There are some women who would love nothing more than to luxuriate in a spa for hours on end. I, despite my job description, am not one of them. I’d rather paint my own nails, blow out my own hair, and replicate the effects of a facial at home than spend hours sipping cucumber water during a marathon pampering session. (Cue the hashtag: #firstworldproblems.) It’s not because I dislike these types of activities, it’s because they take forever…and ain’t nobody got time for that, as Sweet Brown would say. Leave it to storied beauty brand Elizabeth Arden, whose first Red Door salon opened in 1910 on Fifth Avenue, to keep up with the modern woman by offering speed services at its new Union Square location. In under fifteen minutes, you can treat tired eyes to hyaluronic serum and soothing pads via the Westside Eyeway, or get a quick dose of skin-plumping oxygen with the SOHO2. If you have an extra ten minutes, you can opt for the Queens Expressway, an extraction-free facial. Or try the Urban Renewal, a microdermabrasion treatment that’s finished in twenty-five minutes flat. Before I even had a chance to dose off during this diamond-tipped buffing session, I was done. The resulting glow, however, made it appear as if I’d gotten a solid eight hours of sleep. I like to think Ms. Arden herself would have been fond of these expedited services—after all, you don’t build a global empire lazing about. She famously stated, “To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman,” but if this tireless entrepreneur were alive today, her motto might go something like this: “To be beautiful is the birthright of every woman—even a busy one.”
200 Park Avenue South, New York, NY, (212) 388-0222; thereddoorny.com
When one thinks of Murray Hill, an East Side neighborhood in Manhattan that extends from 34th to 40th Streets, the word hip isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Kim Vu, owner of Bristle + Crème—a recently opened full-service salon on Third Avenue that offers everything from cuts to color to facials—set out to change all that (alongside Comme des Garçons, which moved in just an avenue and block over). Her story doesn’t begin in beauty; instead, Vu started out in an industry that couldn’t be more different: finance. As an investment banking consultant, she knows a thing or two about building a business, but as far as wielding a curling iron or providing a bikini wax, she leaves that to the pros who fill the new, two-story space. “I let my creative people be as creative as they want to be,” she said.
There are some things, however, that bridge the gap between bankers and those with a more bohemian spirit—such as artisanal coffee, music, art, and spa treatments. And Bristle + Crème has all of them. “I never felt comfortable in a salon; I wanted a place to hang out,” Vu explained. By day, hairstylists share the main floor with baristas, but by night, it easily transforms into a gallery, dance floor, or concert hall where champagne and wine are free-flowing. The canvases that hang on the walls come courtesy of emerging local artists and rotate every three months. Deejays and bands are invited once a month to spin/play after hours, and there’s even talk of having silent theater on the second level. It may seem like a hodgepodge of haircare, caffeine, and creativity, but a melting pot that brings fashion types (like her close friends Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs of Cushnie et Ochs) and buttoned-up business execs together is exactly what Vu had in mind. “That’s NYC, right?” she quipped. Right.
416 Third Avenue, New York, NY, (212) 685-9475; bristleandcreme.com.
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—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 gourmand 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].
68 Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France, +33 1 45 62 52 57
After the successful launch of a freestanding store in Moscow last November, Kilian Hennessy has set his sights on New York City. The first By Kilian fragrance boutique in the U.S. debuts tonight at 804 Washington Street, a chic block nestled in the cobblestone landscape of the Meatpacking District. The black-and-white decor combines the sleek, sophisticated By Kilian aesthetic with the cool, industrial vibe of the neighborhood. Think custom-made furniture, Japanese lighting, and silk carpet, plus exposed brick painted in white lacquer. Customers will get to explore the brand’s complete collection of fragrances, including Apple Brandy, a sweet and woody scent that will only be sold at the NYC location. In between final preparations for the store opening, we got Hennessy to talk shop.
What made you want to open a boutique in New York City—and why now?
Who doesn’t dream of opening a store in New York City? We have actually been searching for the right location for a year!
