Enigme Pierre Cardin: Design That Left Us

If you ask me to single out one thing, clear and obvious, that perfumery has lost since the late '90s with the beginning of the boom in niche fragrances, then I would choose bottle design. After a recent article about Versace l'Homme with its gorgeous classic bottle, I wanted to recall some vintage fragrances with recognizable iconic bottles.

Pierre Cardin Parfums poster

It didn't take long to look. Designer Pierre Cardin made a name for himself not only in fashion and fragrances. His futuristic shapes and colors still seem to be from the future today, and the bottle for the men's fragrance, Enigme, was a perfect example of a recognizable, unique design.

Enigme Pierre Cardin

The magnificent dark bottle of the Enigme Pierre Cardin design is based on the shape of the medieval Men protective mask, which is part of the protective gear used in Japanese kendo fencing. The horizontal lines of the bottle, repeating the lines of the metal rods of the mask, emphasize this similarity.

Men Kendo

In addition to the bottle, Pierre Cardin created the Enigme bar cabinet of the same shape in the Sculptures Utilitaires collection out of black lacquered birch and cherry. Let's say that both look like a dark mysterious UFO, a strange spaceship on a stand?


Enigme Cabinet Bar

Enigme Cabinet Bar, Pierre Cardin ForMe


The fragrance was born in 1992 and I had to go to the Osmotheque database to find the name of its creator. At first I was surprised to learn that he was Alberto Morillas, the creator of such fragrances as Flower Kenzo, Omnia, BLV, ck one, Acqua di Gio, Daisy Marc Jacobs, and Cologne Mugler — all of them are so modern and innovative, soft and fresh! The feeling of surprise quickly passed. Of course, such a master perfumer knows how to create absolutely any fragrance — expensive or cheap, innovative or traditional.

Enigme Pierre Cardin

I was surprised because Enigme Pierre Cardin is one of the traditional dark men's fragrances of the 1980s (if not typical), in which the fougere DNA overcomes the chypre origin throughout its development.

From the beginning, lavender and coriander dominate over citrus notes with a spicy herbal charge. The warm, mossy base is dominated by oakmoss, woody notes and tonka beans, including the superiority of geranium and spicy pungent eugenol over a floral accord in the heart. I don't find the traditional perfumey leather note in Enigme's composition — neither tar nor quinoline — just a sweetish accord of patchouli, sandalwood and labdanum, which together depict a cozy and soft woody-leathery hue in the scent base, between the spices of the heart and the moss of the base.

Enigme Pierre Cardin

The typicality of the scent was the key to its success, but later became its vice: Customers bought it more for the unusual design of the bottle (and low price) than because of its original smell. It lost in competition to the sharper fougeres, Azzaro Pour Homme and Tuscany Aramis, but the smell was not at all to blame. They were much more ubiquitous and persistent in their advertising and were able to survive under the aquatic and ozonic wave that swept the perfume world.

Now Enigme Pierre Cardin is purchased mainly for the unusual design of the bottle, and you can find rather inexpensive bottles.

Pierre Cardin described the fragrance using four principles:

Refreshing, it provides a sensation of fragrant wellbeing.
Endearing, a first perfume can become a faithful accomplice.
Bewitching, its silent and sensual language can incite desire.
Work of art, its personalized bottle makes it an excellent gift and reflects the prestige of which the French may be rightly proud.


Enigme Pierre Cardin

You can recall the story of Pierre Cardin, an innovator and futurist, and his other fragrances and designs by reading a great retrospective article by Elena Vosnaki.


Enigme Pierre Cardin

Top notes: Coriander, Lavender, Tarragon, Orange, Bergamot, and Lemon;
Middle notes: Carnation, Cinnamon, Rose, Jasmine, and Geranium;
Base notes: Oakmoss, Sandalwood, Benzoin, Patchouli, Musk, Labdanum, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Amber, and Tonka Bean.


Photo: © Fragram petros1963


Sergey Borisov

Sergey Borisov Editor, Columnist

Sergey Borisov studied Physics at Krasnoyarsk University. He's been known in the Internet perfume world under the nickname moon_fish for more than 15 years. His texts about perfumes have been published in Russian print and online publications such as GQ, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Rake, Glamour, and other magazines. He loves oud oils, as well as vintage perfumes, and notes of leather, vetiver, neroli, and orris. In 2013, Sergey joined the Fragrantica team.

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Shill Reviews

Shill Reviews

Thanks for showing this beautiful bottle. It makes me think of the sculptures in my grandparents house. They loved modern art :)
Parisian Musc


The first thing that came to my mind is Brigitte Helm as Maschinenmensch in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

But Trilobite is so much better.
Quorum Silver


Not super excited by the upcoming movie by any means, but I can't help but think of Snake Eyes...and this design is absolutely better than any of the helmets I've ever seen him wear.
Lavinia Lee Luxe

Lavinia Lee Luxe

Great article! It reminds me of a green tourmaline carved into a trilobite and I think it’s stunning. I think Cardin has made some of the most beautiful bottles ever. They are quite simple, yet sophisticated too. They appear graphic to me. Another gorgeous bottle from Pierre Cardin is Paradoxe.
Eau de Soleil Blanc


I see the fencing mask now that you've mentioned it, but my first impression of the bottle was... Daft Punk.
Versace Man Eau Fraiche


Abdomen of an insect.
Fidji Eau de Toilette


This bottle belongs to the class I call Shoulders. The only other one I can think of now is Fujiyama Mon Amour, which is different in every other way.
Yohji Yamamoto pour Femme


My imagination connects it to Darth Vader's capsule or helmet
Capelli D'Oro


and trilobites as well! :)
Light Blue Forever pour Homme


DK or DK Men Unleaded !
Proraso Red After Shave


Reminds me of the Profilo Continuo by Renato Giuseppe Bertelli


I guess Daft Punk wouldn't let them use "Random Access Memories" as a fragrance name.


It looks like the album cover of Pink Floyd's "The Division Bell"

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