Style secrets of the French by Casilda Grigg
A new scent arrived at Diptyque’s flagship shop in Paris just days ago. It’s called Essences Insensées and it’s a mix of mimosa, violets and heliotrope. It comes in a retro glass bottle with an old-fashioned bulb atomiser and costs 120 euros.
The scent is appealingly floral and pleasing to look at but I’m still hooked on my two longstanding favourites: Do Son (lashings of tuberose that make me swoon every time) and Olène (wisteria, honeysuckle and jasmine). My friend Ruth wears the romantically-named L’Ombre dans l’Eau (blackcurrant leaf and Bulgarian rose).
The Saint-Germain shop has just launched a new vanilla candle. It has a subtle vanilla pod smell and is woody (sandalwood), spicy and very sophisticated. I loved it and can imagine it being a rival to Diptyque’s classic fig this autumn.
The Diptyque story
Three friends founded Diptyque in 1961: Christiane Gautrot (an interior designer), Desmond Knox-Leet (an English painter who worked at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and died in 1993) and Yves Coueslant (a theatre director, who died last year aged 87).
Christiane and Desmond initially designed wallpaper for Liberty and Sanderson, which explains the shop’s lovely aesthetic. The Paris shop on a quiet stretch of the Boulevard Saint-Germain is the original store.
A few facts about Diptyque
For all its niche appeal, Diptyque is now an international perfume business. You can’t snap up a bottle in Duty Free en route to Faro or Alicante – it isn’t in the Chanel/Guerlain league – but it does have 23 shops in eight countries, including four in London (Brook Street, Marylebone High St, Westbourne Grove and Leadenhall Market). I’d always assumed that these held a smaller range than the Paris store but according to the staff in Saint-Germain the stock is the same. At a guess I’d say the Paris store is about 10% cheaper – enough to justify a cocktail after your credit card has taken a bashing.
What I love about it
I love Diptyque’s dancing script and black and white oval labels, which are inspired (according to its website) by Roman shields. It’s the French capital’s equivalent to Miller Harris i.e. a proper perfumer that uses natural ingredients and offers scents that leave you smelling fabulous and – crucially – different to other people. The perfume doesn’t last quite as long as Chanel but I get compliments when I wear it. Diptyque also has wonderful soaps to match the scents.
How to wear scent like a true Parisian
The hollow at the bottom of the neck, the pulse points at the inner wrists and the backs of the knees are the obvious spots but the best answer comes from Coco Chanel. She famously told a client to put it ‘wherever you want to be kissed.’
Where to find Diptyque in Paris
The store is at 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, just three minutes walk (east) of the Maubert-Mutualité métro, and is open from 10am to 7pm (closed on Sundays). If you buy a bottle ask for a free sample – they’re very useful for handbags. I found the staff in Saint-Germain friendly and knowledgeable (no pushy sales pitch). Diptyque scents are also sold online. The price for the tongue-twisting Essences Insensées is £100 for 100ml and the newly-launched vanilla candle is £40. The soaps are an agonising £10 each.