrity scent in the absolutist sense of capturing the unique essence of the person. After 1991, all inhibitions were cast aside and two years later, The House of Taylor Beauty even came up with a set of three fragrances called Fragrant Jewels comprising Diamonds & Rubies, Diamonds & Emeralds and Diamonds & Sapphires.
Tamara Steele senior vice president of global fragrance marketing at Elizabeth Arden told WWD today that,
“The juice was the most important thing for her, and she created fragrances she would love to wear and was proud to give to her friends. She was very knowledgeable about fragrance notes. She instinctively knew quality and wouldn’t compromise, and she was proven to be right all the time. She touched every element of her fragrance brand. She loved to design her fragrance bottles — she had exquisite taste and her bottles were like little jewels. She put her signature and sign-off on everything, including the holiday gift sets and the famous holiday watch gwp [gift with purchase]. She will be greatly missed. This is a sad and hard day for us.”
The fragrance campaigns Elizabeth Taylor lent her signature to were mostly built around her own image, sometimes also around the sparkling bejeweled quality of her fragrance flacons which represented her well-known passion for museum-quality jewelry, which led her to write a book entitled Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, published in 2002. In it, you learned for instance that she almost lost the irreplaceable La Peregrina pearl seen on a portrait of Mary Tudor as it was nearly swallowed up by one of her dogs. White Diamonds was also advertized with the help of masculine figures Kenny Rogers and Burt Reynolds who appeared above the tag line stating "I never forget a woman in diamonds..."
The actress offered a broad, cross-generational appeal to a potential audience of women perfume wearers. To make sure that this point was not lost on the public, Arden often offered advertising in doublets. One would depict the actress and humanitarian as the Elizabeth Taylor of her days, middle-aged and with a past, and the other would show her at the peak of her glamor as a young Hollywood icon, full of further promises.
One of my favorites is the slightly unexpected advert she did for the limited-edition Sparkling White Diamonds where she is seen bleached an outrageous platinum blond, playing a kitschy Liberace game which seems to be pandering to her gay fan base. It's so bad taste, it's good. There is something appealingly, transcendentally over-the-top about it. The counterpart to this ad was a more classical image of herself as a brunette beauty wearing a turban, an accessory which showcased her famous face particularly well.
Here is below a chronology of her perfumes with a number of ads. Elizabeth Arden promised today that they would carry on with the heritage of Elizabeth Taylor fragrances.
1987 - Passion
1989 - Passion for Men
1991 - White Diamonds
1993 - Diamonds & Rubies - Fragrant Jewels Collection
1993 - Diamonds & Emeralds - Fragrant Jewels Collection
1993 - Diamonds & Sapphires - Fragrant Jewels Collection
1996 - Black Pearls
1999 - Sparkling White Diamonds
2001 - Brilliant White Diamonds
2002 - Forever Elizabeth
2003 - Gardenia
2010 - Violet Eyes (see review)