El Attarine, the latest fragrance by Serge Lutens, a poet of scents Featured

Luxos meets the master of perfumes at the salons of the Palais Royal Shiseido.

Just a stone ’s throw from the Louvre , behind a wrought iron gate, we find another palace, the Palais Royal, one of the city’s secret and intimate places which only Paris can offer to the curious stroller. Under its arcades paved in marble, the steps of the Cardinal of Richelieu and of Louis XI V still echo. In its gardens, a truly peaceful haven, the likes of Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire once held debates.

A successive royal residence, an urbane or even socialite palace, since its reconstruction in 1763 the Palais Royal was sure to remain a fashion hub. It is here that contemporary art rubs shoulders with old stones and where luxury French brand names reside in a most prestigious setting.

It was here, under the shelter of the city’s commotion and under the shade of galleries imprinted with mystery, that in 1992 Serge Lutens first put on display the Salons of the Palais Royal Shiseido. Like the place that houses it, this is a unique building whose décor seems to exist outside both conventions and fashions in the same way as everything which characterises Serge Lutens. “It’s a poetic, historic and very personal alchemy,” he confides.

From the very entrance, magic permeates throughout. The greenery of the garden gives way to a place decorated in mauve, populated by insects, mythical beings, stars and of course perfumes. Around a finely worked black bronze and red copper staircase lies Serge Lutens’ sumptuous perfumery in its entirety.

He has been a poet, photographer and creator of scents since the day when, 14 years ago, in his native Lille, he entered a hair salon by chance. From then on, Serge Lutens has not ceased to innovate, initially in hairdressing, then in makeup. During the 1950s, being an eccentric and intuitive makeup artist, he captivated with his new vision for women.

In 1967, once again guided by his intuition, he revolutionised Christian Dior makeup. The great extent of his talent successfully led him towards photography and cinema. However, he was irrevocably attracted to perfume making. The year 1980 marked the beginning of his collaboration with Shiseido, which resulted in the Salons of the Palais Royal Shiseido and the Serge Lutens perfumes.

Since then, each decade has been crowned by the creation of an exceptional perfume. The first ones “Nombre Noir” and “Féminité du Bois” set the tone. The latter, as with all the other perfumes which have followed, is a result of his love of Marrakech. “During my first trip in 1968 I had a revelation when I found a piece of deliciously odorous cedar in a woodwork souk. I was truly seduced by it, I said to myself: I have to make a perfume!” he remembers.

At the start of his perfume-making, it was spices, herbs and mysterious Moroccan landscapes that nourished his soul in the art of perfumery.

His mystical perfumes evoke the olfactory opulence of the Orient: “Arabie”, “Ambre Sultan” (Amber Sultan), “Cuir Mauresque” (Moorish Leather) and “Sarrasins” (Buckwheat) are “examples of paradise on earth”, an Arabic phrase which Serge Lutens has made his own. Their mysterious names, “Tuberose Criminelle” (Criminal Tuberose), “Sa Majesté la Rose” (Her Majesty the Rose) and “L’odeur de Sainteté” (The Smell of Sainthood) are poems whispered in the small of the ear. Fastidious and precise, the perfumemaker also created glass bottles which are both timeless and elegant, just like the fluids they contain. Numbered limited editions further captivate the rare creations of this artist.

His latest perfume, “El Attarine” with its immortal fragrances of cumin and spices, is just that: rare. At the height of his art, Serge Lutens invented tales from far off lands. Scent by scent, he has woven the web of his perfume creation. This is a perfumery of an author, of “a captive in love, captivated”. As are we all...

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