Today I found myself just near City Pharma at 26 Rue Four, 75006, Paris. Beauty lovers may recall that this is the destination recommended by the lovely Lisa Eldridge in her video describing her favorite French skincare. The last time that I ventured near City Pharma, it had just been filled with two (!) busloads of French shoppers. European shops are not famed for their generous aisles, and the crowd made it impossible to browse. However, today the streets nearby looked relatively quiet, and so I braved through the doorway to see what I could find. Please come with me so you can see it too.
Have you ever heard of a “pub crawl”? Or a “food crawl”? If you haven’t, these are little excursions where one can go from place to place, enjoying just a little bit from each, whether it’s drinking, eating, or what have you. I thought it might be fun to put together one possible Parisian beauty crawl in case that you find yourself in the City of Light with some spare time on your hands. This is one of several possibilities.
While in Paris, I had the pleasure of visiting Les Salons du Palais Royale, conceived by the creative genius Serge Lutens (website here). Lutens is one of those rare individuals who infuses everything with an extraordinary, magical and highly original touch–a film maker, makeup artist, perfume creator, photographer and fashion designer–his creations seem to affect one at an aesthetic and emotional level. He adds to an already long history of excellence, having worked with Dior, Shiseido and photographed for Vogue. He has a touch that is both other-worldly and intensely human.
If you are in or near Paris, go to Les Salons du Palais Royale. This is a “must.” Go.
Lutens founded these Salons in 1992, establishing this colorful and universal space based on Féminité du Bois, a scent still available today. As you can see from the above image, entering this space is a transformative experience–the atmosphere is warm and quiet, comfortable, foreign yet familiar, grounded in history and completely different from the real world. Anything seems possible. Les Salons du Palais Royale is a testament to the fact that there are some places that are magic in this world.
Sandrine, the manager, made herself available for my visit, assisted by her very pleasant and extremely knowledgeable staff. Their multi-lingual capability is excellent, so if you are nervous about your French, let me put you at ease. It seems customary to be offered tea when one arrives for a longer visit, which was a treat. I also went up the magnificently detailed metalwork staircase to the Morrocan-themed meeting room above. Unlike the mauve and purple tones below, the upstairs is paneled with warm yellows and red accents, both exotic and welcoming at the same time. There is a long, low conference table upstairs, populated with the Serge Lutens product line and surrounded by modern, diamond-backed wooden chairs. Large windows upstairs look out onto the pleasant trees of the Palais Royale, reminding me that I had not left Paris (although I felt completely transported).
This boutique sells both Serge Lutens perfume and makeup. Because of the wide range of products, I’ll discuss perfume today and makeup tomorrow.
If you have not visited this location before, you should know that there are two series of perfumes offered here.
First, the Exclusives are sold only in this boutique and to a limited number of locations within Europe online. Period. There are currently 28 or so perfumes in this series, sold in this beautiful bell jar. If your time allows, you will be able to have the jar personally engraved (if you go early during your stay, it may give you enough time to have the engraving done). The range is deep, gorgeous and every one more life-changing than the last.
There are paper swatches of the scents out for you to review, which I suggest you use to narrow your choices. As you become interested in a certain scents, then apply them. I suppose if you have enough skin area you can try them all. You can also ask to be directed to particular kinds of scent (I was interested in leather and smoke, for example). Prepare to spend some time, the range is vast and each scent is complex and gorgeous in its own way.
A word about the beautiful bell-jar-A few years ago, I bought Fumerie turque and hand-carried it home at the time before airline liquid restrictions began. Today, of course, the world has changed. The boutique cannot assure you that these bell jars travel perfectly well in packed luggage because the bell jar is closed with a glass stopper only. (you didn’t hear it from me, there are some places on the Internet which can give you a few pointers about how to get a bell jar home in packed luggage). Right now, I’m very tempted to go back for Boxeuses (referring to a female boxers), it’s gorgeous and I’m finding it difficult to put out of my mind.
The boutique also displays one of the custom bottles created every year around the holidays. Each is thematically engraved to coordinate with an Exclusive fragrance chosen for the series, and only thirty are made each year. As one example, the year that Fumerie turque was featured, the bottle was engraved with swirling smoke shapes. There are several of them featured on Serge Lutens Facebook pages.
Here is the most recent bottle, for Boxeuses:
I love how it reminds me of both stars, and boxer punches at the same time. Serge Lutens plays the edges of light and dark beautifully.
Second, are the Serge Lutens spray bottles are sold here and are also carried elsewhere in Paris and throughout the world (sometimes referred to as the “export line”). You can buy these in the U.S. at Barney’s, and I’ve noticed them on Beauty Habit and Luckyscent as well.
