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
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
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” and it looks like no one has taken the idiom more to heart than Dr. Olivier Courtin-Clarins (member of the eponymous French beauty clan), whose spa at Parisian hotel Le Royal Monceau is one of our favorites. However, if one is looking to mimic (or rather, maximize) the gorgeous effects of a spa day, look no further than the hotel’s restaurant Le Bar Long, where the doctor is very much “in.”
Courtin-Clarins, teaming up with executive chef Laurent André, has created a beauty-boosting salad called “My Blend,” which features fresh, seasonal ingredients packed with vitamins and antioxidants. This latest creation—a colorful mélange of spinach leaves, Brittany shrimp, endive, beets, red and white potatoes, pumpkin, and grated black truffle—is as much a feast for the eyes as it is in, well, the more literal sense. Best of all, this gourmand salad is rich in beta-carotene; fiber; protein; amino and omega-3 acids; and vitamins C, D, and B12—a cure-all for a lingering cold and those winter blues.
Salade My Blend, 39€, available at Le Bar Long, Le Royal Monceau, 37 Avenue Hoche, Paris, France
With fashion month coming to a close, there’s no better way to celebrate (and unwind) than with a treatment before takeoff. A former colleague of mine closed out the menswear shows with a massage and said he didn’t even mind that his flight was delayed a few hours when he arrived at the airport—all of the stress and tension had completely disappeared before he even whipped out his passport at check-in. Here, two spots worth hitting up before you say bon voyage:
Where: Spa My Blend by Clarins, Le Royal Monceau, 37, avenue Hoche, 01.42.99.88.99
What to get: Ask for the Anti-Jet Lag Stopover Massage for Face & Body because, let’s face it, you’re probably still jet-lagged. This rubdown refreshes and moisturizes dehydrated skin after weeks of vacillating between espresso and champagne. It also claims to relieve tiredness, insomnia, upset stomach, headache, and irritability. (If you’re anything like me, you’ve ticked off all five boxes and already made an appointment.)
Where: Biologique Recherche Ambassade de la Beauté, 32, avenue des Champs-Élysées, 01.41.18.96.84
What to get: Sign yourself up for the Soin Minceur, stat! This “modeling massage” helps drain toxins (of which you’ve probably stockpiled) and leaves you feeling toned and rejuvenated. A textured rubber mitt is used to work essential oils into the skin, leaving you soft, glowing, and ready for the long haul ahead.
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