Heaven Scent

In 1991, I was working and going to graduate school in New York City. I was studying decorative arts, and a class assignment took me to the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. I instantly fell in love with the place. Housed in an old mansion, the museum at that time was a mish-mash of gilded rocoo chairs, carved wooden molding, and heavy velvet draperies. But my favorite part of the museum was the gift shop. Given the floor plan of the museum, the gift shop wasn’t contained in a separate section away from the galleries. Walking through the museum, I suddenly found myself in the gift shop, a little space tucked away in between two galleries. It was there that I discovered brightly colored cubes of glycerin soap by Mottura. Earlier that year, these soaps had garnered attention at the New York International Gift Fair. The New York Times noted that “Translucent green cubes of soap by Mottura, a Los Angeles company, packaged in boxes with symbols depicting air, grass, trees, flowers and the earth, won the Accent on Design Award for best product presentation and packaging. A cube is $7.” (New York Times, February 28, 1991). So that explains why a museum was selling soap – as an example of good design in product packaging.

I was so taken with these soaps that I bought a couple of cubes. My favorites were Heaven, Grass, and Water. When I took them home, my mother and sister liked them so much that I made a few more trips to the Cooper Hewitt, just to score more of them. I even gave them as gifts. But then one day, they were gone, only to reappear at The Gap. The Gap had purchased the rights to the Mottura fragrances in 1994, and relaunched them as perfumes. I wore Heaven, Grass, and Water throughout the Nineties. But then one day, they were gone from The Gap, too. The Gap has gone through many lines of fragrances as part of their Gap Body line, but it looks as if they’ve brought back their classic fragrances. I found a bottle of Heaven at my local Gap for $24. Sadly Water and Grass are nowhere to be found. Even the offical Gap website doesn’t offer any of the fragrances. But if your local Gap store doesn’t carry any of the fragrances, you can find Heaven on Fragrancenet.com.

I’ve been wearing Heaven a lot lately. It takes me back twenty years, and puts me in a good mood because it always reminds me of one of my favorite museums.

Mottura's original, award-winning package design for Grass, Water, and Heaven.

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2 Comments on “Heaven Scent”

  1. M McGaughey says:

    I just googled “mottura water scent” and came upon your post. My story is so similar: 1994 living in NYC, found these soaps in a little store in the West Village. Water was (and still is) one of the best scents I have ever encountered! There is something so clean and delicious about it. I was sad when they disappeared, sadder when the Gap didn’t carry Water. I tracked down the person at Mottura (a well known perfume maker) via his assistant’s email, to ask if it was being made anywhere, but he never got back to me. Oh well.

    • It’s nice to meet someone else who remembers the Mottura soap! I never thought to contact the company about them. It’s too bad they never got back to you 😦 Whenever I wear the Heaven perfume it immediately takes me back to the 90s. I miss those little square soaps.


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