CHICAGO — For Frédéric Malle’s first-ever in-store boutique at Neiman Marcus in Chicago, the fragrance pioneer went back to the essence of the brand.
“I wanted to do something that was true to my first boutique in Paris that would make people understand this is a publishing house for perfumers,” said Malle, who jetted to the Windy City to inaugurate the North Michigan Avenue store opening last Wednesday.
“Fifteen years ago, I opened my first boutique on Rue de Grenelle,” Malle said. “I was the only company to focus on the creation of luxury fragrances. People thought I was completely crazy. The reason why we did that was because all the major ‘noses’ in our industry, the ‘star noses’ in our world — the people who are paid millions of dollars to make fragrances — I realized they were totally bored. They were being asked to make things that would sell in duty-free rather than making the classics of tomorrow.”
Ennui set in — not just amongst the “noses.”
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“The people I was close to in Paris, whether they were artists or people from the movie business or Parisian society, they could not find beautiful new fragrances. They had a choice between old-fashioned classics like Shalimar or Chanel No. 5 or contemporary junk,” Malle said. “So I created a link between the bored ‘star noses’ and Paris society.”
The Chicago Neiman Marcus opening marks the first in a series of in-store boutiques for Malle. Like his boutique on Rue de Grenelle, which is half apartment, half fragrance lab, the 140-square-foot Neiman Marcus shop-in-shop features homey accents such as furniture to relax in and set your bags down. There are German-made Mies van der Rohe wicker chairs, handpicked by Malle.
“We want people to be greeted as if they were greeted in my home — it’s very important,” said Malle, who will never namedrop celebrity clients, except for Catherine Deneuve, who wrote the preface to his book, “On Perfume Making.” “I’m sort of an architecture freak and Chicago is ‘the’ Mies van der Rohe city. [He] designed extraordinary furniture especially when he was heading the Bauhaus school.”
As in Malle’s other stores, the perfumes are stored in a refrigeration cabinet and the Neiman’s boutique features a “smelling booth cabin.”
There are 22 fragrances under the Frédéric Malle house. A new fragrance is slated to launch in 2016.
In addition to rolling out more shops-in-shop at Neiman’s, Malle plans to open five to 10 in-store boutiques and freestanding stores in the Middle East in 2016.
Based on the turnout at Neiman’s in Chicago, the stores should all do well. “Sales were very good actually,” Malle said. “My barometer is the amount of times I sign a box. People want me to do that, which is always surprising to me. I signed a hell of a lot of boxes, which means it was probably a big number.”