PARIS — The newly renovated Samaritaine houses a wonderland of beauty. Sprawling more than 36,600 square feet on the minus-one level of the department store, it is the largest floor selling fragrance, makeup, skin care and hair care in continental Europe.
Here, one can find 200 brands from France and the world over plus a rich menu of services — from spa and hair treatments to makeup lessons.
“We wanted a beauty [department] that was really welcoming, luminous,” explained Marie Leport, merchandising manager for beauty at DFS, which runs the Samaritaine. She was referring to the two skylights flooding the space with natural light.
“Look at the floor of mosaics. We gave [designer] Hubert de Malherbe the brief to make a concept very Parisian,” said Eléonore de Boysson, who heads DFS’ European and Middle East operations.
The idea was for the beauty floor to feel like a city within a city, a veritable celebration of Paris. Each part has its own mosaic carpet — laid piece by piece to echo mosaics in Parisian passageways — with different motifs. There are flowers for the fragrance zone, reflecting those of the building’s façade, and houndstooth for the makeup area, for instance.
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The existing Eiffel metal columns were enhanced, like with stone plinth additions.
Malherbe Paris, the creative and digital international agency, conceived the space, melding contemporary, Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture.
“These 3,000 square meters were conceived as a stroll, as a place where every woman feels at all times in the center of the capital, taking in its charming streets, discovering the frontages of multiple cafés and refined stores,” de Malherbe said in a statement.
“We wanted a narration that is not only the aesthetic link with a bygone era, but a contemporary and experiential transposition of what was a ‘cathedral of modern commerce,’” he continued, citing a phrase penned by Émile Zola in “Au bonheur des dames” (or “The Ladies’ Delight”) — a 19th-century novel featuring a department store.
At the Samaritaine, each brand created its own corner, with many twisting their traditional concepts after being inspired by the store’s decor. Kiehl’s, for instance, constructed an Art Deco-style selling space.
“There is always a fair balance between the department store’s architecture and that of the brands…which must be expressed,” de Boysson said.
French brands were cherry picked to be displayed alongside international ones. Service is central to the beauty floor. Beauty assistants work for the Samaritaine, rather than for specific labels.
“They can accompany you to all the brands,” Leport said. “That’s unique among the department stores of France.”
From the Samaritaine’s streetside entrance, giving off from the Rue de Rivoli, where its modern façade is of undulating glass, people enter directly into the 860-square-foot department called Beauté Pure (or Pure Beauty) selling niche eco-conceived beauty products, such as The Ordinary, Westman Atelier, Holidermie, Susanne Kaufmann, L:A Bruket, Pai and Dermalogica.
“For us, it is just essential,” Leport said. “We had carte blanche for a department store in 2021 to put really at the forefront this beauty offer that’s more responsible — be it the formulation or packaging.”
The décor in this area is contemporary, with waxed concrete floors and curved metal merchandising units created by the architects Ciguë.
About 50 sustainable beauty brands — also including Ciment, Le Baigneur and Bivouak — were chosen to populate this space.
“The aim was really to mix different brands to make people want to discover others,” explained de Boysson.
Aesop and Le Labo’s corners serve as a bridge between the green area and that of more institutional, established brands.
To the left, there’s the Cinq Mondes spa with windows giving onto a garden. Conceived to be like a Parisian apartment with Haussmann-style touches, the concept is exclusive to the Samaritaine.
The spa, which measures about 4,305 square feet, feels miles away from the department store’s bustle. It includes seven treatment rooms, two of which are doubles; a private hammam, and a boutique. This urban retreat’s menu of international treatments has one exclusive to the Samaritaine, alongside the likes of Ayurvedic and Taoist cures.
Back on the beauty floor, Fragonard — considered a quintessential French art de vivre brand — has set up its first corner in a department store.
An open space, called the Pont Neuf atrium, welcomes pop-up activations. At the time of the store’s opening, Louis Vuitton will be installed there. This is also the landing spot of an escalator leading down from the department store’s ground floor.
Around the central atrium are multiaxe, iconic brands including Dior, Chanel, Estée Lauder and Lancôme.
The Maison de Parfum regroups unique fragrances and bottles from brands such as Bulgari and Tiffany that range in price from 3,000 euros to 300,000 euros. Guerlain’s high perfumery has a dedicated space. A special-edition flacon of Chanel Coromandel perfume sold with a gem-encrusted brooch is priced at 10,000 euros, for example.
Nearby is an engraving station where the pieces can be personalized.
The main fragrance area has individual shops-in-shop for big brands and a gathering of niche scents, including Diptyque, Frédéric Malle and Jo Malone, at its core.
The makeup space counts famed brands such as Dior and Chanel, plus labels like Charlotte Tilbury, Laura Mercier, Nars Cosmetics and Hourglass Cosmetics, which are less widely distributed in France. Dolce & Gabbana Beauty and Rouje Beauté are exclusive to the department store.
Brands operate a makeup bar on a rotating basis to give makeovers, master classes and demonstrations. For the store’s debut, Dior will animate the area.
Toward the side of the department store closest to the Seine river is the skin care department with the likes of La Prairie, Clarins and Shiseido.
SK-II and Clé de Peau Beauté are the two Japanese brands carried exclusively in France at the store, and the South Korean skin care brand Sulwhasoo makes its first foray in the country here.
Helena Rubinstein opted for the Samaritaine to make its return to France, while Orveda set up its first corner in the country.
The 1,775-square-foot Studio de Beauté (or Beauty Studio) is operated by Kure Bazar with a newfangled concept.
“It goes beyond the beauty of feet and hands, and stretches to hair for the first time,” said Leport, adding there will be star hairstylists coming from the world over to give cuts, styling and color.
Canadian laboratory Theio Vitality, in a first anywhere, has set up operations in the studio to analyze hair to help people regulate their bodies’ mineral composition for nail and hair health.
Iles Formula — on offer nearby — has high-performing products for all hair types created by celebrity hairstylist Wendy Iles.
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