Kudos to Kilian Hennessy. I may have been initially annoyed by the bombastic prose on his website (it has since been removed), and by the beautiful but costly packaging (he has since made purse atomizers and refills available without purchasing the fancy presentation), but I’ll say one thing for him: he knows how to pick the people he works with. Offering the gifted Calice Becker the opportunity of playing with lavish materials was a welcome move. And, at least in Paris, the people he’s put in charge of his counters are genuine connoisseurs. And none more so than Rebecca Veuillet-Gallot, whom some of you may have met in the Parfums de Nicolaï shop near Le Bon Marché, where the author of Le Guide du Parfum officiated, and who can now be found in the Scent Room of Le Printemps in Paris.
I’d say Rebecca’s the type of sales associate every brand should try to attract, if she wasn’t one of a kind. She’s clearly enthusiastic about the By Kilian line and has thought out each scent, as well as the whole of the collection, in such a way that she can adjust her pitch to the type of customer she’s dealing with. Me, for instance. The woman who comes in to sniff, chat, and practically never buys. Rebecca had pretty much already managed to turn me on to Beyond Love even before she worked for Kilian – but then, I’ve always been a pushover from tuberose – just by wearing it in my presence (I recognized its sillage instantly, and that’s saying something for the scent rather than the keenness of my nose). This time, just as I was preparing to skin-test something else, I caught a whiff of something rounded, jammy and quite wonderful emanating from her general direction.
“Why don’t you test this one instead?” she purred. She didn’t really have to insist: I was generously squirted in the chest, neck and arms with Liaisons Dangereuses.
The scent is sold as a Damascus plum but both Rebecca and I agreed it was much more of a jammy rose, leaning both towards Nahéma though in a darker, less ample tone, and the original Femme with its lactonic, coconut-plum-peach facets, sprinkle of cinnamon and mossy vetiver base. There is also a plum-rose-chypre ghost of Parure hovering around…
Rebecca said she envisioned it as the most delicate of rose confitures, complete with the green sepals of the blossoms (the gritty green touch of cassis bud) and bubbles of air trapped inside – though Calice Becker works with rich materials, she does manage to inject a very contemporary ease, a breathing space between the notes.
Though spraying on a plummy, winey, jammy rose in the midst of the season’s first heat wave sounded like a passport to migraine, it sat well on my skin, the lactonic facets welding generously with my flesh.
I am happy to say that Liaisons Dangereuses has now made it to my wish list, something I didn’t much expect a rose fragrance to do. I’m going to have to watch my step with Rebecca – that’s some serious voodoo she’s working…
On to you: who’s the best perfume S.A. you ever ran into, and how did he/she work his/her voodoo on you?
Picture by Sophia Sanchez and Mauro Mongiello
Rose confiture sounds utterly enticing...RépondreSupprimer
And as for your question:
The obvious answer for me is: my Mum! She's worked in perfume retail for almost three decades (and it is only at this instant that I've realised how odd it is that I've never actually bought anything at any of her shops!!!) and has therefore been the most influential figure in my 'fragrance formation'.
If you prefer a more conventional answer, I'd say anyone at London's Les Senteurs.
Persolaise, how lucky to have had a mother who could open up that magic realm for you at an early age! Perfume was banned in my house, sadly...RépondreSupprimer
I've only been once to Les Senteurs but it's definitely a place where one could succumb all too easily!
Perfume was BANNED??!?? Why??RépondreSupprimer
Persolaise: it gave my dad headaches, and I was diagnosed allergic to it. So there you go: forbid something, and it'll become as attractive as... the rest of the forbidden experiences!RépondreSupprimer
LD is loooovely and Rebecca a real gem!RépondreSupprimer
My fav London SA has got to be Simon at the Micallef counter at F&M, he always has a perfume ace up his sleeve, so to speak, is kind and knows his stuff.
Also there is a lovely chap at Liberty who made me bag some great bargains in the sales I wouldn't have otherwise gone for, and my trips to that department store are always enhanced by a chat with him, if he is around, unfortunately I don't know his name.
And it is impossible to fault anyone at Les Scenteurs, past or present employees. Most charming even when you don't end up purchasing.
I met Rebecca at the PdN store, and all I can say is, her departure is a loss for the brand. Everyone should have an SA like that working for them. She seemed utterly content to let us play; was obviously intimately familiar with the line; and (when we liked or disliked something) commented on it, offered direction for other things to try, etc. It was like sampling perfume with a knowledgeable friend. And in the end she made the sale. :)RépondreSupprimer
My favorite SAs here are the ones at my Saks and Nordstrom who *know* I'm there to sniff for the blog and are always eager to find whatever's new for me. They don't pressure me while I browse. When I find myself needing a bottle at full retail (e.g., for a gift) I always buy from them.
