Compared to the previous decades, the 80s were characterized by political conservatism due to the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US.
Technology was starting the quick process that would have soon led to the spread of the internet. It was, in fact, in this decade that Microsoft released Word and that new technologies such as mixtapes, walkman, and video games ranging from Super Mario to PackMan, and Tetris came out.
The eighties were also extremely important from a political perspective as they ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall which led to the reunification of Germany and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
But the decade was also a time of excess and consumerism. In this period, the perfume industry doubled in size, launching 281 new fragrances for women and 181 for men. Scents in the 80s were strong and bald both with their aromas and names. It was in this period that perfume houses launched provocative perfumes such as Opium, Obsession, and Poison while advertisement campaigns often caused scandals that made these fragrances even more popular.
But what perfumes characterized this decade? Keep reading to find out the most popular scents of the 80s!
Top Perfumes From The 80’s
Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills
If there is a single scent that truly represents the 80s, it must be Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills. This was a white floral fragrance and was pretty affordable at the time. Created by perfumer Bob Alaino, Giorgio came out in the early 80s.
This product was launched with great fanfare, something quite unusual for small independent boutiques. Giorgio immediately had a humongous success and was one of the first scents to be marketed via scent strips. This truly helped the advertisement campaign as it enabled sales by direct email.
Giorgio was so popular that in 1987 it was sold to Avon for a total of $165 million!
Antaeus by Coco Chanel
Launched in 1981, Antaeus is a woody chypre fragrance for men. This perfume was created by Jacques Polge and its name was inspired by the demigod Antaeus, a mythological figure from the Greek and Berber populations. According to legends, Antaeus lived in the desert of Libya and challenged every passenger to wrestling matches. He was known for his invincibility which was granted to him for as long as he remained in contact with his mother, the earth.
Antaeus was supposed to represent masculinity through his independence and strong character.
Magie Noire by Lancome
Literally ‘black magic’ in French, Magie Noire by Lancome was launched in the late 70s and was extremely popular throughout the 80s. This perfume was created by Gerard Groupy and was characterized by woody, green, and amber aromas.
Magie Noire was particularly renowned for its provocative bottle almost suggestive of Satanic rituals. This perfume is still sold to this day.
White Musk by Body Shop
Advertised as the first-ever cruelty-free musk, White Musk by Body Shop was definitely ahead of its time! Launched in 1981, this perfume is a great example of how people started to pay attention to animal rights in this decade.
Unfortunately, the perfume industry has been associated for years with several acts that today would be, no doubt, labeled as animal cruelty. For instance, in the late 70s, animal-derived musk became illegal following the near extinction of musk deer.
The Body Shop seized this opportunity and opened a little boho shop in Brighton selling sustainable products. White Musk was extremely affordable for the time and it is still sold to this day.
Opium by Yves Saint Laurant
Even though Opium was first launched in 1977, it is today remembered as one of the iconic perfumes of the 80s.
Not many people know that this scent initially caused tons of problems for Yves Saint Laurant, who was accused of condoning drug use. It even led to a creation of a group of mainly Chinese Americans demanding the designer’s apologies and the renaming of the product. However, as often happens in these cases, the protests only helped the perfume get more visibility.
Opium was launched with huge fanfare. For the occasion, Yves Saint Laurant rented a ship and decorated it with gold, red, and purple banners, white cattleya orchids, and a humongous Buddha statue. The famous writer Truman Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany, also took part in the inauguration and sat on the helm of the ship.
Paloma Picasso by Paloma Picasso
Developed by Picasso’s daughter, Paloma Picasso was an attempt to create a fragrant self-portrait. Considering its popularity throughout the 80s, we can confidently say that the attempt was successful!
Paloma got her interest in the world of scents and aromas from her grandfather, who worked as a perfumer. In fact, when she was a child, she spent lots of her time combining scents and creating perfumes. Paloma also inherited her artistic talent from her father and worked as a jewelry designer for Yves Saint Laurents and Tiffany & Co.
Paloma Picasso is a chypre floral fragrance for women and was launched in 1984.
Claiborne for Women by Liz Claiborne
Launched in 1986, Claiborne for Women by Liz Claiborne can be easily recognized by its iconic bottle. Shaped as a triangle, the design seems to be inspired by a Mondrian painting with its linear shapes and primary colors. This floral fragrance was created by Nicholas Calderone but was unfortunately discontinued.
Liz Claiborne was extremely successful and, in 1986, her company became the first woman-founded brand to make the Fortune 500 list.
Coco by Coco Chanel
After the huge success of perfumes such as Coco No 5, Coco No 22, and Coco No 19, it was time for a change. In 1984, Coco Chanel released one of its most successful fragrances of all time, Coco.
This scent was supposed to express Mademoiselle’s art of paradox. The revolutionary woman who sparked a minimalist revolt on the one hand, and the admirer of the excess of the Baroque aesthetic on the other.
