Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Immigrating With Savoir Faire

As regular Savoir Faires are aware I am an ocean liner buff and posted several times on the interiors of the luxury transatlantic liner the S.S. France. This time it is time for the British to make an entry with the Orient Line's Oriana of 1961.Although both ships were born of the same era and respectively were the flagships of their respective companies, the Oriana were vastly different from the France. The France was primarily constructed for the luxury North Atlantic trade, while the Oriana was built for the immigrant trade down under. With this in mind the interior decoration of the British Liner differed vastly from that of the France. Similarly the France displayed the best the French could offer and was a ship of state, while the Oriana displayed the best of British design in the early sixties. However one would be forgiven for thinking that the Brits had taken a few notes from the Scandinavians when it came to the Oriana's interiors

Few ships managed to so well combine the trend setting and traditional. Oriana was the first British ocean liner with a bulbous bow, the first ocean liner with bow thrusters and a television system. She dispensed entirely with masts and booms for cargo handling in favour of cranes and sideporters. More than 1000 tons of aluminium were used in her superstructure, the weight saving permitting an entire extra deck. Yet she was true to many Orient Line hallmarks: the cowled funnel, the concentration of funnel and bridge structure amidships introduced in Orcades, the galleried after decks and the distinctive corn coloured hull. Her décor was coordinated by the renowned Brian O’Rorke, who had pioneered contemporary interiors in British tropical ocean liners with the Orion in 1935.

The Oriana entered service in 1961 for the Orient line on the down under Australian service. While not as streamlined as her eventual running mate the Canberra she was still an attractive ship. Her interiors were strikingly modern taking on an almost clinical effect with the large use of plastics, Formica, glass and natural woods mixed in for good measure. This must have come as a rude shock to the wealthy Australians returning to the mother country for an extended vacation, who were more used to the chintzy kitsch of other liners doing the same run. If the wealthy passengers were in for a shock then the majority of immigrants travelling in Tourist Class must have had a coronary attack! The interiors were probably unlike anything they had ever seen before.

The interiors were light and breezy full of light and space. Artistic decoration seemed to be added as an afterthought to these spaces as there is very little of it. The designers relied on the form and line of the furniture to create comfortable spaces that would become home for the 6 weeks of the voyage.

Even though stark and incredibly practical the interiors were a tour de force in modern design. Everything was stripped down to its bare minimum as can be seen in the picture of the ship’s Tourist Class Stern Gallery. The room has a soft industrial edge to it which makes a beautiful space that perfectly suits the passenger’s needs.

The designers were not afraid to use colour, and the colours that they used were bold and striking which suited the form of the furniture beautifully.

The ship was primarily an outdoor ship with large lidos and swimming pools to suit the warmer climates which she would be travelling in. Windows could be opened allowing fresh sea breezes in.

I would think that if you were a young child, exposed to the wonderful wooden forms in the children’s play room for 6 weeks, that you would automatically grow up to appreciate form and function.

With the Oriana good design and practicality was not a right, but available to all, whether returning squatter or new immigrant. You too while travelling on assisted passage to a new life in Australia, had some savoir faire.

The Other No. 5!

Did you know that there was another perfume named No 5 apart from the now famous and somewhat cheapened Chanel No 5? There was a common trend for the couturiers of the day to affix a numeral to their perfumes in lieu of an actual name which still continues to this day. Funny thing is both Chanel’s No 5 and Molyneux’s No 5 (or Numero Cinq as it was known as in France) were in eerily similar bottles, so there could be some credence in the story related below.

There are two mutually exclusive stories about Numéro Cinq. Apparently Molyneux had befriended Chanel, and together they hatched the idea of each bringing out a perfume called No 5 the same day in 1921, to see whose perfume would be more popular. The outcome of that contest is no longer in doubt, but this version of the story says that Molyneux’ Cinq was far ahead of Chanel’s for several years. The other (recorded in Nigel Groom’s excellent Perfume Handbook) is that Molyneux brought out several perfumes at once in 1925 named after different addresses of the firm: 3, 14 and Numéro Cinq. Molyneux’s Numero Cinq was also referred to as “Le Parfum Connu” (The Known Perfume) to avoid troubles with Chanel. Either way, fashion designers clearly had more of a sense of humor then than now.

Unfortunately for Le Numero Cinq the perfume languished until the early 70’s until it just faded away. Molyneux had retired so the name was not as well known, unlike Chanel who had regained her market share from the mid 50’s after her comeback. As to what the perfume smelt like I have absolutely no idea, which is a shame.

The Molyneux trademark is owned by French company, Parfums Berdoues, and though the fashion component of the firm remains dormant, the firm still produces scents, such as Captain (1975), Quartz (1978), Le Chic, Vivre, I Love You and Quartz Pure Red (2008).

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