I just returned from Paris a few days ago- it was a short trip but one that was very specifically about perfume. We began at the Palais Royale, where we visited the ‘shrine to perfume’- the Serge Luten boutique. It is an oasis of purple calm, beautifully adorned, dimly lit and hosted by a lovely man who spoke just the perfect amount of English to mix with my increasing grasp of French. We smelled as many of the rich and floral, woody, leafy, earthy fragrances as was reasonable and I left wearing two of them placed strategically on little spots of our wrists and arms. We would have many more to try as the day progressed…. I wanted to sample the Silver Iris Mist that I have read so much about- and I was not disappointed. It is vegetal, cool, fresh, calm and full of true orris notes. It has a strong carrot facet that creates this cool wet clay aspect and to me, was the colour grey and an ultra-refined and elegant fragrance. The other I wore was Fleurs de Citronnier…a sweet candied neroli that made me see dappled sunshine and summer dresses with honeyed lemon-aid and parasols. For me, it is so summery, warm and delicious that I would like to wear it in the winter…. What I love the most about Serge Luten is that all the perfumes are for men and/or women. There is no division of him and her- it is about subjective taste and appreciation of perfume itself- without segregation.
Next we headed to the Rue Honore and to Colette, an amazing store filled with art and design- books, music, magazines, perfume, jewellery, and so on. Some of the unique and cool collections I’m sure you cannot find anywhere else. I could have spent hours there being inspired. However we rushed on to Annick Goutal (beware of a snooty and pushy salesperson) and then Jean Patou. This was another very bright highlight for me since the perfume JOY is a great and important perfume in the French traditon. As we spoke to the woman behind the counter, a man appeared and we were introduced to him (after making it known that we are perfumery students from Grasse). He was none other than Jean-Michel Duriez, the current Nose of Jean Patou. I asked him for advice- what are the most important things to keep in mind as a student/perfumer? And he generously spent some time explaining and sharing his thoughts- it was a great honour and a very special experience.
Our next stop was just across the street in a tiny little boutique called Jar- it took us three attempts to find it as there is no signage or indication of its presence outside. We were met by a gracious young man who sat us down at a round glass table table in a small and dimly-lit parlour and invited us to smell the collection. Each perfume was presented in a glass bowl off which he lifted a glass lid- and inside was a honey coloured piece of leather infused with the perfume oil. Our host refused to comment on the fragrances, leaving it entirely up to us to analyze and experience in our own way. The oils were all warm, earthy, heavily floral, animalic and very complex. The one I loved- called Golconda-, had rich JOY-like notes of rose and jasmine and an earthy wet note I can only describe as fresh potato peels. Being an oil, it lasted on my skin for the rest of the day. This boutique is an afterthought of the Paris jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal. who decided to create perfumes also. It is very exclusive and unique with one of the perfume in the collection without even a name- only the symbol of a bolt of lightening. Prices range from 220-395 Euro for one ounce of parfum. One of the things I enjoyed about this experience was the lack of a commercial approach- ie, no attempt was made to convince us in any way to buy- it was a personal experience, highly encouraged and we felt entirely comfortable leaving (with our heads in the clouds from such gorgeous heady full-of-naturals fragrances) and have our host graciously bid us farewell. It was a communion of sorts- a seance of perfume that was about perfume- and it’s experience as perfect subjectivity. The address is 14, Rue de Castiglione….
to be continued~
One thought on “Paris and Perfume- Part One”
Thanks to a member of basenotes.net, I found your blog. You don’t know how excited I am to find someone like you in the current state of my life. I made my way over to France to learn fragrance design though I am studying French right now in Lyon. I don’t know your full story (I’m in the process of reading every post that you have written), but I would love to hear more about your experience. I’m in a dire need of direction and most importantly a glimmer of hope. PS. I read your observations about the French, and I have the same sentiments as you :). But please make contact: email@example.com (alexetudiant AT hotmail.com). Thank you. Thank you. – Alex (Lyon, France)