I fell head over heels for Jeux de Peau (‘skin game’), a scent inspired by Serge Lutens childhood memories of visiting a bakery in his childhood. From an interview (from the Serge Lutens Facebook page):
I was often distracted: “Don’t forget to get the bread!”
If I described the bakery as a “golden place”, it’s because that’s how I saw it. Part of its bright aura was due to the amber loaves of French bread – bâtards, ficelles and baguettes – waiting in fragrant rows.
When I got to the bakery, I woke up from my day-dreaming to enjoy the sight of the bread. “Bread opens your eyes” just as surely as it whets your appetite. The crowning touch was the whiff of freshly baked bread, still warm, coming through the basement window.
At first glance, there was nothing but good humour on the face of the lady at the bakery. Her make- up gave her face a jolly look, yet one suspected that it was a mask concealing bitterness.
What could she have been suffering from that would, at busy times of day, make her purse her lips sharply and suddenly? The fact that it was barely perceptible made it even more obvious. Obeying a suspicious mind, her mouth, like the seal affixed to a judicial document, passed judgment on all comers. The smile that she gave when returning change had infinite variations: it could be suspicious, jaded, resigned, disdainful, stiff or disillusioned….
Something about Serge Lutens fragrances are so honest and centering–the impact on me is hard to describe. Jeux de Peau has a bready, milky sweetness, but there is also a sandalwood, as well as some deeper incense notes that Lutens seems to love. It’s insanely beautiful, and I’m sure that my description is not doing it justice. It’s comforting and edgy, and has an undeniable ability to affect my metabolism.
I purchased a full sized bottle (and may return to the boutique to get Daim Blonde as well). The lovely boutique gave me a sample Jeux de Peau which I’ve been using up since the day I obtained it, together with a much lighter sample L’Eau Serge Lutens, which I haven’t yet opened (but hope to as the weather warms).
L’eau Serge Lutens:
The boutique provided me with a book of perfume samples of the Serge Lutens range:
According to Sandrine, Serge Lutens has never discontinued a fragrance, and has no current plans to do so. Although different fragrances float in and out of the export line, they all appear to be here to stay.
I cannot imagine going to Paris without visiting this treasure. Les Salons du Palais Royale is a one-of-kind experience that evokes history, the senses, imagination and a full range of emotion. You. Must. Go.
Tomorrow’s post: Serge Lutens makeup at Les Salons du Palais Royale. Non-watermarked images are from Serge Lutens. Any typos are mine (let me know if you see any in the comments, pls!)
In the center of Paris near the Louvre Museum is a historic site, originally built in the 1600’s, that is now lined with exclusive boutiques and called the Palais Royal. Once the home of royalty, the area is now an extraordinarily pleasant place to spend an hour or two.
The central area is covered in grass and trees, and interspersed with walkways with occasional benches. Small, elegant restaurants fill in the corners. This area is a sort of a “secret garden” as it is surrounded by the stone enclosure now populated with highly eclectic shops.
The trees are highly manicured:
The nearby theaters are evidenced by some windows, which house incredibly imaginative costumes from past productions. Although the area is dominated by the architecture and park, there are few quiet shops that to me seem unique enough to warrant a post. Here is a sign that captures their names (click to enlarge):
Of interest in makeup and perfume shoppers, Serge Lutens has a quiet, dark and very beautiful location along one side. The inside is painted a deep almost-black and illuminated with violet accents. His exquisite perfumes are set out like jewels on little stages, in a setting that is both intimate and mysterious. A few years ago, I bought Turque Fumiere there in a bell jar, which I did not have time to have engraved with my initials (today, the perfume is available for a limited time in a more practical spray version at department stores).
Here is one of the window displays at Serge Lutens, featuring his lipsticks and two eyeshadow compacts (the compacts were closed at this time, unfortunately, so we cannot see them):
The other store that I’ve always loved is Didier Ludot, who carries vintage fashion clothes and accessories. The storefront alone is an incredible museum of treasures from Chanel, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent and their contemporaries. In fact, there are two Didier Ludot locations–one has only little black dresses, and the other is stuffed with all types of beautiful things.
This is the storefront featured on last season’s Paris fashion week episode of the Rachel Zoe Project. You can see the front window is crowded with vintage costume jewelry:
Purses and shoes, you can see the little placards for the Dior and Hermes, below—do you die? I D-I-E die!! Inside, it is stuffed floor to ceiling with vintage fashion–classic Chanel suits, vintage evening wear, jackets and more elegant accessories.
This time through, I noticed several galleries, a store that sells antique military medals and memorabilia, a toy store, a store selling miniatures of every imaginable thing, theater offices, a gorgeous Marc Jabobs boutique and several places for an intriguing lunch. If you want a museum break, the Palais Royal is a pleasant diversion.