It’s been a busy season over at the landmark Guerlain flagship on the Champs-Elysées: A century after the building first opened, the French perfume house has unveiled a luxurious top-to-toe revamp courtesy of Peter Marino, a refresh that included annexing the old nightclub Montecristo next door and creating a restaurant called Le 68.
But that’s not all that’s new—or old, for that matter—at chez Guerlain. The house is now celebrating the 160th anniversary of its famous gilded Bee bottle, which was created for the Empress Eugenie to contain her Eau de Cologne Impériale. It is also launching a Couture sequel (available in France March 2014) to its best-selling fragrance, La Petite Robe Noire. In a private walk-through, in-house perfumer Thierry Wasser discusses the storied brand’s new “homey” ambiance, from the food/fragrance connection to a heritage accessory revival—plus, what makes the newest Petite Robe Noire truly couture.
How do you describe the Guerlain flagship’s new ambiance?
When the Guerlain family built this building a century ago, it was a boutique, but it was also their home. We wanted the whole space to [feel] like a house: You can dine at the restaurant; write a postcard and mail it here; the perfume, beauty and skin care sections on the ground floor invite browsing; and the marble echoes the idea of wafts of fragrance—it just draws you in. Peter Marino’s attention to detail is amazing—there’s a shagreen banister that I love so much, I almost want to sleep next to it, right there on the stairs.
Upstairs, there’s still the tiered stand presenting the house library of creations, set amidst a rotating exhibition of historic perfume bottles and fragrance-inspired creations by contemporary artists. And if you want to take a nap, there’s always the spa on the third floor. It features an orchid garden, as well as works by Giacometti, Bérard and Jean-Michel Franck that were done for the original spa, which was the first in the world when it opened in 1939.
How did you and chef Guy Martin work together on the restaurant Le 68?
For the restaurant, there was just this instant connection: Guy is naturally curious and passionate about the seasons—at Guerlain we speak “seasons.” Basically, I said, this is who we are—185 years of fragrances—so just explore and do your thing. What I love is that with Shalimar, for example, everyone always talks about it as an oriental vanilla, but Guy seized on all its citrus notes and extrapolated it into a macaron with marmalade and a zing of bergamot. As it turns out, his mother wore Shalimar, so he understood immediately. He’s also [transformed] La Petite Robe Noire into a chocolate pastry. There are so many clever details—it’s a true feast.
What are the other new additions to the house?
Upstairs, there is a private salon for bespoke consultations, another space where bottles can be customized with ribbons, and a [room] where we’ve reintroduced limited-edition archival pieces like silk scarves, fans and perfumed gloves. When Guerlain was named official supplier to the Empress Eugenie, in 1853, it was also a gantier, or glove maker. I had to learn everything about leather treatment because if you miss the window for adding fragrance, it’s too late. My job was to find that moment. We did some gloves with Mitsouko, and others with La Petite Robe Noire, which is subtler.
Is there a story behind La Petite Robe Noire Couture?
This is La Petite Robe Noire’s glamorous sister; she’s the one who’s out there on the red carpet at night. She’s floral, fruity, bubbly, slightly eccentric and vivacious. You could say that the length has changed—there’s a different color and texture; it’s an evening gown. There’s still this gourmande and fruity character. The top note is sparkling because it’s like Oscar night, so I amped up the bergamot. But I emphasized its depth and presence with chypre to add mystery. My idea is not to create a collection, but rather, the woman who wears it has grown along with [the fragrance].
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“I had an aunt who worked at the Shiseido counter in Hong Kong, and when she moved to the United States, she worked in San Francisco. I remember—and this was the eighties—that I was totally fascinated by how artistic her eyelids looked. There were probably four different colors and [all were] shaded. It was over the top, [especially] because my mother wore no makeup and was very simple and very clean. And this aunt, she was young and beautiful—it was definitely that whole era of excess. The big hair, the three-tone eyelid, the heavy contour—and that’s kind of fantastical.”
We pay homage to Lam’s childhood beauty memory with a look from his Spring 2010 show. And though his recent collaboration with Estée Lauder and Tom Pecheux is decidedly more muted, perhaps, according to our interview with the designer, more colorful things lie ahead.
The colored-mascara craze continues—Hannah Bronfman appeared on the red carpet for The Wolf of Wall Street premiere in New York City last night sporting ice-blue lashes. A fitting shade for the below-freezing temps we’ve experienced recently. With vivid hues replacing black and rolling out from brands such as Dior in 2014, expect a bright spot come Spring.
A common occurrence among those who receive blockbuster holiday palettes brimming with possibility: You hit pan on your go-to shades—the universally flattering neutrals that are appropriate for day but can be easily amped up for night—while bold, attention-grabbing hues of green and blue are barely touched.
