Monday, June 29, 2009

CIRO Perfumes: New Horizons

Today's feature comes from one of the classic yet lesser known perfume lines, Parfums Ciro; they featured unusual combinations, superior substances and memorable presentations. In their time, Ciro perfumes were considered a cut above the drugstore variety scents they competed against. Somewhat avaunt guard, what we might label 'niche' today; yet in a crowded field, their offerings were consistently well-received. In 1955, fragrances by Parfums Ciro were the focal point of Jay Thorpe's grand fashion pagent at the Palza Hotel. The show featured a trio of Jay Thorpe Originals, designer dresses inspired by and named after three of Ciro's most popular perfumes: Danger, Reflections and Surrender. The 'Ciro Blackamoor' wandered through the crowd, dressed in oriental finery, carrying perfumes on a silken pillow. The show provided a spectacular showcase for the perfumes and the promotional savvy of the man behind Parfums Ciro.

Ciro was the creation of one J.S. Wiedhopf. As a young man, Wiedhopf worked for the Alfred H. Smith Company, who were the only stateside importers of Djerkiss perfume. After he learned the business and perhaps sensing there were more lucrative opportunities, Wiedhopf struck out on his own. In 1921 he started his own business, Guy T Gibson Inc. There he began to import the exclusive Parisian brand Parfums Caron, which he sold to American customers in his New York retail shop. Soon Wiedhopf began offering perfumes under his own label, although the scents were actually being manufactured and bottled by Gamilla in France. In 1936, Wiedhopf renamed Guy T Gibson as Parfums Ciro. As the company prospered, Wiedkopf was able to reinvest in his product. He spared no expense enhancing Ciro perfumes by securing the best packaging and bottle designers of the time, notably Baccarat. The advertising images for Ciro were no exception to the overall quality that came to embody the brand.

Under Wiedhopf's creative direction Ciro continued to flourish throughout the war years and into the 1950s. During this time, Wiedhopf also worked to establish himself as an expert in the area of perfumes. He helped found the institution known as the Fragrance Foundation and in 1949 he was elected as it's first president. He also positioned himself as a key representative of the perfume industry by serving on the advisory committee of the War Production Board during World War II. Wiedhopf was also a pioneer in the area of research. He worked with chemists to develop new fragrance formats such as long lasting powder perfumes and conducted early market research to analyze consumer habits. Despite his pioneering efforts and many successes, he retired in 1955 and went to work as the president of Roure-Dupont Chemical, where he remained until 1963.

Ciro changed hands and in 1957 Ciro's new president, Donald L. Bryant, announced that the company was moving back to France. After the move overseas, there were fewer new releases and in 1961 Ciro released the last of their perfumes. The catalog of Parfums Ciro (1923 - 1961) includes: Ambre de Jadis and Doux Jasmin, Bouquet Antique, Maskee, Mirelevres, and Le Chypre du Nil, were all released in the early 1920s. L'Heure Romantique (1930) was followed by the super-successful scent Surrender, released in 1932.

Then another hit, Reflexions in 1933 followed by Camelia de Maroc in 1936. Danger, very popular at the time, a sweet but not-too-sweet oriental, and Trois Notes de Ciro were both released in 1938, New Horizons was released in 1941. After a ten year break came Acclaim in 1951, followed by One On The House in 1952. 'Esscent' was created by Ciro in the 1950s as a near-perfume strength cologne-like product, I believe it's water-based but with the strength of a good edt/edp. Described as a "new catagory of fragrance" Ciro's top sellers- Danger, New Horizons, Reflections and Surrender were all offered in the Esscent formulation. Ciro released the uber-spicy Richochet which was similar to EL's Youth Dew in 1955. Batiste and Bouffante were released in 1957, followed by Little Danger in 1958, Oh La La in 1959 and finally in 1961, Panorama and Tete a Tete.

Chevalier de la Nuit (Knight of the Night) deserves special mention because of it's stunning and highly prized presentation with a figural bottle depicting a knight in shining armor. The bottle came in various color combinations with an extravagant stopper including a feather-topped headdress.

