The story of the legendary Opium fragrance began in 1977 when the scent was created on the initiative of Yves Saint Laurent, the designer named "King of Fashion" by Time magazine that same year. This now iconic fragrance was, however, banned on its release in Australia and the Middle East due to its name, evoking a drug. In reality, Yves Saint Laurent chose "Opium" to symbolize an addiction to life and love, translating the passion that can unite two people right from their first spellbinding look.
The fragrance went on to be a huge success worldwide, notably in France, where sales were reportedly 15 times greater than expected.
Audacity in a bottle
As well as shaking up the codes of ready-to-wear and couture, Yves Saint Laurent's Opium broke with perfume tradition. Rather than opening with the usual hesperidic notes, this oriental fragrance has top notes of mandarin, combined with floral middle notes of jasmine and miniature carnation, and a base comprising amber and patchouli.
The Opium woman is feisty and audacious, an attitude embodied by the various faces picked to front the legendary fragrance. Charismatic and passionate personalities including Jerry Hall, Linda Evangelista, Kate Moss and, more recently, Emily Blunt, have all fronted the perfume.
The scent's bold bottle also stands out, finished since 1977 in an opaque red lacquer with a glass window offering a glimpse of the fragrance within. The bottle, which is inspired by small Japanese lacquered cases called inrō, is accompanied by a black silk tassel with a bead, bringing a couture touch to the design.
Four golden decades
To celebrate the scent's 40th anniversary, the label has invited artist and gilder Manuela Paul-Cavallier, who trained in Italy, to rework the iconic bottle. To mark the milestone, the bottle comes finished with touches of gold -- a metal dear to Yves Saint Laurent -- applied with pointed brushes using various meticulous and highly skilled techniques. Plus, the emblematic tassel is hand-made by a Moroccan female cooperative.
Just 20 hand-numbered bottles of the 40th-anniversary edition "Opium" Extrait de Parfum will be available. They go on sale from early November, priced €2,000 for 15ml.