The truth is, not everyone can pull off a lid splashed with color like we saw on the Chanel runway for Spring 2014, but the barely there look (seen at Chloé this past season) is wearable and achievable—without having makeup master Peter Philips at your side. Beauty brands are also taking a more minimal approach. Urban Decay recently released the Naked3 (which has already sold out twice), a collection of twelve flesh colors ranging from cream to dark brown, all with a rose gold undertone. Another one of our favorites is the aptly named The Essentials palette by Clarins, which features eco-friendly formulas in ten nude shades. And for on-the-go touch-ups, Bobbi Brown’s limited-edition Smokey Warm Eye Palette is compact enough to fit in a purse and boasts six versatile shadows in matte and shimmer finishes. Beige, it seems, is anything but boring.
Derek Lam’s aesthetic is much like his approach to the culinary arts: “He doesn’t like to mix too many things,” said backstage fixture and creative makeup director of Estée Lauder, Tom Pecheux—the face painter with whom the designer has worked with since his very first show in 2004. “The flavors are very simple—he always starts with the quality of the ingredient,” he added. So when it came to creating a collection of cosmetics (out in January) with the storied beauty brand, it was only natural that Lam wouldn’t be launching an extensive line of products. “He’s not the kind of person that travels with three suitcases—Derek travels with a carry-on bag. My makeup bag is one bag. I believe that I can make anything you want with what I have,” quipped Pecheux. Taking that same approach, they packaged the five essentials the modern woman needs to complete her makeup “wardrobe” from day to night—a navy kajal crayon, gold cream shadow, black mascara, tawny liquid lipstick, and shimmery champagne gloss—into a blue satin minaudière. This same set of cosmetic tools was used to create the trio of buildable looks seen on the designer’s Spring 2014 runway. “We could have developed [an entire range], but that’s not Derek and that’s not me. I’d prefer to have the right product, than a lot,” he said. This dynamic duo seems to share the same brain, with one exception: “He likes to follow a recipe, and then afterwards, twist it. I never look at a recipe. I go to the market and see what there is. That’s why I never ask him what he’s working on, so I don’t have too many things floating around [in my head]. The makeup is always the cherry on the cake,” Pecheux explained. Here, I interviewed both designer and maquillage master separately—only to find that they were almost always on the exact same page:
What was your first reaction to Tom’s interpretation of “minimal” for your Spring show?
DL: My first reaction was “Terrific!” because I know that when I work with Tom, even when I say something simple, or if I say, “I just want it to be a no-makeup face,” he knows what I’m talking about. So when he came to me with the idea for the three looks, it was amazing because that’s exactly how I considered the kind of evolution of the collection and how it was going to be shown on the runway. He picked up on one of the [prints], which in this case, was the check, and he reinterpreted it for the eye. Seeing one element, and kind of evolving it is also really what I do.
Do you also ascribe to his theory on blue? He’s said so many times that navy is so much less severe than black.
Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s again one of those things that we both share. I love navy for evening clothes. I just think it’s so flattering and welcoming. It’s also very understated, and in that way, [navy is] a little bit subversive. It’s got an unexpected quality.
If you had to choose, what is your favorite product in the collection?
DL: I love the eyeliner in Near Night…It’s the closest to my heart in terms of if you only had to have one product a beautifully outlined eye is always the thing to do.
TP: I do love the creamy eyeshadow in gold. It’s almost like a chic, luxurious nude color. It’s not too brown and works on every skin tone. The navy blue pencil is going to be your best friend, or your worst enemy, because it’s so stable it can be tough to take off!
What was your inspiration behind the clutch?
TP: I like a coffret. I used to be a smoker, but I quit. I thought the cigarette holder was really chic. Derek was very excited about it—but cigarettes are not necessarily good things to promote—so he thought about doing a clutch [instead].
DL: I always think [about] adding an element of glamour. She could have [this] little clutch in her tote or in her bag during the day…then [take it out] for the evening. I think that shows the romantic quality and how we view the collection [being incorporated] into a woman’s life. Doing it in a striped quilting is a play on something that’s [traditionally tied to] sportswear, but also translatable to evening.
Is there a beauty trend the Derek Lam woman would never try?
DL: I think that it’s anything that’s obvious. For the runway, we do add hair extensions, but we don’t do false eyelashes—it all stems from the idea of natural beauty.
TP: We’ve never used anything fake…fakeness is not part of our vocabulary.
Can you give me a sneak peek of what you have in mind for the beauty look for Fall?
TP: We never talk about his fashion. As much as we are friends and really adore working together, we rarely talk about business. Whatever he’s doing in February, I have no clue.
DL: Oh, it’s so soon, and now we’re in the midst of it! But I think that colors are so important. Last Fall, I did a very muted collection, and even Spring was relatively muted—with only the hit of bright yellow. I hope that when Tom sees the board we’ll get inspired and we can do something really exciting or unusual for the face.
I can’t wait to see what you both cook up come February.
Estée Lauder Derek Lam Collection, available January 2014 at esteelauder.com.