There's the wonderful James Craven (Les Senteurs and Fortnum and Mason's) and of course Florian (F Malle at Liberty) and then the team upstairs at Harrods is pretty good too.RépondreSupprimer
Personally, I loathe going to Selfridge's and Harvey Nicols because the staff are in the main so clueless...
Unfortunately I didn't meet Rebecca at Parfum de Nicolai and I say unfortunately because she sounds a gem. Funnily enough my favourite SA was a Swedish lady who worked for Parfum de Nicolai in London. She was charming, knowledgable, interested and interesting. I second Silvia's recommendation of Simon at Micallef. He's wicked! As for Liaisons Dangereuses, dammit you've woken the lemming! I've loved that one for a while for its plum and coconut vibe which make the rose entirely tolerable for me. NicolaRépondreSupprimer
Sorry to chip in again, but I just wanted to echo Alexander's comment about Florian Pedemanaud. Unless I'm mistaken, he's an award-winning SA!RépondreSupprimer
Thérèse at Ogilvy's in Montréal. All she has to say to me is, "Normand, have you tried the new... whatever?" I rarely buy new stuff... but invariably we start talking about the old stuff (she's been selling perfume for 20 years and she is very knowledgeable). Most times I walk out with a small bag... damn!RépondreSupprimer
No SA's to report on, sadly, but just wanted to say I think it's only fair play that you've found someone able to seduce *you* when it comes to perfume. Ms. Rebecca has my respect.RépondreSupprimer
Also--think I have a sample of LD around somewhere that I haven't tried. Shameful! Must dig it out!
Oh, I just can't choose...RépondreSupprimer
The few times I caressed the idea of a blog (don't worry, it's abandoned!), I settled that I would do several portraits of the tiny shop-owners (they are SO and SA at the same time) so truly passionate about their perfume-work, so generous in time and samples, so unique in character and looks that I thought every perfume lover coming to Milan should know where to find these people and their fragrant offerings.
One of them just reached the spotlight in Luca Turin's june article for NZZ Folio. But LT focused on the perfumes...I would describe the severe yet warm tubereuse criminelle lady. People are way more interesting than perfumes, sometimes!
But, truth to be told, the most enabling SAs are the faceless ones working at the underground (literally) perfume disneyland of Mazzolari: they won't approach you. They won't follow you. Not all of them are even able to find a particular perfume you're looking for (not to mention guide your choice) among the multitude of their clean, ordered, filled-up shelves. But you are allowed to browse undisturbed their impressive perfume collection. You can spray. You can ask for samples. You can jump to their other "nicher" shop on the side of the building. You can come back. Like a tranquil Sephora, all wooden panels and soft floors, selling everything from Roger et Gallet to Cire Trudon. That quiet browsing below the busy city surface, the quantity and quality of fragrances, is the most effective form of enabling I know of!
Probably, if I lived in Paris, there would be many places like this, but here niche shops are many but really sooo tiny, you cannot just forget your time and play all by yourself... A thing I like very much to do!
My favorite (and most influential) SA was a lovely Swiss woman named Ruth at the NYC SAKS Guerlain boutique in the mid '90s. She really knew how to nurture a client's relationship with the brand, was patient, knowledgeable, and never pushy. She loved the opera and ballet, and told me stories/lore about the relationship between Guerlain fragrances with various artists. I became a loyal Guerlain customer because of her even though the brand really was beyond my budget. Sadly she was lured away by Estee Lauder to run their Prescriptives counter at Bergdorfs several years later. I've never encountered anyone else like her since then.RépondreSupprimer
Silvia, I think I may have met Simon at F&M, he was indeed very helpful and knowledgeable. Unfortunately, none of the Micallef appealed...RépondreSupprimer
March: smart SA = SA who knows how to assess the customer's needs/moods/behavior patterns... No need for encyclopaedic knowledge. It's knowing people that counts!RépondreSupprimer
Alexander, I had a bit of a chat with James and Florian at the Frédéric Malle corner at Liberty's is another such gem. Not to mention a friend!RépondreSupprimer
Nicola, you've said it, it's that lactonic wrapping that makes this non-rose lover happy!RépondreSupprimer
Persolaise, so you know Florian too? Which perfume lover in London doesn't, mind you? I was actually discussing him today with a former colleague of his who is now in Paris... The man's reknown is international!RépondreSupprimer
Normand, now that's an SA for you. The one who can get you interested in the old stuff! Too often they're pushing the newest and don't even know about the rest of their line...RépondreSupprimer
Alyssa, Rebecca and I don't always have the same tastes, but she's so cultured and well-spoken that she can certainly get me to consider things I wouldn't have gravitated to.RépondreSupprimer
Zazie, believe me, there's no place like Mazzolari in Paris! In many of the niche shops the SAs are very knowledgeable, but sadly no multi-brand niche boutique seems to be able to survive here.RépondreSupprimer
OperaFan, Ruth was certainly a gem, and I'd say a pedagogue as well!RépondreSupprimer
I'm still filling out my collection with the classics and getting good advice is THE issue of perfume sales and marketing. No other issue exists. Most SAs have no idea what they're talking about... so when I met Thérèse, the clouds parted... ;-) She's perfect for me... not so much for my credit card.. hehe.
