When I started these Tendency posts, I used the dreaded affiliate links to illustrate my point: Look! The thing I’m talking about is for sale!! But since affiliate links give me anxiety and I’d like to keep this blog as ad-free as possible, no more. I’m gonna be talking about product. But I’m not gonna make shopping easier. I hope you understand. Instead, I’m gonna talk about these trends in a more musing, exploratory manner.

Old timey apothecary aesthetics are very cool right now, I’m sure you’ve noticed. While certain brands have had a pharmacy aesthetic for years – brands like Kiehls and Aesop – the trend I’m looking at is more niche. It’s pharmacy style, but with a historical flair, a style that dips its toe into references stretching as far as ancient times. And it’s luxurious, rather than utilitarian. VERY luxurious.

The Oumere “Luxuriant” set, via @oumereskincare on instagram.

I found out about this brand through one of my all-time favourite publications, the stellar T Magazine, and I must admit I was shocked to not have heard of it before. It’s definitely got an esoteric vibe, with strange packaging that looks like lab glassware from an alchemist’s workroom. Of course, it’s super expensive, as are most fabulous things. Unlike many others on this list, Oumere has opted out of fragrance, natural and otherwise. J’approve.

An assortment of Buly products, via buly1803.com

Buly 1803
A perennial favourite in these posts, Buly has an aesthetic that looks like something from a regency drama. It’s like a store Madame Bovary would order beauty aids from, with packets of rice powder and bottles of face oil with cherubs or elegant medieval ladies painted on. It’s like a pharmacy for bourgeoisie ladies of ages past, and who doesn’t want to pretend to be that lady for a while?

Gucci Alchemist’s Garden Fragrance Collection, via gucci.com

Gucci Alchemist’s Garden
With a similar style to Buly, Gucci’s new luxury fragrance line references the occult and forgotten healing arts in its packaging and marketing. Notably, one fragrance is named “The Voice of the Snake” – the snake is a historical healer’s symbol, one of rebirth and healing. The stoppered bottles look like something you’d find in a royal apothecary’s collection. They’re perfumes fit for the sun king, I’d say.

Kindred Black Apothecary products (Aphrodite’s Arrow on left), via kindredblack.com

Kindred Black
Spherical bottles with little glass wand stoppers offer aphrodisiac concoctions, and corked little containers filled with salves – Kindred Black outright calls their skincare line “Apothecary”. Something about the design takes me back to playing RPG video games as a kid, the healing potions one would rely on in battle. My personal favourite is the little pink bottle of an aphrodisiac oil called “Aphrodite’s Arrow”. I don’t believe it for a second, but it is cute. Very cute.

In the light of recent historical influences on fashion and food, I think the interest in an antique apothecary aesthetic makes perfect sense. When dressing in 18th-century stays and gigot-sleeved jackets, or when still life photography echoes dutchgolden age paintings, it’s no wonder the aesthetic has transferred to beauty products. I do believe the interest in historical or traditional beauty preparations, along with the craze for fanciful costume history, perhaps tells us that there’s a longing for a simpler time.

In fact, the simple past for which we pine is a modern fiction – life was complicated and hard, no matter the extravagant laces and rose-water concoctions of yore. And life remains complicated and hard, but in a distinctly modern way, with late-stage capitalism and ever advancing technological developments exposing us to new horrors on a daily basis. No wonder witchcraft, silk stockings and herbal infusions are where we’re turning for comfort – they’re at once strange and familiar, quite unlike the uncanny reality in which we reside.

Header image: “And Anoint It with Fragrant Rose” by Joseph Kuhn Régnier, 1932.