When first opened in 1914, this flagship Guerlain boutique of one of the world's most elegant perfume houses anchored the new Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the “most beautiful avenue in the world.”
In this original Paris boutique – listed as a French national monument and still open to customers today – the walls were made of no fewer than 17 different types of Carrara marble.
These marble walls have been preserved, as have the marble counters, today displaying an embedded flat screen that immerses the curious into the traditional French perfume know-how of such traditions like the fashioning of the Guerlain barbichette (the emblematic silk-thread ribbon, often finished with feathers, that fastens the seal of a fine bottle of Guerlain perfume) by dames de table (artisanal craftswomen).
Guerlain's boutique at 68 Champs-Elysées houses exclusive gifts like the Eau de 68 perfume, the Institut Guerlain and the restaurant Le 68 Guy Martin — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
All of these elements today figure as part of the national registry of monuments, and pride continues to be drawn from the building's architectural pedigree: it was built by Charles Mewès, who also built the Ritz in Paris and London's Carlton hotel.
The house of Guerlain was founded in 1828. In 2013, it made a firm commitment to maintain its ties with its tradition and history, while allowing the founding spirit of the company to soar. This commitment is perfectly embodied in the up-do that was recently implemented at this iconic address and flagship boutique.
New since 2013 is the establishment of the once pop-up store next door that has now become part of the original boutique, graced with ornamental golden bees and white marble, as envisioned by architect Peter Marino.
The bee has been a symbol of Guerlain since 1853 (recall Guerlain's legendary white bee bottle, which is on display in the mezzanine of this historic shop), and these floating golden bees, le Vol des Abeilles ("The Bees' Flight") designed by Gérard Cholot, help to add a whimsical modern touch to this section.
This over 2,000-square-foot extension also includes a fine dining restaurant and tea salon downstairs, Le 68 Guy Martin. Preserved is another iconic emblem of the House of Guerlain, the Astre. This wall sculpture measures nearly five feet and “watches over the premises, the protector of the arts and a source of life.”
In addition to a satisfyingly complete range of hard-to-find Guerlain fragrances, this section is also where you can find the latest make-up and beauty care products, as well as old favorites, made by this prestige luxury brand. And, exclusive to the boutique here, is the 68 Guerlain fragrance and body care line.
Tea by thé de constance, with names like Shalimar; fine pastries from one of France's most illustrious chefs; and an interior décor that evokes “la Guerlinade” – the Guerlain signature olfactory blend of rose, jasmine, iris, ylang ylang, vanilla and tonka bean – will tempt you downstairs, where you'll find unique gifts, a pastry shop and a restaurant.
Exclusive and unique gifts found only here include honey cultivated at Orphin, where Guerlain produces fragrances; the Fond de Cuve candles; postcards; and books, all beautifully displayed on 18th-century-inspired décor by Féau & Cie.
Guerlain's L'Institut Guerlain at 68 Champs-Elysées was the world's first beauty institute and day spa when first opened in Paris in 1939 — Photo courtesy of Paige Donner
But there's one last secret little nook that does not reveal itself quite so readily to the naked eye. And that is L'Institut Guerlain. It's accessed by a private elevator and located just upstairs from this Champs-Elysées boutique.
To enter into L'Institut is to enter into a powdery white and cream cocoon. The onyx walls that furnish the treatment rooms have healing powers themselves: calming, soothing and de-stressing.
Regarded by French women as one of the world's most luxurious havens for self-care and beauty treatments, the institute's philosophy since it was refreshed in 2013 is to provide beauty treatments tailored to the client's needs. This translates into a gentle, intuitive client-aesthetician interaction to localize (feet, hands, steam or no-steam facial, etc.) the bespoke body treatment.
Like their most exclusive service, a bespoke perfume overseen by Guerlain's “nose,” Thierry Wasser, for their most precious clients, L'Institut Guerlain, too, is something more than a spa, more than a beauty institute: it is the luxury brand offering its cherished clients its absolute best and taking into account the very unique beauty each individual brings within themselves.