The French cigarette brand's associations with art.
3 March 2014
The Gitanes cigarette brand originated in France in 1910. Maurice Giot produced an art deco-style pack in 1927, the first in a long line of collaborations between the brand and renowned artists and designers.An image of a 'Gypsy dancer' first appeared on Gitanes cigarette packets in 1943, designed by Molusson. In 1947, Max Ponty refined the figure in silhouette to create an association that is still going strong - Gitanes Blonde packets feature a similar design today.
“Gitanes is a great example of a design that can be called ‘quintessential’; it’s quintessentially French, with a particular cool allure and style all of its own. The design is a statement that says one likes life unfiltered, jazz-scored and a little bit Left Bank. No wonder Bowie was a fan, and Paul Weller posed for the cover of The Face slipping a pack into his jacket pocket. Like all really powerful brands, it is a signpost for values we ascribe to it and which it in turn inspires.
Every individual element of the pack has a particular Gallic flavour. The bold slanting typography. The moody illustration of the Gypsy looks like a classic poster image, in the manner of Cassandra. The thick cigarettes and square shape of the box nod to a ‘have to be different’ Frenchness. None of these alone would make for an'iconic' pack, but in their beautiful combination they look, well, just right. It’s a very feminine design, holding a pretty masculine ‘hardcore’ product.
As a design lesson, perhaps one might say it shows that a brand can ‘own’ something as generic as colour; the particular blue, with its light and shade, can only be Gitanes. I believe Luc Besson used it as inspiration for the design of a room in one of his films. That’s testament to a design that evokes a spirit, rather than merely proclaimng a brand, which is arguably a more powerful achievement than being simply distinctive.”