What kills me is when I say I'm a collector and they walk back discreetly feeling for the security/panic button under the counter.
Great question, by the way.
I'm blessed to have not one but THREE phenomenal SAs in Chicago - Lydia (late of L'Artisan, now at Barneys) - she's not an actual SA (she reps a couple of lines) but she is extremely knowledgeable about perfume, with a real interest in it and what's best - isn't looking to shill the latest thing.
My regular SA @ Barneys, Bradley, is just wonderful. He takes the time to learn who his customers are and allows them time to explore, offering suggestions that reflect their tastes (and occasionally pushing them into uncharted waters). A true delight.
My old-school SA is Rose, at Saks. Not that interested in perfume as such but very customer-oriented, not at all pushy and willing to give samples and let you take your time.
There are others as well but these are my 3 beloveds.
You didn't ask but I have to tell you my WORST: the former manager @ L'Artisan (the last one, not the vaunted and fabulous Darcy) who, when she found out I was in film production, badgered me so mercilessly to provide her with 'connections' that she actually ran me out of the store!!!
Normand, you know, oddly enough, I did meet at least two knowledgeable SAs in Ottawa of all places, one at Holt's Estée Lauder counter, and one at the Bay at the Rideau Center. One of the keys to this was that, let's say, they'd been at the job for a couple of decades at least, so they actually knew their classics and could compare the newer things with them. I'd say they were pros. One even made a sale to me (a very rare event indeed)...RépondreSupprimer
Musette, sounds like you're spoiled out there in Chicago! As for that shop manager, how utterly unprofessional. Eww.RépondreSupprimer
Denyse... you meet them, but they are rare. When I realized I couldn't get collection advice from SA's, I turned to blogs like yours. THANK GOD for bloggers!RépondreSupprimer
When you shell out as much as I do in a year, you want to buy stuff that will represent a corpus... otherwise, you'll end up with a collection of useless crap.
And, then there's the question of buying for myself or the collection... a whole other subject.
I use you and other perfume pals as my SA's! My tastes are too oddball for any normal SA to "get" me, I swear!RépondreSupprimer
Funny you should post about a Kilian Rose today as I had just made a nice long comment on your last wonderful entry -- that somehow got lost in the ether -- in which I said that I had most recently been gobsmacked by Kilian's Rose Aoud, and Rosine's Rosissimo in Paris. Who knows how long these affaris will last, as it will be a while until I sniff them again, but I guess I'm also having a season of tweaked roses.......
Many years ago, I met Howard Molyneux at the perfume counter in Bloomingdale's (a fabulous place in those days). I was writing an article about perfume for a now defunct magazine, and he knew everything and everyone. We became friends. I would come by the store and we would go to a diner nearby to chat over coffee. He told wonderful stories. I was devastated when he died.
Normand, tell me about it! Trouble is, there's a lot of stuff in the collection that I'd wear if a) I could be bothered to dig it out and b) I had more skin + days...RépondreSupprimer
Wendy, the Rose Aoud is very lovely indeed... Apparently it's a huge seller with Middle-Eastern gentlemen!RépondreSupprimer
Ariane, I'll bet wherever he is now smells... divine.RépondreSupprimer
Had to comment - Liaisons D is one of my very favorite perfumes - and I was tipped off to it by my perfume pen pal Dan Rolleri. So far he's kept me awash in decants, so I haven't had to shell out the big bucks for it.RépondreSupprimer
It's also the perfume that got on the fast track to destination All Things Roses. I'm now officially a rose-oholic.
As for SAs, is it Stuart at Liberty's you're thinking of, Silvia? He's wonderful and has been there for ten years. Standing Os also for everyone at Les Senteurs. Anthony and the rest of the enthusiastic and knowledgeable team at Barneys in Los Angeles are a joy. I've learned so much from Margaret at Frédéric Malle NYC. And the Scent Bar's Angela is probably single-handedly responsible for torching my perfume flame into a bonfire. She has a subtle way of sliding a bottle down the counter in my direction, and leaving me alone until I get hooked. Then she loads me up with samples like some kind of playground pusher. It works!
Katie, I did see that yours was one of the few reviews of Liaisons Dangereuses -- I guess it was dangerous in that it turned you on to roses, and there's no dearth of them!RépondreSupprimer
I've always found the staff at Frédéric Malle very well-informed and helpful: several I've met have actually had formal training in perfumery.
And I'm sure the Scent Bar in LA is a place of temptation: from the feedback I get, they're both sweet and sincerely enthusiastic about their stuff.