Berlin perfume brand J.F. Schwarzlose has a historic pedigree. The brand was founded in 1856, and folded in 1976, but was resuscitated as a niche line in 2012. Now, it has its own museum exhibition.
In coordination with the Stadtmuseum Berlin’s lively show “Tanz auf dem Vulkan” (Dance on the Volcano), which explores how Twenties Berlin was reflected in the arts of the time, a special exhibit is dedicated to the Schwarzlose perfume IA-33 and to the Berlin perfume and cosmetics landscape of the decade. The exhibit takes up the entire third floor of the Ephraim-Palais, a reconstructed rococo building; both shows run through the end of January.
Lutz Hermann, a fragrance industry packaging designer and the cofounder and creative director of the contemporary version of J.F. Schwarzlose, curated the exhibition. The museum has also published a small book on the city’s perfume history, written together by Hermann and Elisabeth Barthel.
Designed as a scent for the modern woman, IA-33 shows some resemblance to Chanel No.5, itself launched in 1921. But the fragrance bears Berlin’s signature ingredient, linden blossom (also known as lime tree flower) instead of No.5’s dollop of jasmine. It was named for the city’s license plate numbers, and meant to evoke the modern motorized woman, always on the go. In its heyday, J.F. Schwarzlose also had wheels — the company distributed fragrances around Europe and in Asia.
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“Today, the fragrance industry is pretty boring,” Hermann said. “The perfumes of the 1920’s from Schwarzlose and others, like Chanel, are perfumes with a very strong character, and I think people who are truly interested in perfume today should be interested in them.”
Today’s J.F. Schwarzlose fragrances, created by IFF’s Véronique Nyberg, are available in 50-ml. for 125 euros, or $142 at current exchange, and sold throughout Europe (including Russia and Switzerland) and the UAE. For the duration of the exhibit, IA-33 and other select scents are on offer in the museum’s gift shop, along with Schwarzlose printed scarves created from the recent art edition packaging designed by Berlin illustrator Bendix Bauer.
The brand launched its newest scent, a modern remix of the 1921 Schwarzlose fragrance Spanisch Leder (Spanish Leather), on Oct. 15. The new eau de perfume, Fetisch, plays on Berlin’s darker side, with notes of leather, saffron, milk and vanilla, and incense. The 50-ml. bottle, the only one in the line-up with a black label, sells for 129 euros, or $146.