Finding the Trompe L’Oeil in Everyday life

To call Avon perfume decanters  an art form is a completely absurd statement; the Avon cosmetics company is not regarded as a cutting edge designer by any stretch of the imagination. When the Avon company mass produced bizarre designs for many of their perfume flacons, from the mid-1960’s until the early 1990’s, they created a unique product. It is these shaped bottles that shall be considered a our reason to call Avon art.  

Several hundred differently shaped scent bottles were created by Avon, these were to be collected perhaps on a small scale or to be given as novelty gifts. Nothing about their production suggests that they could amount to a value above the sum of their parts, i.e. as a group of Avon perfume containers.  However,  to begin to consider them as something more conceptual the relationship between the Avon perfume containers and concepts of memory (particularly smell) and their transformative properties can be explored. Avon bottles act as a source to examine the a dialogue between high and low cultures, particularly within the references taking place between Avon designs and the history of perfume bottle design.    

Here comes the Avon Lady 
Envisioning Avon perfume flacons with an interest beyond their current market value or social status indeed stretches the artistic imagination, yet that is entirely the purpose of a calling Avon art. Current academic writing and research on the history of perfume, along with collectors of glass and other perfume flacons, do take into account the Avon brand.  However, in their discourse there is little focus beyond the dismissive view that Avon is an inferior product. On the surface this is entirely correct, Avon is classed as a an affordable product not available in shops but distributed through Avon representatives. Working independently these ‘Avon Ladies’ have become synonymous of the iconic Avon brand, selling from their homes, going from door-to-door or in recent times selling via the internet. The study of the Avon company can be seen as a revolutionary example of 20th Century marketing, promoting a different retail model.

The Avon company began trading in 1886 and was initially known as the California Perfume Company, an illusionary title as in fact the company was based in New York at the time.  This name was changed in 1939 by the owner and founder of the company David H.McConnell, after a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon in England where he thought the scenery there reminiscent of his home in New York state.  

The Development of the Avon bottle