The Most Iconic Perfumes of All Time

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare’s famous line in Romeo and Juliet often prompts debate. Are names really of no importance, and is it the true substance—the being, the soul, the unnameable—that really counts? In most cases, yes. But in the world of fashion and beauty, the packaging, more often than not, outweighs everything else. Such is the nature of the industry, which conditions us to want something because it is around us constantly, on billboards and pop-up ads and the backs of magazines.

And speaking of the beauty industry, roses, and what smells sweet—perfumes account for a great deal of the success when it comes to fashion brands. “Smelling good is big business—the perfume industry brings in a staggering £16 billion [$27 billion] a year,” reports The Daily Mail. And with that much at stake, legendary maisons like Christian Dior, Chanel and Nina Ricci go all out, spending huge amounts of money on packaging and advertising their scents.  Names like Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Portman and Catherine Deneuve are called upon to increase the notoriety of the product. Even those fashion shows that occur twice a year are utilized to promote the real cash cow—the fragrances.

But lets go back to Juliet’s poignant phrase. Do we like wearing Chanel No. 5, Guerlain’s Shalimar or Miss Dior just because of its name? Or are we drawn to them because their scent is, in fact, sweet and everlasting? We are going to have to say it’s the latter. Because no matter how often we see those ads, enticing us with beautiful imagery, the nose never lies. And if time is the true measurement of success, then no amount of corporate finagling can win over generations of consumers—it is the product itself that triumphs.