Serge Lutens is a Paris-based niche perfume line with an extraordinarily devoted cult following.
The man behind the brand, Serge Lutens, was born in Lille in 1942. In the early 1960s, he went to Paris and started working as a makeup artist and creative stylist; in the late 1960s he was responsible for establishing the cosmetics line for Christian Dior. He became the creative director at Shiseido in 1980, and released his first perfume for Shiseido in 1981: the now legendary Nombre Noir.
The Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido, described by Lutens as "more of a refined salon for perfumes than a boutique", opened in Paris in 1992, shortly after the release of Shiseido Féminité du Bois.1 Subsequent releases appear under the name Serge Lutens instead of Shiseido. In the late 1990s, Lutens stopped working on makeup entirely in order to devote his time to perfumery, although in 2005 he launched a color cosmetics line under his own name.
In 2007, Serge Lutens was named Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
Reviews for older Serge Lutens fragrances include Ambre Sultan (1993), Iris Silver Mist (1994), Cuir Mauresque (1996), Un Lys (1997), Rahat Loukoum (1998), Muscs Koublai Khan (1998), Tubereuse Criminelle (1999), Douce Amere (2000), Sa Majeste la Rose (2000), A La Nuit (2000), Datura Noir (2001), Chergui (2001), Santal de Mysore (2001), Santal Blanc (2001), Chêne (2004), Fleurs de Citronnier (2004), Daim Blond (2004).
The Export vs Exclusive lines
There are two ranges: the export line and the exclusive line.
Fragrances in the export or "Selective Distribution" line come in 50 ml rectangular bottles with optional spray pump.
Fragrances in the exclusive line come in a 75 ml bell jar bottle. For many years, these were not sold in the United States other than as limited edition exports; fans waited, sometimes years, for their favorite to be done as a limited edition, or they found friends to pick up a real bell jar in Paris.
In 2012, a selection of the exclusive line was made available (in the bell jar bottles) at the Barneys on Madison Avenue in New York City. Shortly thereafter, Lutens launched Le Vaporisateur Tout Noir, which was reportedly to replace the previous limited releases in export bottles. The first two fragrances in Le Vaporisateur were Ambre Sultan and Féminité du Bois. Still later in the year, the brand opened a new US website selling all of the fragrances, including the bell jars.
Recent fragrance releases from Serge Lutens
Recent releases include Borneo 1834 (2005), Cedre (2005), Miel de Bois (2005), Gris Clair (2006), Chypre Rouge (2006), Mandarine Mandarin (2006), Rousse (2007), Louve (2007), Sarrasins (2007), Five O'Clock Au Gingembre (2008), El Attarine (2008), Serge Noire (2008), Nuit de Cellophane (2009) Fourreau Noir (2009), Fille en Aiguilles (2009), L'Eau Serge Lutens (2010), Boxeuses & Bas de Soie (2010), Jeux de Peau (2011), De Profundis (2011), Vitriol d’Oeillet (2011), L'Eau Froide (2012), Santal Majuscule (2012), Une Voix Noire (2012), La Fille de Berlin (2013), La Vierge de Fer (2013), Laine de Verre (2014), L'Orpheline (2014).
Where to buy
The export line can be purchased in the United States at Aedes, Apothia, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Parfum1 or at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, selected Neiman Marcus stores. Or the export and the exclusive lines can both be purchased directly from the US Serge Lutens site.
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See the interior of the Salons du Palais Royal in this video.
1. In 2009, Shiseido Féminité du Bois was relaunched as Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois.