PARIS IS YOURS
Although born in the 5th arrondissement, its toe almost in the waters of the Seine, and although still a resident, not once in almost 60 years since Diptyque was founded has it shared the story of its life in Paris.
A simple omission, like looking for your glasses, when all the time they were resting on your forehead? A Freudian slip that makes you wonder of which repressed emotion it might be a symptom? Or after all, and as everyone knows, since it is the guardian divinity of the House, might it be a chance inconsistency? Rather than founder in speculation, there was an urgent need to right this wrong. To remind those, perhaps large in number, who imagining it anchored in London or New York, may not know that diptyque is primarily a child of the Parisian Left Bank.
To make amends for such a long silence, and after the Venice of Olène, the Greece of Philosykos, the Vietnam of Do Son and the Japan of Oyédo, it is simultaneously paying dual homage to its native city.
HOW SHOULD WE CELEBRATE SUCH A CITY?
Embracing it all would be utopian. Shedding light on a single aspect impossible. Why the cheeky Paris of Mistinguett or Gavroche and not the revolutionary Paris of Camille Desmoulins and Louise Michel? Why prefer the Butte-aux Cailles, between half-timbered pavilions and the forgotten banks of the Bièvre, to the artistic, surrealist and cinematographic Paris of Montparnasse? Is the seclusion of the 7th arrondissement fairer than the picturesque 18th? But obviously, as always, and as ever at diptyque where we believe so strongly in serendipity, it was an unforeseen event, an unexpected incident, that brought the solution to light.
It happened on avenue de l’Opéra, or to be more precise, at home. Not long ago, the House moved into a beautiful apartment on the “noble floor” of a Haussmann-style building located on this major road. What seduced us? The incredible ceiling heights, large windows, bordering balconies, marble fireplaces, herringbone parquet floors, and moldings. On pushing open a hidden door, we discovered the bathroom of a former occupant, Sarah Bernhardt.
We believe so, since the address was then one of the chicest in the capital… Lined with ceramic frescoes teeming with parrots, multicolored peacocks, ocean views and flourishing vegetation, this Art Nouveau masterpiece – listed in the inventory of Historic Monuments – immediately oiled creative wheels, opening the way to a composition dedicated to Paris before the Great War.
BIRTH OF CHYPRE
In addition to this bathroom, it is astounding how many things, on closer inspection, tie diptyque to these short years at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century: the swan, then a symbol of female grace, has been present in the iconography of the House for thirty-six years, as part of the identity of l’Ombre dans l’Eau; just like the peacock, its feathers and plumage, another bird in vogue in the 1900s, and found since 1968 on the panoramic illustration of l’Eau; orientalism, a true passion of the founders Desmond, Christiane and Yves (Knox-Leet, Gautrot and Coueslant); the English painters and graphic designers, Arthur Rackham, Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris and their formidable stylized illuminations that went on to inspire Desmond and define the graphic identity of the vignettes adorning future bottles. Not to mention, of course, perfumery, a craft reinvented by chemical synthesis, then making its entry into the modern world.
Joseph Marie François Spoturno, better known under the alias François Coty, is said to have been its leading light. What is left of hisworks? Materially: hardly anything, a few estagnons lounging in a safe at the Osmothèque de Versailles. Culturally: the very foundation of what for decades constituted the epitome of “à la parisienne” chic, the most famous olfactory structure in history, condensed into a simple noun: chypre. This is how it comes into being: Chypre is an architecture created by the boiling points and degrees of evaporation of the materials used.
Eau Capitale is the first diptyque chypre. As such, it follows a principle conceived more than a century ago. Olivier Pescheux, a high-flying perfumer and faithful companion, nevertheless took care to illuminate it with the lights of the 21st century! An “abstract”, enigmatic fragrance, it embodies a form of slightly detached refinement of the elegance exuded by the aura of the “city of light”. It opens with the freshness of “vert de bergamote” tempering its consummate voluptuousness. Fruity, yes, yet lively and zesty. Was it studded with pink peppercorns to recall the pomanders – oranges pricked with cloves – once brought back from England by Desmond? Or to orchestrate the eagerly awaited “olfactory accident”? Between the flower and the spice is like an exclamation mark, a Capital letter.
In the center of the triangle is a bouquet of flowers bordering on excess. Wide-open petals, on the verge of falling, intense, rich scents of roses from Bulgaria and Turkey and ylang-ylang from the Comoros. No doubt François Coty used the Grasse variety of centifolia, also known as May rose. Now almost impossible to find, botanists have managed to replace it with extremely fine cultivars planted in Eastern Europe, on the fringes of Asia, of which even the residual water, also contained in this fragrance, smells divine. Ylang-ylang, on the other hand, has accents of English candy, highly palatable and long on fidelity. Cinnamon bark essence heralds the woods to follow. It stands for freedom: no lichen, no moss or oak or pine! But, yes, patchouli. With its leaf, distilled to the heart in Indonesia in line with the ethical qualities of sustainable development. And the peppery facet of “Akigalawood” produced by an enzymatic reaction of the plant in contact with ad hoc bacteria. And finally, “Georgywood” for its earthy and dark vetiver-like aspects. Ambrofix, between musk, dry tobacco and ambergris, closes the chapter.
SEE BETTER FOR A BETTER SENSORY EXPERIENCE
At the start of the diptyque saga, there were brushes, pencils, colors, paper. And canvases. Long before fragrances, it was, principally, art that united Yves, a former student of the École du Louvre, Desmond who studied Fine Arts and Christiane, a Decorative Arts graduate. The first became a scenographer, the others having already teamed up to create upholstery fabrics. They painted all the time. Once you are aware of this, you realize the importance of the visual element in their approach to perfumes, as each has a story to tell. All three friends had a specific activity within their partnership – Yves was the project manager, Christiane the nimble-fingered artist, Desmond the natural inspirer – and it was he who was responsible for designing labels, boxes and signatures. His Chinese ink line contrasted black with white, at times marked by sinuosity, at others symmetry. His lettering is enclosed in the recurring oval, his logo recognizable among a thousand.
On the back stands a peacock with magnificent plumage, dots, and lines intertwined, saturating each square millimeter with patterns.
On the front is an Eiffel Tower, roses, bergamots, recurring patchouli leaves and the words “Eau Capitale” in rolling calligraphy.
PARIS EN FLEUR
A candle is the very least that diptyque could add to this celebration – a rose candle, of course.
Roses like those of Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne(and the Flower Market, that lovers still offer to their amour. Some are an aromatic delight, most are not. But the idea we make of it matters almost as much: a certain spring emotion, the pleasure of living here and watching the Seine flow by from a bistro terrace. The scent that goes up in smoke (chypre, of course) has a pleasant freshness, a host of petals and the memory of patchouli that lingers long on drapes.
The eau de parfum and the scented candle are accompanied, in limited-edition boxes, by a solid perfume and a scented wax oval.
“Being a Parisian is not about being born in Paris, it is about being reborn there” Sacha Guitry once said.