good question...i'm curious about this too...
Maybe it's because I'm not a native English speaker, but I'm curious why perfume brands are usually referred to as 'houses'.
I understand it has something distinguished, historical in the name, but modern (designer) brands, for example, are surely merely a brand name and sometimes the company just gives other licensees (Coty, L"Oreal) the right to use that name.
Also note that the use of this word is also associated with perceived quality of a brand. I've read about the 'house of Bulgari' here on basenotes, but almost never about the 'house of Calvin Klein' while both brands are as far as I know very identical in the way they use their name to put fragrances on the market.
good question...i'm curious about this too...
Huh....I don't know...I think that I tend to do both, now that you mention it....I would call the venerable old establishments -- Chanel, Guerlain, Caron, as "houses" as well as new niche concerns like Serge Lutens, L'Artisan Perfumeur, etc.
In thinking about it, I think the big test for me is the question "Does this fragrance company have an identifiable "nose" who is essentially the Chief Artistic Officer overseeing all fragrance development? Or do we have a marketing committee that chooses the random concoction of an anonymous grunt in the back room. Surely the lines are being blurred, with market reasearch and testing seeping upward....but, for me a "brand" is a organization that creates fragrance as another line within a family of products that cohesively sell a the entire brand, and a "house" is one that develops fragrance as an artistic product that stands by itself.
But, like I said, the Nose is my test....which is why, even though both Chanel and Calvin Klein are fashion houses, (Oh, no. I just realized that "house" is used in fashion, too!) I consider Chanel to be a perfume "house" and Calvin Klein to be a perfume "brand." Does CK have a Jacques Polge? Maybe I'm just ignorant, and should zip it now.....
I looked up the definition of "house" online in the free dictionary. (link: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/House). There are 11 groupings of definitions for house as a noun. The one that makes sense in terms of frangrance is their definition 6.a:
A commercial firm
It is that simple.
Now why do certain firms embrace the term and others don't? I suspect it is in part due to how the term sounds in English. House of Calvin Klein doesn't have a good sound, whereas House of Creed (or Bulgari) does. Of course, this is subjective, but I think that is the case. If the fragrance house were simply Klein, one could get away with House of Klein in my opinion.
Ah, fashion house, I forgot about that one too. Yeah, somehow the fashion house of Calvin Klein sounds better than the perfume house of Calvin Klein....
Yes, but that's because you use the wrong query
"calvin klein fashion house" (in quotes) generates 76,800 hits.
It's derived from French usage, where maison, besides house, means firm, i.e. house of commerce, first mentioned I believe in the Dictionnaire de la langue française (1872-77). and has been used in reference to fashion and perfumes houses from early on. La maison Guerlain, La maison Chanel. Perhaps a "bourgeoisifided" use of the older aristocratic and ecclsiastical meanings, "religious associations" and, of course, noble or royal houses.
I am thinking of one of the earliest "designer" fashion establishments--Maison Worth. I think he started in the 1850s, but was certainly in vogue by the 1860s, with Queen Victoria and Empress Eugenie as customers. (By 1861, the widowed Victoria wore only weeds for the rest of her life.) In earlier times, even noble women had "modistes" and dressmakers. Worth created the concept of couture--and also had a perfume.
"...her fragrance all in my keeping; softly she comes in the night." Lyrics, Gordon Lightfoot, "Softly."
These days, IMO it also has to do with the image the company wants to project. A perfume or fashion "house" sounds more established, exclusive, regal, etc. "House of ____" or "____ Maison" sounds luxe and can be sold as such. Obviously some firms got the moniker from having actually been established for ages, while some use it to make themselves seem so. Sort of similar to why some American perfume lines take on a French identity in their marketing, I think.
In the case of Calvin Klein -- while they are technically a luxury brand -- the term "house of" doesn't seem to lend itself to the whole minimalist American sportswear thing they do. Perhaps the idea is that an American luxe brand doesn't need the royal connotations of the word "house"? I don't know.
But on the flipside, you've got fashion brands like House of Holland using the "house of" phrasing while cranking out cheeky neon t-shirts for the fashionistas... So it's not all venerable/wannabe venerable establishments.
PS: There's also a record label (well, they also do fashion but I mostly know them for music) releases select CD collections of their artists under the name Kitsune Maison. I always thought that was a clever borrowing of the appellation, and it certainly made it feel more ~exclusive~.
Last edited by Aznavour; 8th July 2009 at 10:22 PM.
If house = firm, then the Haus von Klein would be a rather small firm.
Same with publishing houses. I think they actually had home-based businesses that published books many years ago. Probably explains the publishers naming he "house" after the family name.
"Flagrantly fragrant and they can't escape me. My perfume pursued them everywhere that they went.
You don't want a loan, leave my cologne alone. It's a little too strong for you to be putting on".
- Lupe Fiasco