Wednesday, 4 December 2013
GUERLAIN - When Does 'Haute Parfumerie' Become 'Supermarket Cafeteria'?
Celebrating 100 years at their 68 Champs Elysees address, Maison Guerlain have finally revealed their intuitive execution of the boutique's recent renovations. After nine months being closed off to the public, this past November Guerlain flung open their doors to unveil the exquisite interiors that have been completely reworked by offbeat American architect Peter Marino. The reveal laid bare a keen sensitivity to the building's heritage and history, and its foyer and halls have been restored and preserved with great aptitude and panache. Several new zones have been introduced - one, a couture area in which one can view and purchase perfumed leather gloves, and and another, an underground restaurant that will serve you desserts and fiddly pastries. For every stoppered bee bottle and pricey limited edition I've bought in the last 7 years, I can now clearly observe where my dollars have been spent.
Contention has come, however, by way of a new controversial addition to the edifice, namely an area reserved for the conspicuous marketing of "Les Délices du 68" - a selection of specially blended teas and jars of Guerlain-branded honey. If you like your Oolong to smack of L'Heure Bleue, or your honey fussily tied and monogrammed in much the same manner that the famed Dames du Table do their flacons, then this is your jam... but to bandy about wine-tasting terms such as "Grand cru 2013" when referring to honey... it tends to make one guffaw.
Whilst one understands that the marketing minds at Guerlain wish to make 68 Champs Elysees an all-inclusive destination, one has to ask whether the pedalling of such souvenirs is wholly relevant to one of the world's oldest and most revered perfume houses. When did Haute Parfumerie become Haute Knic-knackerie? I cringe to think what might be next... perhaps some Shalimar-scented drawer liners and a life-size Theirry Wasser cutout by the registers to have one's photo taken with?
With paper-thin parallels being drawn between lidded pots of honey and the iconic house emblem of the bee, it's all starting to smell like a conspicuous revenue-gathering exercise to me. Perhaps to raise some capital to offset the renovation costs? Whatever the case, I, for one, am unimpressed. From now on - no matter how pretty it is - I think I might relinquish any future visits to Maison Guerlain... this department-store food hall style shopping I can enjoy at Harrods or F&M.