Coco is a nostalgic fragrance that wants to inspire all women to fully embrace themselves with all their inner contradictions. Created by Jacques Polge, this scent has amber, spicy, and sweet notes.
Oscar by Oscar de la Renta
Launched in 1977, Oscar by Oscar de la Renta soon became one of the most popular perfumes in the 80s. This was the first fragrance by the famous brand Oscar and was awarded the FiFi Award in 1978.
Oscar de la Renta was a famous fashion designer who gave lots of importance to perfumes. Not by chance, in an interview with Elle magazine, he declared, “Fragrance is an integral part of yourself. There is no better way, or a more intimate way, of telling people who you are, than with a fragrance. If one identifies with a fragrance, one should wear it all the time.”
Oscar is a floral aromatic scent with soft woody accents.
Paris by Yves Saint Laurent
Paris by Yves Saint Laurent was created as a tribute to the designer’s favorite city. Launched in 1983, Yves Saint Laurent wanted to pay homage to the French and their elegance, irony, and charm. He, therefore, created a floral fragrance with powdery tones.
The advertisement of Paris featured an attractive woman wearing a pink tailleur and driving a car toward Paris.
Beautiful by Estée Lauder
Still on the market to this day, Beautiful by Estée Lauder is a flower explosion!
Among its ingredients, there is almost every flower ever known to man. This is why it was and still is to this day, widely known as the bride’s ideal perfume, as it can be easily matched with all sorts of bouquets.
Beautiful was first launched in 1985 and was created by three perfumers, Bernard Chant, Max Gavarry, and Sophia Grojsman.
Knowing by Estée Lauder
Another popular perfume by Estée Lauder was Knowing. According to the story, Estée Lauder was inspired by a floral scent that wafted through a garden located right below her balcony, during one of her trips to the south of France. She, therefore, went downstairs and started to look for the source. This turned out to be a pittosporum flower which became the main inspiration for Knowing.
This perfume was put on the market at the end of the 80s and was created by Elie Roger.
Moschino by Moschino
Known for its jeans and casual wear, Moschino was an extremely popular fashion brand even before it started to produce perfumes. Its first scent, simply called Moschino, came out in 1987. This was an amber fragrance for women which was sold in a distinct container, resembling a tiny bottle of Italian wine.
Moschino wanted to make it super evident that this was an Italian fragrance and added a green, red, and white ribbon to its product. In 1990, a man’s version of Moschino was also launched.
Obsession by Calvin Klein
Obsession was the first perfume by Calvin Klein to reach world fame. Released in 1985, this scent made Calvin Klein not only famous for his clothesline but for his fragrances as well. According to data, an impressive $13 million were spent to promote this product.
Talking about his creation, the famous fashion designer declared: “I wanted something direct, sensuous, provocative, which represents the way I feel about women.”
Obsession was so popular that the following year, Calvin Klein released an extra two fragrances inspired by this product, Obsession Night and Obsession for Men.
Lulu by Cacharel
Released in the late 80s, Lulu by Cacharel soon became one of the most popular perfumes of the decade. Its scent is centered around the tiare flower, a symbol of welcome for the Tahitian population.
Created by Jean Guichard, the same perfumer behind Obsession by Calvin Klein, Lulu was mostly recognized by its unique bottle. This had an unusual design characterized by a light blue color and featuring an intense red pointy cap.
Lulu was also quite cheap compared to other perfumes at the time, meaning that it was a good option for young girls.
Eternity by Calvin Klein
Despite being almost 50 years old, Eternity by Calvin Klein is still sold to this day! Characterized by a fresh and green scent, this product was inspired by a simple band of diamonds. Its fragrance is the perfect mix of classic and contemporary aromas. Created by Sophia Grojsman this perfume was launched in 1988.
Eternity was designed to celebrate Calvin Klein’s wedding to his assistant Kelly Rector which took place in Rome. This is why this perfume is considered a hymn of eternal values such as love, family, and peace. Despite the values promoted by Eternity, Calvin Klein and Kelly Rector ended up getting a divorce in 2006.
Poison by Dior
Poison by Dior is another of those fragrances which will immediately take you back to the 80s. Similarly to Magie Noire, its bottle was a masterpiece in itself. Designed to resemble a black magic potion, it consisted of an intense violet round glass container.
This perfume was awarded the FiFi Award in 1987 and was created by Edouard Fléchier. Poison is still popular to this day, and in 2006, Dior launched a limited edition of 15 ml purse sprays inspired by this scent. Some of the products in the collection included Poison, Pure Poison, Tendre Poison, and Hypnotic Poison.
Chantilly by Dana
Despite being first launched in 1941, Chantilly by Dana had a huge success throughout the 80s. This retro perfume was created by Marcel Billot during World War II and was advertised as a chic and exotic product.
This fragrance was named after the famous Chantilly silk lace which used to be homemade in the homonymous city in France.