A Night Out in a Bottle: Looking Back at the Fragrance That Defined Studio 54

As Murphy recently highlighted in a virtual scent tour of the exhibition, there was a dazzling synergy between the popular scents of the late ’70s and the Studio 54 regulars that became their celebrity faces. There was the late actress and model Margaux Hemingway, who was the face of Fabergé’s Babe fragrance, which became its highest-selling women’s fragrance worldwide, as well as the fashion designers who congregated at Studio 54 and released eponymous fragrances during that era: Halston, Diane von Furstenberg, Stephen Burrows, and Calvin Klein among others. “Tastes in fragrance shift over time, but an evening at Studio 54 seemed to call for something that would make a bold statement,” says Murphy.

On that note, both in impact and ubiquity, there was no scent more synonymous with Studio 54 than YSL’s iconic, best-selling Opium perfume. The spicy, sensual blend of jasmine, vanilla & myrrh was worn by many of the club’s party-goers who relished its sexiness and unapologetic decadence. “I travelled with my toothbrush and Opium 1978,” says makeup artist and Studio 54 fixture Sandy Linter of toting her signature scent around while she was living the decade’s work-hard-play-hard lifestyle. “The 1970s were an era of heady white floral perfumes, and since flowers like jasmine and tuberose can smell elegant and a little dirty at the same time, those were a good fit for disco nights,” adds Murphy.

Yves Saint Laurent Opium Eau de Parfum Spray

From its very introduction, YSL’s Opium has been steeped in lore. “The celebration for Opium’s American launch was more extravagant than any fragrance-related event that had come before,” explains Murphy of the infamous party, which began with a gathering at South Street Seaport, on a tall ship decorated to the nines, continued with a viewing of fireworks over the East River, and ended with a late-night party at (where else but?) Studio 54. “The guests weren’t just beauty and fashion industry types—Diana Vreeland was there, but so were Cher, Grace Jones, and Truman Capote,” she adds. The way Murphy sees it, the evening encompassed the spirit of Studio 54 as a whole. “It was over-the-top, boundary-breaking, headline-making, a potent mix of celebrity and fashion and nightlife,” says Murphy.

Cher and Yves Saint Laurent at the YSL Opium perfume launch party.Photo: Getty Images

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