Monday 13 August 2012

L’Artisan Parfumeur Séville A L’Aube Launch With Bertrand Duchaufour & Denyse Beaulieu: More Grey Matters - Or Lack Of Them…

You know another post must be overdue when you realise you have amassed no fewer than FIVE Farrow & Ball paint colour cards - all identical, but displaying varying degrees of dogearedness. A growing colony of F & B tester pots is another sure sign that you are losing touch with the real (as in the virtual) world. Another dead giveaway is the spammers who are all over your blog archives like a rash, sensing that your current posting hiatus means you are too preoccupied to notice their stealthy incursions.

Well, it’s true that I am somewhat preoccupied at the moment with more firefighting on the house front. Just this week, for example, the spectre of woodworm raised its myriad pinhole heads in the study, so the carpet laying there has had to be deferred for the second time (the first carpet arrived damaged!).


On the plus side, since my last post I have had a water meter installed, a sash window fixed and a floor levelled, and acquired a working fridge, a tumble dryer, microwave, pedal bin, broom, mop and toilet brush. Not forgetting the cutlery drainer. I have also erected a clothes line and a bird house in the garden, deep cleaned the kitchen cupboard doors and descaled the kettle. Oh, and the living room sofa is on order, the chimney sweep booked, and the finger of suspicion now points at a defective filling loop rather than a perished expansion vessel on the boiler. Which I am sure you are all as fascinated to learn as I was (not)… : - )


So without further ado, I am trying to cast my mind back to the first week after the move, when I went down to London to attend the UK launch of L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Séville à l'aube. I was booked to attend the session with Bertrand Duchaufour and Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc at 1pm on 25th July. The day dawned bright and relentlessly hot, and the back of my bargain Toast frock from T K Maxx was already drenched in sweat by the time I left the house just before 9am, so you can imagine what an unsavoury state I was in by the time I arrived at the Covent Garden store. Not least because I inadvertently went there via the corporate offices of L’Artisan in the city, owing to an unfortunate error involving my iPhone, my failing short sight and the London HQ address being in a VERY LARGE TYPEFACE right under the advert for the actual event. Instead of scrolling past the image to reach what I took to be the venue address, I should have ENLARGED the image itself to reveal the contact details of the Covent Garden store. Ah well, magnified hindsight is a wonderful thing... I might have known the day was doomed to go awry as soon as I got up and spent a good fifteen minutes hunting for a pair of shoes not firmly in the hiking boot family.


So anyway, the staff at L'Artisan's HQ – who greeted my perspiring, breathless and baggage-encumbered figure with pained expressions of bemusement and concern – alerted their Covent Garden colleagues to my delayed arrival, and I finally turned up (even more bedraggled and sweaty, if you can possibly imagine that) at about 1.30pm - not so much fashionably late as "middle-aged confused".

When I entered the cavernous cellar in which the event was being held, Bertrand and Denyse were just wrapping up their talk?/Q & A session?/bit of both? (obviously I wouldn't know!), to a small group of half a dozen women. I didn’t recognise anyone, but I caught the name Katie Chutzpah, and inferred that the others may also have been drawn from the wider ranks of fashion and beauty writers rather than being perfume bloggers as such.

Because I was so spectacularly late, Justine, L’Artisan’s marketing exec, ushered me into a side room and presented the company’s upcoming releases, beginning with La Collection de Grasse, inspired by the "spiritual home of perfumery" - in particular the rugged hinterland behind Grasse itself, with its aromatic kaleidoscope of colour and scents.

The collection features an autumn and a winter candle, presented in chunky ceramic holders with a distressed metallic finish, which I learnt were made in a specific region in China - the only place in the world boasting that particular artisanal expertise. I am surprised I took in that little nugget of information, to be honest, because I still felt mortified about my address gaffe and was generally rather distracted.

Making up the trio of products in the Grasse range - and with a nod towards the town's tanning heritage - are some leather gloves impregnated with Mûre et Musc Extrême. These are part of a limited run of 100 pairs in sizes 6-8 (another surprise fact I retained – I never knew there were glove sizes till I encountered scented ones!)

The Grasse Collection is due for release in October, to be followed in November by L'Artisan's Christmas Collection, comprising boxed sets of candles and various permutations of his and her fragrances in handy 15ml sizes. The colourful stylised packaging takes its inspiration from the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris, and the boxes are also available as gift packaging for any scent in the L’Artisan range.

