July 20, 2011

Walking through the mecca of perfumery

While in Paris, I had the opportunity to visit the Lafayette Galleries and Palais Royale, in search for niche fragrances. If you're in Paris, you shouldn't miss the chance to sniff some beautifully created fragrances from Serge Lutens, L'artisan, Annick Goutal, Guerlain and Diptyque - Paris is simply the world's mecca of Perfumery! I saw new fragrance releases at Sephora, exclusive Tom Ford collections only available in Paris, and the most delightful collection of Guerlain boutique-only bottles! 

But there was one brand that really stood out to me on my trip, and that was Serge Lutens.

I have previously heard alot about Serge Lutens and his devoted cult following, after his infamous development of Feminite Du Bois in the late 90s - his first creation for Shiseido. Serge Lutens has a range of export EdPs found in most major cities in the world and exclusive bottles that can only be found at the quint and quirky shop at Les Salons du Palais Royale.
The exclusive boutique designed by Serge Lutens himself in 1992, was built to remind Parisians of the forgotten gardens of the Palais Royale gardens. It is a little hard to find, tucked quietly in a corner from the hustle and bustle of the tourist crowds. Little bells jingle when you walk through the doors, and there laid beautifully on the counter tops are his classic bottles of goodness.

I'm no expert when it comes to fragrances, but I am now appreciating fragrances which have alot more 'character'. To me, 'character' comes about when upon the first spritz, the development of the fragrance as it evaporates off your skin and blends with your body chemistry, taking you on a sensual journal from top, middle and base note - i.e. exemplefied by me being completely obsessed with sniffing my pulse point every 15 minutes. Full bodied fragrances (like Serge's range) are like new love stories to be told, each describing an element of mystery and surprise! Which is why I am now loving unisex fragrances that adds a touch of masculinity, probably because I am also quite tired of smelling like flowers and candy.

Like wine connoisseurs, being a perfumer requires you to identify and combine different fragrance notes, using art and science to develop that right composition. It requires many years of training, often with famous 'noses' starting their careers as lab technicians in a fragrance company. Unfortunately, the entry into the field of perfumery is quite specialised, and only available in France. Guerlain Shalimar, Chanel no. 5, Serge Luten's Chergui are some of the few classic gems out there, developed by famous perfumers (i.e. Jacques Guerlain himself!). Unfortunately, I find that alot of the fragrances in the market now lack that 'differentiation' and ends up smelling too much like soap or musk. I simply cannot get myself to buy 'Britney Spears Fantasy' or 'Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker'. Why would I ever want to smell like someone else but me?! Sadly, alot of these fragrances use 'synthetic' ingredients with a cost of less than 3% of the actual price of the perfume.

Which brings me to the next point... did you know that Chanel selects only premium jasmine flowers, harvested only in Grasse, France? Those grown in France are generally priced 20 to 30 times higher than those in Egypt. It ensures the consistent quality of Chanel No. 5 EDP and maintains the reputability of the company. Yes, I agree that it's an expensive purchase. However, as consolation to your purse, it does boils down to what is in that bottle rather than the upfront price. Just like everything else, I suppose.  

In my attempt to mix up my perfume collection, I now have an assortment of commercial perfumes from big designer houses (Chloe, Vitor & Rolf, Burberry, Marc Jacobs) and those of lesser accessible brands (Jo Malone, Serge Lutens, and Dipytque). Of which the latter were my recent acquisitions last week in Paris. Some are more suitable for the hot summer weather (floral notes - jasmine, lily, patchouli), and others are reserved for autumn and winter (contrasting notes - cedar, tobacco, amber). And, a few bottles that I reserve for special evenings when I want my skin to smell incredibly delicious! Think vanilla, vanilla and vanilla. Oh, did I say vanilla already?

So what perfumes have you discovered and love? 

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