Friday, January 7, 2011
Paris 2010: Would Guerlain Notice If I Stole A Few Tiles?
As you can imagine, the approach of this disruption to the peace at our precious haven has meant that Madame Persolaise and I have had to visit various shops looking at sinks, bathtubs, toilets, lights, towel rails... and tiles. And each time I see a selection of small, polished, golden mosaics, I'm reminded that I still owe you some reports from our Paris trip, because one of my most enduring memories of our mini-holiday was the sight of the grand staircase at the flagship Guerlain store on the Champs Elysees. Covered in thousands of tiny squares of radiance, it struck a careful balance between modernity and old-world opulence, whilst evoking a genuine sense of awe-struck wonderment (click here to see what I'm talking about).
What did I make of the rest of the shop? Well, I'm pretty certain that, of all the ones we visited, I found it the most beautiful. The Lutens shrine at the Palais Royal displayed an impressively understated austerity, but I'm not a fan of enforced darkness, which may be why I was more enchanted by the elegant, oversized flacons, the uncluttered surfaces and the gleaming, light-suffused aesthetics at Guerlain (created, at least in part, by the ubiquitous €12,500 Baccarat bee). Or maybe I was just won over by the weight of history: Nahema, Shalimar, Mitsouko, Habit Rouge, Jicky, Chamade... it was hard not to be moved by the force of these near-mythical names. I'd seen them hundreds of times in other shops, of course, but this was different. I was now encountering them in their spiritual home.
Having said that, one of the main reasons why perfume fans visit Paris-based Guerlain boutiques these days is to discover the 'exclusive' fragrances, and this is where I have to confess to feeling somewhat let down. It goes without saying that trying several different scents in the saturated atmosphere of a busy perfumery isn't the smartest idea in the world, but if samples aren't readily available, then there isn't much else one can do, short of booking a month-long stay at a hotel and popping into the shop every day to spray a different bottle. Needless to say, I did go armed with a notebook in which to store my blotters, but this isn't an ideal strategy either.
Caveats aside, I cannot claim that a single one of the Paris-only scents captured my imagination. I was particularly keen to smell Sous Le Vent and Vega, and whilst I thought they were both quite attractive, I couldn't quite see why they've been elevated to their current status. The Parisiennes also failed to generate anything more than a sense of muted approval: L'Ame D'Un Héros was insufficiently different from my bottle of Coriolan to warrant the higher price tag; Liu was a very pleasant aldehyde infusion that tried - and failed - to compete with No. 5; Mayotte somehow felt misplaced amongst the arguably more rarefied offerings and consequently came across as rather brash. Even the two Arsène Lupins didn't get my pulse going, although I concede I didn't pay as much attention to them as I could have, because I was mindful of the fact that they'll soon be at Harrods and therefore more easily accessible.
The only one that made me pause for a few moments was the extrait strength of one of my all-time favourites, Habit Rouge. I closed my eyes, felt the familiar, sweet dryness work its way into me, and I was reminded - for the nth time - why I love the juice as much as I do. But upon reflection I realised that one of the characteristics that makes this masterpiece so special is the careful interplay between the top notes and the base. The extrait places a much stronger emphasis on the heavier materials, which strips the composition of its vital, life-affirming sparkle. Plus it costs a ridiculous €300 (why sell an extrait only in 50 ml bottles?) which is yet another reason to keep treasuring my EDT and EDP.
Now, back to water closets.