On the Champs-Élysées in Paris, right next to the Sephora, is the Guerlain flagship store. Although this is not the company’s first location, it has been there since 1914 and is its most iconic. It holds not only a unique architectural style, but incredibly informed staff and is a tribute to the company’s history.
I have previously done a shopping report for this store at this link, although after reflecting on my previous experience I was better prepared for the boutique during this summer’s visit. I read other internet reviews of the store, and spent some time on Guerlain’s website learning more about the company’s history. If you have not done so and like the line, I encourage you to look at the Guided Tour.
The store is the very definition of elegance. It is an incredible treat for the senses. If you ever get to Paris, you must go.
This time, I bypassed the first floor displays of perfumes and headed up the stairs at the back to the second floor. As I previously described, the upstairs foyer is covered in yellow-gold shimmery tiles, and the walls have organic, flowing shapes. The clientele tends to be well dressed, and everyone seems to be well treated regardless of their dress. There were only four or so staff visible; I was immediately greeted by a friendly woman about my own age who gave me the typical “Bonjour madame!” in her lyrical French.
I can get excited about some Guerlain products, although others leave me a bit cold. I have never loved Meteorites, the round powder complexion enhancers. I reasoned that if I were to ever love them, this would be the place to fall in love. So I asked to see them first, remembering from my last visit to pronounce the product with the French style (Meet-ee-or-eets), rather than the U.S. which sounds more like a celestial object.
“Aah!” my assistant led me to the large makeup area. I should note that this boutique does not seem to have any makeup products that are exclusive to that location, although there are some special perfumes. After examining the Meteorites display, I could not conjure up any more love for them than I already had. I wish I did. This boutique is the perfect place to finally get that gorgeous compact.
I did ask about the new Guerlain bronzers for Summer 2010, which I had not seen before in person. There are two series–first, the Four Seasons ($74) in two shades:
Both of these swatched very dark, and a bit orange, for my NC15/Chanel Cameo skintone. Second, the Terracotta Light Collector ($50/ 46 euros) which looks very much like the sheer bronzing powder with the mosaic of five different colors:
I already own a similar looking product, called the Terracotta Sheer Bronzing powder in Blondes, which has good reviews but which I rarely use. It’s another product that I wanted to love, but it seemed to lack…something.
I told my sales associate that I already owned Blondes, pointing to the prior version in the display. ”Ah,” she said, “that one is too beige for you.”
And just like that, she won me over. She was right. The prior Blondes was too beige for me. The new one has more intense color, we tried it on and indeed it was gorgeous. She then explained that the new Terracotta glosses had been reformulated this season. She pulled out a beautiful bronzed pink-rose one (#4 Amber) that looked amazing with my skin tone. Because I was buying two items from the Terracotta collection, I got the boutique’s gift with purchase– a rather large soft makeup bag with a mini-Terracotta bronzer #1 and a mini-kabuki brush.
After paying, I wandered around the perfume area, which is a large room with an incredible display and adorned with glass bead curtains. I was drawn to a large display featuring the L’Art et la Matiere series (168 euros each). These were accompanied by little still-lifes of the notes featured in the accompanying bottles, bi-lingual descriptions and antique versions of the fragrances that appeared to be a century old with reductions of the scents lining the bottom. I fell in love with each one, each one as life-changing as the last. I particularly loved the white chocolate of Iris Ganache and the incense of Bois d’Armenie. I had seen a display at the register which indicated that Guerlain would engrave the bottle with your name if you had a few days before pick-up. Although very tempted, I decided to think about it before plunging ahead.
I wondered about all of the women who have experienced this store over the last century, all of the occasions celebrated with a gift of one of these perfumes, and the hours spent enjoying the scent. I suspected that some of these perfumes were still being sold today, although perhaps their notes had been subtly refined through the years. The atmosphere was quiet and polite, allowing me to experience each of them, including the new additions, for myself.
This location also has a luxurious spa, which I did not visit. I’ve been very impressed with the few Guerlain skincare products that I’ve sampled, so I’m certain that such an experience would be lovely.
If you are interested in the history of Guerlain, this website (Monsieur Guerlain.com) is an incredibly rich source of information.
As you can probably tell, I have the view that one does not need to go to a museum to experience history. If you are of the mind, or simply enjoy experiences rich in culture, I would put La Maison Guerlain on your list if you get to Paris.
Architectural detail above Guerlain's door
And so, readers, if we were to go back to this store together this weekend, what would you look at? What would you get?