I scribbled a few notes during Justine’s mini presentation, but mostly I just kept saying: “Nice!” to everything she showed me, the strain of the journey having rendered me all but inarticulate.

It was not long before I heard sounds of the party next door starting to break up, so I returned there and loitered with intent until an opportunity arose to greet Bertrand Duchaufour, whom I had met at the 2009 launch of Penhaligon’s Amaranthine, and to introduce myself to Denyse. No sooner had I started to explain who I was to Bertrand Duchaufour, when one of the few remaining bloggers cut across me, thrust an iPad in Bertrand’s face, and began what appeared to be an impromptu video interview - which struck me as a little peremptory and rude.

Not long after, Denyse announced that she was popping out for a cigarette and invited me to join her for a chat. Half way up the stairs to street level, I caught a beautiful cloud of Séville à l’aube and was reminded of how much I liked the scent. Once outside in the street, Denyse lit up and we had a few minutes shooting the breeze about topics as various as her luxuriant and variegated hair (which Denyse jokingly referred to as being “fifty shades of grey”, a punning reference to her recent commission to translate the erotic blockbuster into French!), middle age, insomnia, and the boy she met in Seville all those years ago, whom she hopes will one day stumble across the book...

When we went back inside, the attendees of the earlier (as in “on time”) session had all dispersed; Bertrand invited me to sit down and we carried on briefly chatting in French. I explained how Séville à l'aube has a powerful resonance for me, because of my own holiday there the last time I split up with a partner, some 17 years ago. And now here I am back on my own, my single state coinciding once again with a Seville theme! Bertrand agreed that that was a bit of a neat coincidence, and asked me if I had a question for him. A question? Why, it was as much as I could do to have found the venue in the end, so I blurted out:

“No I don’t – I just wanted to get here in time to say hello!”

It felt like an honest, but rather lame response at the time – after all, I am an interviewer by profession. And maybe part of me wanted to make up for the woman who thrust the iPad in his face by just enjoying being in his presence and not asking him anything, but in truth it was more a case of my not having given the matter any thought. Yes, I really was just glad to have made it down before everyone had left!

Oh, and my klutzy behaviour didn’t end with the lateness... I knocked over a row of L’Artisan perfumes with my shoulder bag – fortunately the domino effect was mysteriously self-righting at about the fourth or fifth bottle mark. Then shortly after I emerged blinking into the sunlight from the store's subterranean depths, I wandered into a branch of Hobbs, the primly classic clothing chain, and attempted to buy a sandwich; I had momentarily mistaken it for Marks & Spencer, of which (in fairness) there happened to be a branch next door.


So yes, the inauspicious day turned out all right in the end, even if I did look like a dishrag and completely missed the whatever it was, asked no questions, took no photos and forgot to collect a goody bag (assuming my partial attendance and uninquiring mind had not disqualified me from eligibility to receive one, as it may well have done!) But I did receive a goodbye hug from Bertrand, who declared my French to be “magnifique”, which was more than generous of him… : - )

For a properly documented account of the Tuesday session, check out Tara’s account on Olfactorias Travels.

Meanwhile, my review of Denyse’s book, “The Perfume Lover”, is here, and here is my take on Séville à l'aube.

Photo of Artillery Lane from Stacey Harris via Wikimedia Commons, photo of Grasse from G CHP via Wikimedia Commons, photo of Denyse Beaulieu from, photo of Hobbs from, photos of L'Artisan invitation and Christmas Collection from L'Artisan Parfumeur, other photos my own


Anonymous said...

A smoke break with Denyse and a hug and compliment from Bernard sound like a damn fine perfume launch experience to me.

Seems that your little grey cells (of which I'm sure you have more than 50) are justifiably over-taxed at the moment and will establish better connections when home repair activities settle down.

-- Lindaloo

Carol said...

you poor dear, but it seems all in all it was a fabulous day - a wonderful compliment from Bernard and a chummy chat with Denyse!! I'm envious!


The Candy Perfume Boy said...

This is definitely one of your more bonkers trips for sure!

I'm very glad that you got to spend time with both Bertrand and Denyse. They certainly are very interesting characters.

Hope all is well! x

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Yes, it may prove to be one of those events I will appreciate more in hindsight. I was so overwrought - not to mention sweaty! - on the day that I found it difficult to relax and enjoy the proceedings at the time.

