Get off at the Sèvres-Babylone station and you’ll find Le Bon Marché, the Left Bank department store: smaller, less crowded and more up-market than the Right Bank emporiums… The larger niche brands have counters here – Serge Lutens, L’Artisan, Goutal, Tom Ford… At the By Kilian counter, you can tell the S.A., Damien, I sent you: not only will he pull out the secret testers, but he’ll be able to tell you what’s new on the floor, and is likely to dash off to bring you a scent strip! The Miller Harris counter sells Coeur de Peau, a Bon Marché exclusive featuring bergamot, lavender, nutmeg, tonka bean and musk.
There’s a “niche wall” on the left-hand side of the ground floor when you’ve got your back to the main entrance with Byredo, Parfums d’Empire, Parfums DelRae… This is the only point of sale of Attache-moi, the fragrance designed for the trendy magazine Iconofly.
While you’re at it, poke a head into La Grande Épicerie de Paris next door: it’s pure foodie porn.
When you reach the rue de Grenelle, head towards your left and walk a couple of blocks to Parfums de Nicolaï, run by the incredibly knowledgeable Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot, the author of Le Guide du Parfum (please note she’s off on Tuesdays and the shops shuts down during the lunch hour).
Now double back towards the boulevard Raspail, staying on the rue de Grenelle: cross it to reach Frédéric Malle and their highly trained staff (most S.A.s are ISIPCA graduates). For what it’s worth, just across the sidewalk, have a look at the heartbreakingly lovely Christian Louboutins… In fact, all of the rue de Grenelle is pure shoe porn.
On your right-hand side, you’ll come across the rue des Saint-Pères: this is where you’ll have to make a decision.
If you take it, there’s a tiny shop for Memo, a niche brand I haven’t had time to explore yet and further down, another tiny L’Artisan. On the corner with the Boulevard Saint-Germain, you’ll find the Sonia Rykiel flagship store on the right, with her range of fragrances, candles and scented incense sticks.
If you decide to continue on the rue de Grenelle, you’ll need to cross the rue du Dragon to reach the rue du Four, which goes up on your left: there you’ll find the costume jewelry shop Réminiscence, originally a perfume brand founded in the early 70s, and just across the street, their competitor Les Néreïdes where you can load up on post-hippie patch and musk…
There’s an Annick Goutal shop nearby: to get to it, take the rue Bonaparte to your right until you hit the place Saint-Sulpice (you can’t miss it: there’ll be a huge baroque church to your left). Take a right and you’ll find the Goutal.
If you’re at all interested in scented candles, you need to check out the oldest candle-maker in France, Cire Trudon: apart from a simpler, less expensive line of candles, they sell a super-luxury line whose scents are built like classic fragrances, with top, heart and base notes. To reach it, when you come out of the Goutal shop, take to your right and follow the rue Saint-Sulpice until you hit the rue de Seine, then go to your right. It’s just around the corner.
Now take the rue de Seine towards the boulevard Saint-Germain. On Saint-Germain, turn to the right. Once you get to the level of the metro Odéon, cross the boulevard and follow the rue Mazarine just opposite up to the corner of the rue Guénégaud: you’ll find Aépure, Paris’s sole multi-brand niche cosmetics and perfumery shop. Loads of Italian niche brands – Nasomatto, Profumum, Lorenzo Villoresi – as well as Juliette Has a Gun, By Killian, Lost March and… tah-dah! Parfumerie Générale – the owner, François de Groussouvre, hopes to convince Pierre Guillaume to put his private blends on sale there some day…
Added November 6th 2009: It seems the Aépure boutique has closed down...
If you’re not absolutely shattered by now, you can go back to the boulevard Saint-Germain and kept walking eastwards… or take the metro at Odéon, line 10, direction Gare d’Austerlitz and get off at Maubert-Mutualité. Continue walking towards the east on the boulevard Saint-Germain and you’ll reach Diptyque’s first-ever store, opened in 1961.
A few more addresses on the Right Bank…
When you’re wandering around the Marais, Paris’s medieval/gay/Jewish district, you won’t want to miss the État Libre d’Orange shop. It’s a little trek from the metro Hôtel de Ville: when you’re on the rue de Rivoli, go eastwards and you’ll come across the rue des Archives, take a left: it’s about seven blocks from there, on the corner of the rue Pastourelle.
Time for another visit? Go all the way back to the rue de Rivoli but don’t cross it. Go to the left and walk six blocks until you reach the tiny rue Ferdinand-Duval: take a left and you’ll find The Different Company’s sole Paris stand-alone shop…
If you’re really into Annick Goutal, you might not want to miss Merci, a charity/concept multi-brand store founded by Annick’s sister Marie-France Cohen: Passion, L’Eau du Sud, L’Heure Exquise, L’Eau de Camille and L’Eau de Charlotte are sold in plain lab bottles: 22 € for 25ml, 39€ for 50ml, 59€ for 100ml and 119€ for 200ml. If you bring in your own bottle to fill, it’s even cheaper. The store also offers exclusive re-editions of four discontinued Goutal candles: Dans les Foins (hay), Mes Nuits d’été (fig tree), Chine Impériale (smoky tea) and Corsé (spicy), at 29€ for a 175-gram candle in a glass, and 19€ for a refill. But I’d recommend you take the metro: if you’re on the rue de Rivoli coming from TDF, walk a bit towards the east, hop into the metro Saint-Paul (direction Château de Vincennes) and change at Bastille, line 8, direction Balard. Get off at Saint-Sébastien Froissart.
Good news: this is where you can eat. Merci has a great (and affordable) canteen downstairs with appetizing, often organic food, a tempting salad bar, tempting desserts… and totally vegetarian-friendly. Open from 12 to 4 PM.
Tuck in, you’ve deserved it…
Le Bon Marché: 24 rue de Sèvres 75007
L’Artisan Parfumeur : 24 boulevard Raspail 75007 and 50 rue des Saints-Pères 75007
Parfums de Nicolaï : 80 rue de Grenelle 75007
Frédéric Malle : 37 rue de Grenelle 75007
Memo : 60 rue des Saints-Pères 75007
Sonia Rykiel : 194 boulevard Saint-Germain 75007
Réminiscence : 22 rue du Four 75006
Les Néréïdes : 23 rue du Four 75006 and 5 rue du Bourg l’Abbé 75003
Annick Goutal : 12 Place Saint-Sulpice 75006
Cires Trudon : 78 rue de Seine 75006
Aépure : 35 rue Guénégaud 75006
Diptyque : 34 boulevard Saint-Germain 75005
État Libre d’Orange : 69 rue des Archives 75003
The Different Company : 10 rue Ferdinand Duval 75004
Merci: 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003
Image: Singer Juliette Gréco photographed by Robert Doisneau