NEW YORK — Pierre Dinand is back.
This story first appeared in the July 2, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The packaging designer, whose reputation loomed over the market in the late Seventies, through the Eighties and into the Nineties, has returned to work after a seven-year design sabbatical. He has gone into partnership with Tim Girvin, who has 30 years of experience in design, imaging and branding. The company is called Brand Design Masterworks and the partners work out of New York and Paris.
Dinand, who left his Paris-based firm Ateliers Dinand in 1997, said in a recent interview that he decided to return to his trade because “I had so many requests. We’d like to create something interesting and big. It’s time to do another Opium or Obsession.”
Dinand said he left his design business because of a disagreement with his partners. He took up his former passion, sculpture. Those creative juices fed others, and he started doing some bottle design for friends.
Dinand timed his return when he was asked to speak at a conference on design during the Tokyo Beauty Show in May. There is a museum on the southern island of Kyushu, which has devoted a first-floor gallery to what Dinand has created in his 45-year career.
His reference to Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium and Calvin Klein’s Obsession are just two of a cavalcade of fragrance bottles he created. By his own count, Dinand worked on 500 fragrance lines, of which 200 are still on the market. “It’s easier to tell what companies I didn’t work for,” Dinand remarked, adding with his usual low-key self-deprecating wit that “I could be a museum by myself.”
Dinand pointed out that it usually takes a year to finish work on each project and he joked, “that means I am 500 years old.”
Not quite, but he seemed surprised when asked why he’s returning to work at an age when most people are nestled into retirement. Dinand, who began his career as an architect, noted that he’s an admirer of Frank Ghery, who is still going strong at 76.
“I’m only 72,” Dinand objected, adding that he still windsurfs at his summer home in Saint Tropez.
But he admitted, “I don’t work as hard as I used to.” He estimated that he will do three or four fragrances a year. In 1984, the year of Obsession, he completed 15 projects a year.
His first project coming out of retirement was to work on Paul Smith’s new fragrance masterbrand, London. Girvin said the duo is committed to looking more deeply into a fragrance project, beyond the three dimensions of a bottle design into the positioning, the name and identity. He added, it’s an exercise in looking for “the mystery and magic in a sense of story.”
One of Dinand’s greatest admirers is Robin Burns, president and chief executive officer of Limited Beauty Corp., Victoria Secret Beauty Corp. and Aura Science. “He wasn’t just a bottle designer,” she said. “He was a celebrity in our industry and he earned his celebrity status.”
— Pete Born