With a luxury product like fragrance, presentation can be everything. In the 1950s Max Factor made a genius choice to present their hugely popular perfume range with an adorably cute promotional device.
Hundreds of thousands of the Sophisticat perfume gift packages were sold by Max Factor from the mid 1950s and into the early 1970s around the world. It was essentially a cardboard cat, in a clear plastic package, with various options of Max factor ‘purse size’ perfume vials. It may seem kitsch now, but for many women it was a cherished prize.
There were numerous editions over the years. The cat could come in black, white, pink, green, magenta, light blue, lavender and yellow. The perfumes could be Primitif, Hypnotique, Golden Woods, Aquarius, Exuberance, Jonquille, Chontrelle, or Electrique.
My own step mother (standard evil type) was given one by my father in 1974, she never even smelled the scent inside, it was quickly placed in a glass cabinet where it remained for years.
I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. He was all black, with a flocked velvet effect, green crystal eyes like shining diamonds, tiny string of pearls around his long neck, decadent yellow feather boa, and his own little glass home. I would stare at him with longing. Of course I could never touch him.
A denied child can create a lifetime of revenge shopping. That urge to make up for what you feel you missed out on, all the perfumes I never got to smell, the pretty packages I couldn’t open.
Many years later I did finally manage to get my own Sophisticat, he is guarding a bottle of Hypnotique.
Hypnotique was released in 1958. It got a sales boost when it was recommended as a tool to allure men in the smash hit best seller ‘Sex and the single girl’ written by Helen Gurley Brown in 1962. This was the guide for sixties It girls, how to find a man, catch him, and keep him (until you found the next man), while still having your own career, looking gorgeous, and feeling confident.
Brown suggested liberal use of the fragrance for dates, including stuffing cotton wool balls doused with your bewitching potion into your bra. I can only imagine some embarrassment if the date was extremely successful and they went home ‘for coffee’ and at some point the date would fumble around and the bra would ping off creating a little shower of yellow tinted fluff balls fall to the floor.
Of course Hypnotique is discontinued now, we need to hope that plenty of those lucky gifted ladies kept theirs intact, so we can now buy it at a garage sale or online.
This is a balsamic chypre with animalic undertones. There is no official list from contemporary publicity information, so here is my personal impression of the notes:
Opening notes: Aldehydes and spices.
Middle notes: Rose and sandalwood.
Base notes: Oakmoss, vetiver, musk, and civet.
My little 1970s bottle opens with strong aldehydes, and a giant personality. This has big sillage. This is very adult, very mature, I am loathe to say the dreaded words old fashioned. I give it time to settle.
This changes a lot after 30 minutes, and becomes much more sensual in the drydown. It grows mysterious and alluring, this is the perfect point that the name Hypnotique was surely derived from. Longevity is enormous, this would take you all through a long, sultry evening and onto the morning after the night before.
I will wear this when I need to hypnotize some single men!
I give this a bronze medal rating, but even if you don’t like it, save it for future generations to admire.
Price rating cannot be determined as this is discontinued.