The house of Jean Patou was founded exactly one century ago, and despite the vagaries of history, fashion, and ownership, this month the brand is celebrating a return to the place it all started: rue Saint Florentin, just off the Place de la Concorde. At its height, the Patou family owned three adjacent buildings, at numbers 7, 9, and 11, and counted one thousand employees in its fashion and fragrance businesses.
The couture salons—which were previously directed by Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, and, lastly, Christian Lacroix—shuttered in 2001. But the fragrance business lived on, most notably with Joy, that heady Grasse rose- and jasmine-based juice renowned as the costliest perfume in the world. “When I looked at the original formula, I was stunned,” observes perfumer Thomas Fontaine. “It’s maybe sixty times more expensive than most perfumes.” One ounce of Joy takes 10,600 jasmine flowers and twenty-eight dozen roses, so it’s no wonder a 15-millilter bottle of Joy goes for a steep 300 euros.
Meanwhile, Fontaine has been quietly delving back into the house’s fragrance catalog of forty-odd scents. Three heritage juices—Eau de Patou, Chaldée, and Patou Pour Homme—were rereleased last September. This fall, Patou’s very first fragrances, a trio from 1925, will be back on-counter: the fruity chypre Que Sais-Je?, the green floral Deux Amours (formerly known as Amour Amour), and the gardenia-based Adieu Sagesse. (These, Fontaine notes, were formulated for brunettes, blonds, and redheads, respectively). And Fontaine has rejuvenated the 84-year-old Joy for a new generation, thanks to powdery iris notes, amber, and an amber-woody base (cedar, sandalwood, and rosewood). In other words, Joy Forever hangs onto the original idea but takes its headiness down a few notches.
There are still finishing touches to come on this bright new boutique. Some Patou family furniture will be brought in this week, for example. But already, the angular Art Deco aesthetic of the house’s heyday is well in evidence, along with the occasional heritage items. And it’s a fair bet that this is only the beginning.
9 rue Saint Florentin, 75001 Paris; jeanpatou.com
French perfume house Annick Goutal has already established itself as a valuable player in the luxury fragrance market throughout U.S. department stores. And now it’s hiking up its presence across the pond with the opening of its first-ever stand-alone American boutique. With twelve brick-and-mortar shops in Europe, this original New York space marks a milestone in the brand’s storied 33-year-old history.
“It was one of my mother’s dreams to have a shop in New York, so after all this time I’m very happy to have it,” said Camille Goutal, daughter of Annick, who grabbed the reins of the perfumery after her mother’s passing in 1999. Opening next door to Magnolia Bakery in the West Village makes this location a literal feast for the senses. “This area was my first choice,” revealed Goutal. “I wanted a scene that was trendy, and this neighborhood looks a bit like France in a way, with the small buildings and nice shopping.”
Inside, one-of-a-kind furnishings reflect the contemporary spirit of the Big Apple, while still preserving the brand’s romantic Parisian roots. “It’s a unique design, but everything comes from France,” she affirmed. Decor highlights include a floating, sculptural steel table and a gold butterfly-emblazoned moucharabieh screened wall. “The butterfly is the symbol of the brand, so it was important to have [that screen] specially made for us,” explained Goutal. The pretty papillon motif can also be found in carved decorations that form the backdrop of the fragrance displays.
As for future plans, Goutal says she anticipates Annick Goutal’s continued expansion throughout NYC but isn’t interested in world domination anytime soon. “Maybe we’ll open a second [spot] on the Upper East Side one day to appeal to our more classical clients, since this store caters to the very trendy ones,” she suggested. “But there’s no timeline on that. We prefer to take our time and go step by step.” Similar to the life cycle of a butterfly, the brand’s mascot, all beautiful things take time.
397 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; annickgoutal.com
I have always been terrified of the high-tech machines (normally found in skincare labs and a handful of doctor’s offices) that scan the surface of your complexion and spit out horrifying pictures that show how much sun damage you’ve incurred, or the fine lines and age spots that are hiding just under the surface waiting to rear their ugly heads. In order to educate consumers (and prevent those wrinkles from forming in the first place), SK-II developed the Beauty Imaging System, which provides the same service as the aforementioned clinical device minus the shock value (thank God). The futuristic tool essentially acts like a digital camera with X-ray vision, snapping a close-up photo of the left side of your face and analyzing it based on five dimensions—texture refinement, firmness power, wrinkle resilience, radiance, and tone—then providing a percentage for each category (which is calculated by measuring the state of your skin against others in the same ethnic group). To simplify the results, your skin age is also generated for each bracket. For example, while I’m 24 in terms of texture refinement, my spot-control ability matches that of a 15-year-old (although the blemishes on my cheek beg to differ). Starting tomorrow, you can stop in at the brand’s pop-up studios in New York City and San Francisco and experience the technology for yourself—and maybe even boost your mood by discovering that your skin is still young at heart.
