Friday, October 10, 2008

Travel Memoirs: Paris, part 2 ~L'Artisan, Serge Lutens, Frederic Malle

by guest writer Elysium

Since the first pioneering experiments by small artisanal brands like L’Artisan Parfumeur and Diptyque thirty years ago, the phenomenon called niche perfume has really blossomed. The small companies are now big names, their new releases once unnoticed are now highly anticipated. Being in Paris, I could not miss the chance to pay a visit to some of those who brought new ideas into a traditional craft and paved the way for the others.

There are several L’Artisan Parfumeur boutiques in Paris (in the 1er, 4eme, 7eme, 9eme and 16eme arrondissements). The one I visited is located at the banks of the Seine, a stone's throw from the Louvre Museum.
The boutique was minimalistically decorated yet stylish, using exactly the same concept as their perfume creations. Once inside, the first thing that meets the eye was the wall with their Harvest creations. Upon asking the friendly SA, I was told that the perfumers at the L’Artisan Parfumeur were at that time still working hard to find the suitable harvests to make the next one in the series. Moving a few steps towards the inner part of the shop there was a table with temporary decorations, highlighting scents that were especially suited for the season.

The diversity L’Artisan Parfumeur represents makes it easy for everyone to find something; if no perfume this time, then maybe a lovely amber ball for the home? And when you are tired of smelling perfumes, take a seat in the cozy couch and have some rest.

Only one place can match Guerlain’s ability to attract perfumistas to Paris ~the location Palais-Royal is indeed more than suitable for the royalty of niche perfume houses. Since its opening in 1991, Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, or commonly called Serge Lutens, has not lost any of its mystery, largely due to the fact that only press is allowed to take photos inside the salon. Assisted by Google Maps I ended up at the backside of the boutique, but with some help of a written note on the glass window I managed to find the correctly entrance in the end. The first time one enters the Serge Lutens salon one is bound to make a theatrical pause: it is decorated solely in black and violet, with flourished decoration that yet whispers of pure elegance. Indeed, high-contrast is Ariadne’s thread through everything Mr. Lutens has ever touched: his photographs, his paintings, his makeup creations, his perfumes and his salon. Many of the previous limited-edition bell jars can be viewed, and a stair in the middle of the boutique leading to the unknown crowns the entire magical atmosphere. Presprayed test blotters are placed beside the perfume bottles and if you find any perfume particularly interesting you are very welcome to make skin tests. The exclusive range coming in the so called bell jars is of course the highlight of the visit, but be careful not overdosing your nose with these innocent beauties. Unfortunately Serge Lutens does not make any liquid samples of their exclusive range; however the staff readily gives you a set of wax samples to bring home. As for the export range liquid samples are available, but most often they can only be obtained with purchases. I myself took the advice of Luca Turin and “boldly demanded Bois de Violette” and ended up with another pretty bag in my hands.

Comparing to the slightly austere feeling at Serge Lutens, the Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle boutique on 37 Rue Grenelle was much more relaxed. It is minimalistically decorated with a touch of high tech. On the elegant wood paneled walls hang framed photographs of all the perfumers that have contributed to the Frédéric Malle brand. This is a company which puts the brains behind the fragrances into focus, giving the masters the credit they deserve. Therefore the Frédéric Malle line stands for creativity and diversity, ranging from the purest tuberose soliflore (Carnal Flower) to the most complex musk (Musc Ravageur); high quality is the only thing uniting them. You can either freely play with the perfumes by yourself, or you can also step into one of the special designed smelling boots to feel a scent surrounding you. Except for the testers all the perfumes are placed inside refrigerators, to keep them at constant temperature. At the time of my visit I knew a new Frédéric Malle perfume was coming out (Dans tes Bras). Naturally I had to ask the lady working in the boutique about it, only a small test bottle was available for the inquisitive one to sample. Since at the time Dans tes Bras was not officially released, the lady curiously asked me how I knew about it, at which prompt I happily took the chance to avdertise the perfume blogosphere.

Paris would not be Paris without the great variety of choices; the last part of this travel story will be devoted to a few hidden gems among the Parisian perfumeries. That’s all for now...

You can read Part 1 of Paris Memoirs clicking here

Shopping Guide:
L'Artisan Parfumeur: 2 Rue de l'Admiral de Coligny, Paris, Phone: +33 01-4488-2750.
32 Rue du Bourg Tibourg 75004 Paris, Phone :

Salons du Palais-Royal Shiseido, Serge Lutens: 142 Galerie de Valois-25 Rue de Valois, 1er arrondissement Louvre/Tuileries, Paris. Metro station: Palais-Royal. Car access: 25 Rue de Valois. Phone: +33 01-49-27-09-09 Fax: +33 01-49-27-92-12 (open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 7pm)Map here

Editions des Parfums Frederic Malle: 37 rue de Grenelle, 7e, St-Germain-des-Pres, Paris Phone: +33 01-42-22-76-40 Metro: Rue du Bac
{Other locations: 140 av. Victor Hugo, 16e, Trocadero/Tour Eiffel, Paris, +33 01-45-05-39-02, Metro: Victor Hugo. 21 rue du Mont Thabor, 1er, Louvre/Tuileries, Paris, +33 01-42-22-77-22, Metro: Tuileries}

See a Google map of perfumeries/perfume & beauty shopping in Paris on this link (printable)

Pics copyrighted by Elysium (with the sole exception of the Lutens interiors where photography taking isn't allowed), not to be reproduced without permission.


  1. I took a picture - with her permission - of the manageress of the Salons, in front of the display of decorated LE Exclusive bottles. (I posted it on MUA too, after blanking out her face). So I don't think you can say that only the Press is allowed to take photos inside the Salons.

  2. I don't doubt it, J (and would love to see the pic!). What Elysium said was that technically guests are not allowed to take pictures. Perhaps your chance was an exception (or you're considered a member of the press) :-)

  3. Bela, I really wished to be able to take some photos inside Serge Lutens, but those are the exact words I got from the SA. Also the girl who served me seemed just has started, so many she was more strict about these things than the manager.

  4. Anonymous20:52

    Thanks Elysium for beautifully descriptive reviews of these hallowed grounds. Donanicola

  5. Another set of thanks from me, who unfortunately will not be able to set foot inside the salons (or step onto the Paris tarmac) any time soon...

    Was fun to get this verbal (and photographic) snapshots.

  6. What a delightful post. Thank you, Helg, for transporting me to Paris if only in my dreams.

  7. Again, thanks everyone :-).

  8. This is all the great salon with all the complete facilities and amenities provided to the customers for their ultimate satisfaction for sure.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin