The Breakers and luxury French cosmetics and perfume brand Guerlain marked 25 years of partnership with a redesigned boutique.
The store’s new look is designed to immerse guests in Guerlain’s history and experience, while also showcasing the brand’s range of cosmetics and fragrances. Among the many iconic names associated with Guerlain is its L’Art & La Matiere collection, featuring 21 fragrances created with high-end ingredients that come in customizable bottles, with choice of cap plate, cord and seal, plus engraving.
“The esteemed French beauty brand is among the most renowned in the world, operating only a handful of storefronts in the United States, including ours at The Breakers,” said John Zoller, senior vice president of retail operations for The Breakers. “The new Haute Parfumerie offers guests and island residents a truly special experience.”
The store, which reopened Nov. 3, received a visit last month from Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s master perfumer. He was handed the reins by Jean Paul Guerlain in 2008 after joining the company in 2007.
The company has a storied legacy, including its notable standing as the inventor of lipstick. “We have been inventing beauty since 1828,” Wasser said.
He spends about 35% of each year traveling the world, maintaining the relationships that have made Guerlain a leading name in cosmetics. The company stands out from its competitors in that it manufactures all of its products instead of contracting that work to a third party, Wasser said.
“We’re not a huge brand. We’re not Chanel, Dior or Lancome,” he said. “So we can really source for our volumes.”
That sourcing is all about maintaining and building on the decades of connections Guerlain has created around the world, he said. Wasser used the example of sandalwood, which is a common ingredient in perfumes. Guerlain prefers a type of sandalwood from India, but the plant is now endangered in that country. Through his connections, he was able to find a new source of sandalwood at a plantation in western Australia. He worked with the grower to create the perfect distillation.
“Because I found that source of sandalwood in Australia — which is sustainable in the term that I saw trees aged 23 down to zero, so we know that it’s a good source — I was able to create new fragrances, including Mon Guerlain,” he said.
He always keeps in mind that he is buying from a source, he said.
“I’ve seen something that people have forgotten: That a brotherhood exists,” he said. “I witness it everywhere I go. You experience the brother- and sisterhood and then when there is a problem, you try to fix it with them locally, because you know them locally.”
The work being done by Wasser to build and maintain relationships and develop new lines for sourcing ties into the company’s stated commitment to sustainability and biodiversity.
One of the brand’s symbols is the bee, a simple but pivotal part of Guerlain’s supply chain, Wasser said.
Honey has become an active ingredient in several Guerlain products, including the Abeille Royale line. But beyond honey as an ingredient, the bee also pollinates the plants that become Shalimar, La Petite Robe Noire and other popular fragrances.
“If you have no bees, you have no fruit. You have no flowers,” Wasser said.
Guerlain’s commitment to the bee dates back to 1853, when the company’s founder dedicated the fragrance l’Eau de Cologne Impériale to Empress Eugénie upon her marriage to Napoleon III. The bottle for the fragrance was glass, with the emperor’s coat of arms, a bee and a distinctive pattern — and the now-iconic Bee Bottle was born.
“The bee for Guerlain is not just a symbol, but a state of mind which is a north star,” Wasser said.
Because the company manufactures all of its own products, it is more nimble and can adapt quickly to changes in supply, he said.
“Sustainability starts with people,” Wasser said. “And you have to lead by example.”
‘Own your fragrance’
When it comes to choosing one of Guerlain’s many fragrances available at The Breakers boutique, Wasser said it’s important to focus on how each scent makes you feel and the story you want to tell when you wear it, rather than the story of how the fragrance was created.
“You wear fragrance for you. You use beauty for you,” he said. “It’s you who are going to feel good because you found a fragrance you like. I want you to own your fragrance.”
With Neroli Outrenoir, a fragrance in the L’Art & La Matiere line, Wasser paired orange blossom with smoky black tea to find a balance between the light and the dark. The concept was inspired by the French painter Pierre Soulages, who used pieces of tire to create black monochromatic pieces that played with light and shadow, he said.
With the L’Art & La Matiere line, Wasser said he considered himself a director, and each of the key ingredients in a fragrance were his actors. “You’re taking one or two raw materials as main characters,” he said.
He compared that to the Aqua Allegoria collection created by Jean Paul Guerlain in 1999. The fragrances in that line draw primarily on flowers, transporting you to “real or imaginary gardens,” Wasser said. In that case, the creator is not a director but a gardener.
“When you write or speak, you have to be precise in your choice of words,” he said. “When we create a fragrance, we are precise in our choices of raw materials. Each fragrance is a story.”
Because that story is so personal, Wasser said it is important to be engaged with the buying process when choosing one of Guerlain’s products from The Breakers boutique for another person.
Wasser suggested providing as much information as possible to Guerlain’s team members in The Breakers boutique, especially when it comes to the process of customization.
“They are here to give you a little hint of what’s inside,” he said. “The more you feed them, the better the choice will be.”