Once upon a time there was a fragrance like no other. A perfume that became the most talked-about in the world, at the time of its launch. And – though it’s less well-known now – a fragrance which continues to capture California glamour in a bottle. A cult classic. You can’t say that about many scents, but it’s true of Giorgio Beverly Hills.
Giorgio Beverly Hills was created to celebrate the 20th birthday of one of Rodeo Drive’s glitziest boutiques. The visionary Fred Hayman opened one of the most innovative stores of its time in 1961, on the most luxe of LA shopping boulevards, at the corner of Dayton Way and Rodeo. It was one of the first ‘concept stores’ on the West Coast, which will forever leave its mark in the history of luxury. Step inside, from the blazing Californian sunshine, and you could swoon over some of the biggest designer names of the day. And it was somewhere a man didn’t mind accompanying the shopper in his life – because while she was trying on outfit after chic outfit in the changing booths, he could relax in the billiard room, the reading room, sit in front of the fireplace or at the oak bar, and have a drink or two.
The store paid extraordinary attention to detail. Your fashion swag could be delivered to you next day in a Rolls Royce. And the very best Giorgio Beverly Hills customers were offered pieces of Waterford crystal, as a thank-you. Now, that’s service…
Fred Hayman himself was born in 1925 in Switzerland, and moved to New York in the middle of the century. His first brush with the Hollywood glitterati was organising glamorous parties at the Hilton Hotel. Those movie stars loved Fred, and flocked to his store – with its so-recognisable yellow and white striped awnings (later echoed in the packaging of his fragrance).
New York, famously, had Fifth Avenue: one of the most celebrated shopping streets in the world. But Beverly Hills now had Rodeo Drive, with Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra beating a path to its door. (Today, you’ll find the LA flagship stores for Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Gucci on Rodeo Drive, but it was Giorgio Beverly Hills which put it on the map. And Fred Hayman is acknowledged as the ‘father’ of this opulent street.)
To celebrate that two decade landmark, Fred and his wife Gale decided to create a fragrance which captured Hollywood’s spirit of dolce vita: the sunshine, the power, the glamour, the limousines. It had to be seductive. It had to be bold. They teamed up with a fragrance house which had already created for YSL, Estée Lauder and Lancôme, to work on the ‘juice’ – which was developed in Grasse by Florasynth-Lautier.
This opulent floral was the work of three noses: Harry Cutler, ML Quince and Francis Camail. Over 100 samples were rejected before Gale Hayman unstoppered the ultimate vial of Giorgio Beverly Hills – and we even know the date: 27th February 1981. At last, Fred and Gale had found the perfect sunny, exuberant olfactory identity for this mecca for well-heeled Californians.
For the Giorgio Beverly Hills bottle, Fred wanted elegant curves – so the shape was inspired by a Tiffany vase. And those distinctive yellow stripes echo the colours of the store’s awnings. What we’d never noticed, till we explored the fragrance in more depth for this article, were the rearing horses on the cap, making up Giorgio’s crest, ‘reflecting the class and passion of the jet-set,’ we’re told.
Customers loved it. The fragrance captured the spirit of the times: elegant, powerful, bold. Its fame instantly spread way beyond the boundaries of Hollywood: in US department stores, Giorgio Beverly Hills was diffused into the air conditioning units – and women loved it. Many others discovered the perfume through the very first ‘scent strip’ to appear in a magazine: they peeled back the page, to discover this swirl of warm white flowers – and cash registers went into overdrive.
But what does it smell like? The Perfume Society‘s Co-Founders have included Giorgio Beverly Hills as one of the ‘100 Fragrances to Try Before You Die’ in their upcoming book, The Perfume Bible – because you really should. At first, there’s a gust of orange blossom and bergamot, adding freshness to the fruity top notes, while the white flowers sashay in like a starlet on the Oscars red carpet: seductive ylang ylang, jasmine, gardenia and tuberose, in the most generous of quantities. The flowers linger and linger, underpinned by a purring base of patchouli, sandalwood and vanilla. And yes, Giorgio Beverly Hills makes its presence felt: this is a perfume which became famous, too, for being banned in certain restaurants in Beverly Hills because of its sheer power.
Giorgio Beverly Hills is audacious, yes. But seductive and joyful, too. It is, we’re told, ‘for women who want to stand out by releasing a recognisable and distinguished halo of glamour in their wake.’ And if a fragrance has more perfectly captured Californian sunshine – and that glitzy lifestyle – in a bottle, we’ve yet to smell it.
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