Inside London #13: j’adore Dior

It’s 10am and I’ve just turned down a free glass of champagne. I hate myself. On the plus side, I’m sitting on an elegant dove-grey sofa at the Maison de Parfums in Selfridges, surrounded by a glittering array of Dior perfume bottles and being given an education in fragrance by a very lovely lady called Chiara…

The Maison de Parfums is London‘s little sister to the Maison Dior in Paris. Colour-saturated footage of Dior models strutting around the ‘Dior gardens’ flickers vividly on screens beside me. I’m not just here to look, though – this is a perfume consultation. The aim of the game? To pair me up with my perfect scent: the one that will cause men to land at my feet and Concordes to land at my bidding*. I’ve never had a perfume consultation before but I’m enjoying this one thoroughly, even though I’m drinking still water from a champagne glass. First off, the setting is glamorous: Selfridges is a-glitter with pre-Christmas sparkle and, from my sofa perch, I can spy cashmere-clad shoppers languorously sniffing bottles and languidly dabbing pulses.

Secondly, there’s a lot of talking involved. This is proving enjoyable. Chiara, my expert consultant (trained by Dior’s master nose, François Demachy) poses a series of questions: ‘How would you describe your personality? What about your style? Tell me about your favourite smells…’ This approach reflects Demachy’s own working methods: his latest range for the perfume house, La Collection Privée, draws on Dior’s life and style, referencing his favourite people and places: the house in Normandy where he grew up; Milly-la-Forêt, where the designer liked to escape the fashion set; Etienne de Beaumont’s ball…

I’m learning things, too. The brand was innovative in its marriage of fragrance and fashion: Dior unveiled his first collection and first fragrance (Miss Dior) simultaneously in 1947 (the show that had Carmel Snow exclaiming: ‘It’s a new look!’) Back then, you could only buy the perfume if you also bought an item of clothing – in those days, scents really were exclusive. Chiara also reminds me that parfum is stronger (and more expensive) than cologne or eau de toilette: it’s all to do with the ratio of alcohol to perfume, apparently.

History lesson and personality analysis complete, Chiara vanishes to select the scents that she reckons are most ‘me’. (In the interests of fairness, I keep my eyes closed.) She comes back with three smells: Mitzah, Ambre Nuit and Patchouli Impérial. We sniff each in turn. Chiara waits with breath that is bated. My nostrils quiver and I pause. ‘I LOVE Ambre Nuit’ I tell her and her eyes light up. This scent was inspired by the grand 19th-century costume balls that Dior used to attend (he went as a lion, once) and smells divine: a blend of rose and amber. Mitzah is intriguing – a sharp, peppery scent inspired by Mitzah Bricard, Christian Dior’s muse and advisor – and Patchouli Impérial is lovely – smelling of, yup, patchouli.

Chiara has done well: I love the three fragrances. Early on we ruled out sickly sweet florals and these three are warm, woody and spicy. There are 13 to choose from in the collection: four feminine, four masculine and five unisex, and they’re exclusive to the Maison de Parfums, Dior boutiques and a few other luxury retailers.

It’s a real shame to return to my desk smelling this good. Ideally, I’d be wafting off to The Arch London, just down the road, for an éclair or martini. Or I’d have fragrantly hopped on a plane to Paris to see the Dior exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, before climbing into bed at La Maison Champs Elysées, a short stroll from Maison Dior on Avenue Montaigne.

Book your own consultation at the Christian Dior Maison de Parfums at Selfridges by calling +44 (0)207 318 3942. Mr & Mrs Smith members who book a November consultation will also leave with a little luxury treat…

* This is yet to happen.

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Weeks before first joining Mr & Mrs Smith's editorial team as assistant editor, Sarah Jappy was interviewing hot blondes in Copenhagen for a virginmedia.com city guide. Having penned food porn for Blue Tomato and fashion features at Itchy City Guides, Sarah was delighted to bring an appetite for alliteration and expert opinion on hot topics including: the marzipan to pastry ratio of the perfect almond croissant; which shop-bought hollandaise sauce generates the best eggs benedict and where to source the capital’s most drool-worthy moules marinière. That's not to even mention her 12 years of Irish dancing prowess. She has now moved Down Under to head up Smith's Melbourne editorial team.

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