An American girl walks into three perfume stores in Paris… and walks away with three completely different experiences and a few lessons learned.
Guerlin on Le Champs-Elysees:
The streets weren’t bustling, not like I thought they’d be for a sunny Friday afternoon. Looking around, I saw signs of the habitual yellow jacket protests: spiderwebbed cracked glass on the bus shelters, a few plywood boarded windows, but nothing that made me feel unsafe or unwelcome. Perhaps it was the sunshine and warmth in the air, perhaps it was just my excitement to be in Paris, alone, as an adult.
I hadn’t intended to spend my time perfume shopping but I ducked into Guerlin. The first thing I noticed was that it didn’t smell like what I thought it would smell like. I was imaging those terrible stores in the mall, the ones you smell before you even walk in where all the perfume scents are jumbled together and it becomes overwhelming. This store had a noticeable absence of smell. Mixing in with the 20 people or so milling about the store, I listened as a saleslady worked with a young girl. She asked her a series of questions and then proceeded to spray two to three perfumes on heavy cardstock rectangles. Surprisingly, I couldn’t smell the perfumes from where I stood nor did I notice men crinkling their nose from all the scents floating in the air. The young 20 year old selected her perfume and moved to the register. My turn.
“Bonjour! Francaise or Anglaise? What perfume are you looking for?”
“Hum, I’m not sure. Something I can wear everyday and never get tired of. Not woodsy. More floral.”
The saleslady then replied, “Oh, this is perfect for you.” Sprayed it on a smelling card and turned to help the next person in line. Hum. I sniffed the card. It was okay but definitely not what I had in mind. I stepped up to ask her another question but she was engaged with the next customer already. She recommended the exact same perfume to the next client. And the next. The fourth customer she “helped” said they were looking for a date night/special occasion perfume, something dramatic and memorable.
She recommend the same perfume that she recommended to the three of us beforehand. At that point I set my card down and walked out of the store.
Yes, Guerlin has an excellent reputation and they make wonderful perfumes. Maybe I just walked in on the wrong day or maybe worked with the wrong saleslady. Either way, I felt repelled by the lack of personal attention and care given by the store. Time to move on.
Perfume Shopping at Oriza L Legrand:
180 degrees from the store on the Champs-Elysees, this small boutique is tucked away in the Palais Royal Garden. My friend and I step inside and are affectionately greeted by the shopkeeper. Between the three of us in the space I think we could maybe fit one more person? Maybe? Once again I notice, despite the small space and the store being a perfumery, the overabundant smells are absent. In fact, there is no smell in the store. Interesting.
As the shopkeeper greets us and asks us about our day perfume shopping, my friend begins to ask her probing questions about the perfume industry. Do her perfumes use synthetic smells? Why? (Answer: Yes. Every perfumery uses synthetic smells nowadays. It allows for more combinations and lowers the overall cost. Without synthetic smells the average and above average citizen could not afford perfume. She knows of only one lady, who resides in Southern France, who is making au natural perfumes. Her client list is closed and the wait time is five years. A three ounce bottle sells for over 10K).
As we continue our conversation, it is clear this woman’s life passion is perfume.
She is one of those rare individuals who found out what she loves and is making her life work out of it. You can’t help but be magnetized to someone like that. We spend over an hour in her boutique, learning about the industry and smelling different perfumes. Her perfumery created the signature scent for King Louise XV. The scent is still available and worn today. She laughed and smilingly told us not to be afraid of colognes, they aren’t always for men, and if we walk into a perfume store and there are coffee beans on the counter top then we should walk directly back out. Clearly that store does not know perfume.
We left her boutique more educated on perfume, semi-in love with her passion, and intent on coming back to purchase her rose perfume. I loved it!
Maison Francis Kurkdjian:
The next day my friend and I strolled around Paris, enjoying our last hours in the city together. We didn’t intend to continue to perfume shop but the window for Maison FK beckoned us in. My friend previously purchased one of their perfumes but wanted her husband, who was with us at the time, to smell another. Apparently she loved it but he said it smelled like old ladies, haha.
The saleslady in this store was super nice, never pushy, and well versed in her company’s perfumes. She didn’t have the passion that they lady from Oriza did but I think it’s a rarity to find that. We ended up spending over an hour in her store, learning about the perfumes, smelling different ones and just enjoying ourselves.
In fact, it was in this store that I found the perfume I’d love to wear everyday! I walked out with a sample so I could wear it a few times just to be sure. I love it.
Tidbits learned from my Parisian Perfume Shopping Experience:
If a perfumery smells like a gross mix of perfumes, be wary. Don’t go in there for suggestions or education.
If a store has coffee beans sitting on the counter for you to sniff between perfume scents walk out. Coffee is a strong smell, not a neutral smell. If you want to clear your nose pallet, smell your elbow. This allows you to smell your own body which is your neutral.
Don’t spray perfume on your wrists and rub your wrists together. Rubbing your wrists together breaks down the perfume faster and changes the scent.
Two squirts is probably enough. Never more than four.