But before you buy one of these, beware! Copies of the bottle have been forged and are being sold as originals for hundreds of dollars. I'm not sure whether you can see enough of the details from the photos on your monitors but there are a number of subtle differences between the genuine examples and the dupe.

In 1941 New Horizons was released with the tag line: "The perfume that carries you on and on..." New Horizons was a feminine release. The bottle design used iconic imagery: an eagle shaped stopper, and the sweeping, curved line of the bottle suggested a horizon.

The presentation seemed to say the woman who wears the perfume is free to explore new heights and view new horizons. I am lucky to have procured both a sealed parfum and a larger sealed bottle of the 'esscent' version of New Horizons.

I opened the parfum first and wore it several times before exploring the Esscent. When I finally tried the esscent, I recognized the fragrance immediately but it does not fully live up to the perfume version. It isn't a surprise, for those of us who've learned that very often, there are striking differences between the various formulations of most perfumes. I happen to prefer the parfum in this case but the esscent is extremely adequate, especially when atomized. New Horizons is best represented by its tag line- indeed, it carries you on and on... lifting and bolstering you as you float along an endless air-stream of flowers, flowers, and more flowers.

This bottle shows another unique bottle style of New Horizons- with the puffy, fluffy pink clouds, of a floral explosion, I think it fits the perfume better than the eagle bottle. The perfume has the soaring quality of Caron's Bellodgia... although it's not a soliflore, but rather a mixed floral with a very sweet and fresh quality. The freshness isn't represented by anything clean or marine, it's comes via a touch of pure aldehydes, just enough to clarify and amplify the composition, lifting the honeyed and deliciously polleny flowers into the air. Turkish Rose, jasmine, lily of the valley, carnation, violet and iris rush to greet the nose. There is a hint of dark green crushed leaves, but just barely, among the petals. The dancing parade of flowers circles on and on, finally ebbing into a doughy, creamy, soapy floral base- nothing heavy, just a sweet floral vapor trail that clings for a surprisingly long time. The suggestion of flight and the eagle image lead me to expect New Horizons to be more masculine, perhaps with some leather in it, similar to Caron's flight-themed En Avion. But this is a full-on, flower-power scent. If the name meant anything at all, perhaps it was to encourage the woman who would wear it, to soar high, to rise above, and to look always and only toward the new horizon, with the anticipation and promise of lush abundance to come.

New Horizons is a perfume I'll dab on and forget about, then smell later on, and wonder what on earth smells so good. If you're interested in the scent, try to find a smaller sealed parfum, like I did. It seems to keep rather well. The fascinating history behind this brand, the trailblazing practices of its founder, along with the beauty and quality of the products, makes Ciro perfumes memorable. The entire line is a treat to visit in retrospect, everything should be considered desirable. Luckily, there are still a number of Ciro perfumes available on the second hand and collector market, so if you are looking to build a good vintage collection of American fragrances especially, you can still find many excellent examples, in a range of price points. Highly Recommended.

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.


Anonymous said...

My mother was recently telling me about this perfume. IT seems that her great uncle was Guy Gibson. Every Christmas my grandmother would recieve a bottle of Knight of the Night, her favorite. Wonderful to read about the brand. I will share this post with her.
Maria Swift

Anonymous said...

OMG!!In the late 60`s, I was sent a boxed set of 6 of these scents in individual, jewel-toned boxes for each scent; dram and a half content each.Sent by a grandmother`s friend who got me into perfume for life! You have solved an almost lifelong mystery for me w/ your terrific article! THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart! hotlanta linda

melissa said...

Could you suggest where I might best sell a Doux Jasmin 1/2 dram bottle with the original little yellow box.

cletsey said...

I am not good for a fragrance descriptions but I wanted to have a perfume collections.What a very informative blog I wanted to try to make my own perfume that can easily customize the scent and make my own signature.

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