SK-II Pop-Up Studio; April 4 through May 23 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Monday through Saturday) and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday); 468 Broome Street, New York City; 117 Post Street, San Francisco
The last thing you want to do while relaxing at a lavish spa is lift a finger (save for grabbing a handful of mixed nuts while you wait for your therapist), but the latest trend hitting spas might give you some incentive to expend just a little bit of energy beyond turning over halfway through your massage. L’Auberge de Sedona just opened L’Apothecary, an area within the Arizona retreat where you can concoct your own bath salts, scrubs, oils, and masques using local elements like rosemary, clay, piñon pine, and juniper. At the Laniwai spa at the Aulani resort in Hawaii, there’s an outdoor mixing station to personalize a take-home body scrub. And the Chill Spa at Hotel Terra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, boasts a blend bar that allows spagoers to customize the scent used throughout their treatment. Now if only there was a doggy bag big enough for the masseuse…
If you didn’t know it opened this week, you’d think Buly had been just sitting here on the Left Bank for the last two centuries. “He toured every hotel dieu dispensary in France to re-create the right ambiance,” commented Victoire de Taillac of her husband, Ramdane Touhami, the high-energy, multifaceted artist-designer whose last project was the Cire Trudon revival. “Paris has always been the center of the beauty world. France invented everything about the modern beauty industry, but in terms of a fun, ‘historic’ experience, there was absolutely nothing,” added Touhami. All we can say is, mission accomplished—think a diminutive French answer to Santa Maria Novella (minus the church).
Still, the couple wasn’t starting entirely from scratch. In the early 19th century, Buly—then spelled Bully (the couple removed one “l” to modernize it)—rivaled with the likes of Guerlain. Its originator, Jean-Vincent Bully, invented the aromatic lotion Vinaigre de Bully in 1803 and made a fortune yet died destitute; his life was the inspiration for “César Birotteau,” a novel in Honoré de Balzac’s Comédie Humaine cycle with a happier ending. That Buly had a literary backstory and even that the brand had managed to survive, barely, into the 20th century were less a draw, noted De Taillac, than its product catalog, which had resurfaced a couple years ago in London through an antique dealer friend. “The catalog was so rich and the illustrations so wonderful and amusing, that’s what really inspired us,” explained De Taillac.
Today, the Buly shop may be small, but it is already creating major buzz for a charming lineup based on the original Buly product names and simple, natural formulas. There are candles, of course, and incense and scented matches that are already a major talking point. A short, to-the-point skincare line includes Pommade Virginale (skin softener) and Eau Rectifiée (a St. John’s wort-based cleanser). The most expensive pieces in the place are not creams but artisanally crafted combs in rare woods that sit behind a glass display. Perfumes are big news, too, not least because here they are all water-based. “Unlike the traditional, pyramidal fragrances, the scents are frontal—it’s a true perfume register, but you don’t have to wait for the alcohol to evaporate to get the full impression, plus the water moisturizes the skin,” explains De Taillac. Billed as parfums de peau, eight naturally based fragrances have names like Tuberuse, Scottish Lichen, English Honey, and Damask Rose, and they come as eau double (comparable in strength to cologne) or eau triple (more like an essence). Lining the shelves is a spectrum of virgin oils in old-fashioned containers that address every imaginable skin or hair concern, from the well-known (sweet almond, grape seed) to the more exotic, such as the restorative Gettou seed oil from Japan or the softening Pracaxi oil from the Amazon. Rounding out the catalog are floral waters and clays, roots and powders to be mixed into masks. For adventurous souls, the “curiosities and rarities” await (outlined in the modern-day catalog above). Bukkake powder, a “perfect scrub” based on droppings of the Japanese bush warbler, or oil extracted from the fat of the Australian emu, known for antiseptic and cellular renewal properties, are both viable options—if you dare.
6 rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement, Paris