Why did you choose the Meatpacking District?
We knew right from the start that we wanted to be downtown. When the space next to Louboutin Men’s and in front of Nicholas Kirkwood became available, we jumped on it. The square footage was perfect, and it will be amazing when the Whitney Museum opens in 2015.
What are some of the design elements that you wanted to include in the space?
I absolutely wanted the feeling of a downtown store, which is why we kept the exposed brick on the walls. To offset this, however, we lacquered the brick in white, added black marble flooring, and dropped in a black lacquered ceiling. I also really wanted to give our clients the feeling of entering into my private world. That’s why the [boutique] has been designed to mirror my apartment. For me, it is of utmost importance that anyone who enters the store feels at home. [A customer] can stay as long as she wants to discover our bespoke service offering, or to [experience] our collections of perfumes and evening bags.
Why did you decide to create an exclusive New York-inspired scent for the boutique, and how does it epitomize NYC?
I didn’t want my New York store to be a copy/paste of my Moscow store. Of course, the key visual identity elements will always stay, but I really want to keep the flavor of the city and its culture. I always want to preserve a sense of uniqueness. This comes through some design elements and through exclusive products. No other store in the world will carry [Apple Brandy]. This scent is very personal. It’s an accord of apple liqueur melting with woods. Of course, there is a wink to the Big Apple, but I would have never done it if the two didn’t blend so well together.
As a member of the family that developed one of the world’s most beloved cognacs, we trust that you know a thing or two about brandy. Looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
804 Washington St., New York, NY, (212) 600-1298; www.bykilian.com.
In New York City, where nail shops and hair salons are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks, it was only a matter of time before someone stepped in to fill the obvious void in beauty services: makeup. That’s all about to change on Wednesday, when Rouge, a new makeup lounge in Soho, officially opens for business.
The space is the brainchild of makeup artist Rebecca Perkins and actress Stephanie March, who became close friends after they met on the set of Law & Order: SVU. (Perkins was the makeup department head and March played ADA Alex Cabot). The idea for Rouge came when Perkins realized that many of the women she knew would jump at the chance to have a makeup pro on speed dial, just like her celebrity clients. “Women would often tell me how much they wish they had their own makeup artist. High-end salons offer makeup, but the price is prohibitive. Also, the makeup artists aren’t always there. You have to make an appointment, and you don’t know anything about their experience and training,” Perkins says. Department stores aren’t ideal, either. The high-pressure sales techniques, hectic environment, and lack of privacy are all turnoffs. Rouge is the opposite of that. The intimate space has six stations outfitted with glamorous mirrors surrounded with the kind of big, bright bulbs you might find in a dressing room at a theater. The comfy, leather chairs, as March happily demonstrated, recline all the way back so that customers can lie down while they’re getting dolled up.
Although Rouge offers quick services such as individual lash application and eyebrow waxing, makeup is the focus. The menu of services includes three different options, ranging in cost from $50 for the natural “You…Only Better” look to $75 for the full-on glam “Total Polish” face. Products are for sale upon request (from brands such as Face Stockholm, Julie Hewett, and Yaby), but you won’t find tester units or shelves stocked with goods prominently displayed here. Clients are even allowed to bring in their own makeup if there is a particular shade of, say, foundation or lipstick they want to incorporate into their look. Not that you need to. I was impressed with the diverse range of colors Perkins pulled out to paint my face, and her work got rave reviews from the friends I met for dinner after my appointment (trust me, they wouldn’t lie).
Before I visited Rouge, I wondered if a makeup lounge would only feed the increasing pressure women feel to look perfect all the time because of celebrity obsession and social media, but I left with a different outlook. Sure, some might use the service as a crutch, but I imagine that the majority of the clientele will think of it as just another way to look their best before an important meeting or special occasion. After all, as March puts it: “Women have been rouging for years.” They’re just here to help.
130 Thompson Street, (212) 388-1717; www.rougeny.com for appointments.