Childhood smells have a way of etching themselves into one’s memory like no other sense. More than sight, sound, taste. For Yves Coueslant, one of the three perfuming co-founders of Parisian brand Diptyque, it was the many journeys taken by ocean liner from Marseilles to Saigon in his youth that now reside permanently in his brain: the clear and salty sea and sky, the paneled wood of the boat’s passageways, the dirty-smoky port cities and the foreign spices mixed with the fragrance of European-cigarette-smoking dancing ladies and gentlemen.
This is the scent memory that Coueslant has distilled in Diptyque’s newest toilette: Volutes. It is the scent of freedom: wind at your feet, temptations awaiting in undiscovered cities, the mystique of foreign beauties. Fruity, floral, aromatic and spicy: Volutes mixes tobacco with honey and dried fruit; pink pepper, cinnamon and saffron; and sensual iris and myrrh with balmy, leathery notes.Volutes captures one exquisite journey, but it also bottles the essence of the Diptyque DNA, an identity which was established 51 years ago in a Left Bank boutique at 34 Saint Germain in Paris. For there are many journeys and destinations in a well-lived life, and Diptyque makes this its raison d’être. It’s where the brand began and why it continues to inspire us all, from A-list runway designers to style-loving real folk the world over.
Coueslant, a set designer, joined interior designer Christiane Gautrot and painter Desmond Knox-Leet to open the original Diptyque shop. In the beginning, it was a fabric boutique, but soon it was the trio’s bazaar-like displays of travel souvenirs that captivated customers as much as the textiles.
Then in 1963, Diptyque’s hawthorne, cinnamon and tea-scented candles upped the irresistibility of the locale even further. Next: the brand’s debut toilette, L’Eau, which was introduced in 1968, inspired by a 16th century pot-pourri recipe. It epitomized the chic, well-travelled lifestyle of its creators.
Five decades later, the brand stocks a well-rounded collection of body creams and lotions, polishes and oils, in addition to its iconic candles and fragrances—scents which have always been universal and non-gender-specific in their appeal.
Diptyque scents inspire emotional journeys as much as physical ones; la dolce vita incarnate. The scent of Baies, the brand’s rose and blackcurrant-noted candle, for example, scents the air in the Paris shops of Lanvin and Rick Owens.
Many A-list designers channel their respective muses on the catwalk with the help of Diptyque too. For her Fall 2012 collection in New York, Victoria Beckham greeted her runway guests with the plush-yet-balmy fig notes of Diptyque’s Figuier Verte. Antonio Berardi tapped the woody Opoponax fragrance to accentuate the rich, almost-masculine elegance of his A-line skirts and modern tailoring in Paris, while Rachel Zoe chose the woody Feu de Bois to perfume the air of her sleek, Sixties-inspired collection.
Elizabeth Cabral, who travels the world’s style capitals as fashion director at Flare magazine, likewise embrace’s Diptyque’s world of intimate, well- luxury. “My ultimate favourite home scent is the Diptyque candle Feu de Bois,” she says. “I love anything earthy and the scent of burnt wood translates into a cozy and calming environment. I only wish I could bottle it and take it with me everywhere.”
For American designers Peter Som and Alexander Wang, Diptyque is a way of life. They burn the brand’s scented candles, and the signature Diptyque candle jars also take pride of place on their desks, holding the tools of their trade: coloured sketch pencils, pens, scissors.
Continuing Diptyque’s foray into the future, we look at the new Volutes and the romantic transatlantic memory that inspired it, but also to Diptyque’s 34 St. Germain, a scent which took home a 2012 FiFi Award early this year in New York in the category of best Interior Scent Collection. That fragrance, a mixture of blackcurrant and green fig, rose pepper and citrus, geranium and tuberose, wood and eucalyptus, was concocted to capture the soul of the brand’s original shop. Like all of the Diptyque scents, it represents a beautiful journey—this one, 6,000 kilometres, or a mere spritz away.
Diptyque’s Limited edition holiday candles (pictured left) are now available at Holt Renfrew.