And you are right about my brain being overtaxed at the moment. I can be researching white goods with one cohort of my grey matter, while another is forgetting to buy milk and instructing my arms to put T-shirts on backwards.

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

It was fabulous, if fraught, and all happening at breakneck speed.

I wish you could have been there too! (Not least to navigate for the pair of us... : - ) )

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

Even though I missed the "do" you attended - and nearly missed the one *I* attended : - ) - it was great to catch your talk the next day. I also have fond and fast fading memories of what may have been our summer on those two days.

Wordbird said...

Lord, you forgot to collect your goody bag? In L'Artisan? How gutting!!!

Interesting though to hear of the Autumn and Xmas specials that are on the horizon. I like the sound of 15ml bottles!

And I'm so glad you ended up having a good day. Denyse seems to be such an interesting woman, I'd love to have had a natter with her. And Bernard as well, of course.

Undina said...

It's nice to have you back.

I think it's even better that you didn't ask anything: is there really anything to ask what others hadn't asked already?

I've just bought a small decant of Séville A L’Aube and can't hardly wait to get it.

Vanessa said...

Hi Wordbird,

Well, as I say, I may not qualify for the goody bag, given my partial attendance... : - )

Re the Christmas Collection, there was a LE candle called Cedre Bleu, and a set of 3 mini candles from the existing range. The fragrance sets were either 3 or 6, but the actual selection was preordained, as it were.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Thanks - and may I say how much I am enjoying the perfume you sent me, and I say that not just on the grounds of its accessibility!

: - )

I am afraid my sparse posting schedule may persist for a while, until I have reached a critical mass of amenities in the house, as it were.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on Seville a l'aube when it comes!

Tara said...

You did very well to give us the scoop on those up and coming releases considering how flustered you must have felt. Those boxes look gorgeous.

Very pleased to hear you now have a fridge so your perfumes can take up their rightful place.

Hope you get the house straight soon, including the rotten woodworm. I must say you are doing a great job with everything you've accomplished so far. You've really got stuck in. It would have taken me at least half a year just to recover from the move. I take my hat off to you!

Vanessa said...

Hi tara,

Thanks as ever for your words of encouragement - you have been a great support in recent months, especially when the going has got a bit tough. Today, for example, it seemed that more things went wrong than right, but I just have to keep sight of the fact that every problem will get sorted in time, and not to stress out too much about minor setbacks along the way.

Dionne said...

I chuckled at your post, Vanessa, but it was a knowing, been-there-done-that chuckle. When I'm flustered and embarassed it takes me forever to recover, and it doesn't help that my fair skin gets all blotchy and obviously red in the process.

And hey! a compliment on your French, from Bertrand Duchafour no less? Oh I wish. I had a friend over this last week I was sharing my collection with, and she just laughed at my pronunciation. I could only reply, "Hey, you think this is bad, you should have heard how I used to say some of this stuff."

Natalie said...

I just want to reach through the screen and hug you! I agree with everyone else that it's nice all the good things that the day brought about (compliment on your French!), but all in all it sounds like the sort of harried day that is not the easiest to get through. So you have my heartfelt admiration for not only pulling through but having the pluck left to write about it (and thank you for that - I thoroughly enjoyed reading).

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Seville will appear here in Poland at their retailer...

Vanessa said...

Hi Dionne,

I feel for you in your blotchy state. Even though I have rosacea, I don't think my skin colours up particularly in such circumstances, which is a bit of luck!

French perfume names are a bit of a tongue twister, I agree. Here is a helpful site with audio clips showing how to pronounce them all, run by a French blogger called Bela:

Vanessa said...

Hi Natalie,

Hug gratefully received! "Harried" is exactly the word for how I felt that day, and to be honest, my ongoing state doing home repairs and furniture buying could well be summed up as harried. Today three things went wrong before 10am! It seems that the fixing of one problem seems to uncover another. There is no way that property renovation will ever be my chosen calling! The stress levels are through the roof, which - touch woodworm-treated wood - is one of the parts of the house that appears to be okay for the moment. ; - )

Vanessa said...

Hi chemistinthebottle,

Oh, I do hope so - can't see why not. Central Europe is a growing market for so many things.

lovethescents said...

You're the busiest lady ever these days! Thank you for always taking the time to recount your glamorous experiences with the diaper people of the world ;-)

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

Diaper changing may be one of your roles, but you are the most glamorous mother I know, and I sincerely hope I can document our meeting one day!