Paris in your pocket

September 14th, 2012 by Beth Kleber

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

In 1988, Bic launched a fragrance line, hoping, somehow, to bring the convenience of their pens, lighters, and razors to the world of perfume. The French company touted their product as “the world’s first fine French perfume that combine[s] high quality with affordable pricing and a stylish, portable design.” Four fragrances were produced: “Jour” and “Nuit” for women, plus “Bic for Men” and “Bic Sport for Men.” The pocket-size bottles were designed to resemble Bic lighters and sold for $5 in the same drugstores and supermarkets where other Bic products were made available.

It was a classic case of overreach (despite the “Paris in your pocket” pitch of their advertising) and Bic Parfum tanked, because it turns out people don’t want to buy French perfume from the same people who make their disposable lighters and plastic pens. Production and distribution in most markets ceased in 1991, though apparently it is still produced and sold in Iran.

However, let us not find fault with the charming packaging for the US designed by Seymour Chwast. His typically bright and playful illustrations adorn several versions he developed for the brand.

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

Chwast experimented with several different approaches; the examples below are more type-centric.

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

This one gets closest to the glamor and exoticism generally favored by fragrance companies in the 80s.

Seymour Chwast Collection Series 7. Bic Parfum slide, c. 1989.

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A treasure trove of art and graphics from The Milton Glaser Design Archives. Rare, unseen printed work, original art, and drafts for design and illustration by Glaser, Heinz Edelmann, Seymour Chwast, George Tscherny, James McMullan, and others. For even more design ephemera and art from the School of Visual Arts, see also http://containerlist.glaserarchives.org.

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