A few months back, having run out of my favourite perfume of the past year, Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire, I stepped into a local Marionnaud hoping to re-stock on what has become my signature scent.
Mais non! Completely impossible – the sales assistant shook her head. Only selected boutiques can carry Guerlain’s perfume in Paris, she assured me. I found this fascinating, and decided to venture to the flagship store of the brand at 68 Avenue du Champs-Elysees.
What I found was a shop in the midst of a total revamp and not, at that time, open to the public. Le 68 – as it is referred to by the brand – was undergoing a rejuvenation, the second since its location to that same address in 1914.
Looking into the history of a brand simultaneously synonymous with Parisian chic and seduction, I learned Pierre-Francois-Pascal Guerlain opened his first shop in 1828 on the Rue de Rivoli, later relocating to Rue de la Paix in 1839, before inaugurating a new store at number 68 on that most famous of tree-lined avenues in the City of Light.
Fusing the celebrated – the building is classified as a historic site – with the contemporary seems to have been the challenge before luxury-boutique architect Peter Marino in renovating La Maison Guerlain; the resulting retail experience is simply incredible.
Features such as the original 1939 Institut de Beaute, gold ribbon and ‘perfume organ’ – a 10-foot chandelier in the shape of what the name suggests – remain. However, a host of idiosyncrasies incorporating the original design attributes whilst creating a the modern boutique have been introduced.
A trip down the marble staircase will take you to the new underground restaurant ‘Le 68’ – no prizes for guessing the inspiration behind this name – which offers cakes and teas in recognition of the power of scent when comes to taste. Each offering has been influenced by the fragrances of Guerlain’s extensive perfume portfolio.
The four floors also consist of The Consultation Room lined with bee-bottles and the various ribbons you can choose to customize your creation with, and The Couture Room – where gloves scented in Mitsouko or La Petite Robe Noire have been designed by glove maker La Maison Fabre. Guerlain Perfumer Thierry Wasser has developed formulas to keep them scented for at least one year.
The Mezzanine has a somewhat enchanting quality – the mirrored, golden gilt surroundings are almost disorientating from reality – reminiscent of a famed hall in the Chateau Versailles. This is recognised in the name “La Galerie des Glaces”.
For your home to carry the scents of Guerlain via candles will set you back somewhere around 70 euros, the same price range as scents like ‘Eau de Lingerie’ or ‘Eau de Lit’. If you can’t afford it though, just a wander around the sweet-smelling surrounds of La Maison Guerlain is enough to make a girl dream…and/or add to your Christmas wish list.