In the summer of 2006, I learned that Guerlain was discontinuing the iconic lipstick Divinora 480, described as the “perfect nude.” I’ve since learned that “nude” is a term of art that applies to a wide range of color shades, but I somehow thought that if Angelina Jolie wore this shade that (somehow) I needed it too.
By that time, it appeared that sources for this shade were quickly disappearing in the U.S. I had heard that the Guerlain boutiques in Paris had the best selection of their products, so while I was in the city I stopped into La Maison Guerlain on the Champs Elysees to investigate. The store is just next door to the large Sephora and is a must-see for anyone who loves perfumes. There is an impressive conservative marble lower floor, populated by some of the line’s latest and most popular products. A staircase leads to the upper floor which is where the real action is for beauty and perfume lovers. A beautiful series of pictures of the store, including a little guided tour of La Maison, is available on Guerlain’s website.
The second floor has a very unusual architecture (a picture from Guerlain’s website appears at the left). Just at the top of the stairs is an area that has warm golden, organic walls, created by a mosaic of tiles. It’s a little Versailles-meets-Whoville. Sorry, I mean no disrespect. I know that this represents an institution, not a mere corporation or a brand. And truthfully, it’s stunning. This is a space where both Chanel flats and very tall Louboutin’s can be comfortably worn. As if to prove my point, an impeccably dressed woman carrying a beautifully manicured dog stood in this foyer as her purchases were totaled. My more practical Teva’s, which seemed so perfect for my several-mile walk through from the Marais, suddenly seemed very wrong.
There are a few rooms upstairs–the largest of which has the greatest selection of Guerlain perfumes anyone could ever imagine. I’m not knowledgeable about perfumes, but honestly if you are then you must place this building near the top of your lists if you go to Paris. This space is dripping in glass-bead curtains that are evocative of the round glass stopper on the top of many of Guerlain’s perfume bottles. Again, the picture to the right is from Guerlain’s website.
There is a separate room for makeup. There, I used my very rudimentary French to get a few tubes of Divinora 480. The sales associate looked at my coloring worriedly, suggesting another Divinora lipstick with more pink. Or perhaps something with a little shine? I declined, a decision I now regret. If someone that knowledgeable offers to help you out, I’ve learned to now accept and take notes. Not literally “notes,” but you know what I mean.
I also asked to see their selection of Meteorites, Guerlain’s multi-colored finishing powders. When I asked for them, I said “Meteorites” using the standard English pronunciation as one might refer to the celestial bodies traveling through space.
“Meteorites?” the sales associate asked. ”Qu-est-ce que c’est?” Uh-oh. When a Guerlain makeup expert doesn’t understand my pronunciation of one of their most famous products, it is not a good sign.
I looked around for their selection, finally resorting to pointing to Meteorites after I found them.
“Ahhhhhhh! Meteor-eeeeetes!” the sales associate exclaimed. ”They are right there.” She gestured to where I had been pointing. Unfortunately, their selection was no different from those available in the U.S. But, now I know how they are pronounced.
I paid for my lipsticks. Which, as the sales associate probably suspected, didn’t work at all for my coloring. The picture, below, is the image I photographed to sell my unused tube on eBay. By the way, Guerlain used to sell these with a nifty little mirror in the cap. I’m told that they discontinued the mirror around 2004 or 2005.