A Birthday Trip

By Joana Sousa Lara

A marked point on the ground; a compass rose stands at kilometre zero (the beginning point, a central point in a city) this time, in Paris, on the forecourt of Notre-Dame-de-Paris, not far from Boulevard Saint-Germain, where number 34 can be found. This number, the original diptyque shop that still holds the site today on its 60th birthday. This, the original starting point of a journey through key cities around the globe, cities that have connections to the beautiful fragrance brand. One who is rejoicing in six decades with a celebration tour. The rose of kilometre zero as mentioned above is etched into the design of a small selection of limited edition products in celebration of their birthday. A 60-year celebration with 5 city-inspired scents, each with a dedicated area to evoke its history. Read more in A Birthday Trip.

Image on left Chantel King.com

Right the original diptyque shop and left a compass rose

A door with two identical windows on either side, that’s a boutique. For our three founders who were experts on Art History, it’s also a diptych, which in French is spelled ‘diptyque’.

The word diptych has the meaning of “a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels which may be closed like a book”.

diptyque, the highly regarded home & fragrance company has been shaped with a worldly view from its inception. Going on a journey to discover new locations, increasing horizons, seeing the world with awe and observing things differently. This was always part of what made up its legacy and it continues to be part of its core identity now in its 60th year.

With its birthday this year, the brand has decided to recreate the idea of a Grand Tour: A journey that marks the passage of time and the coming of age. The Maison is currently celebrating its anniversary with a variety of one-of-a-kind projects, such as limited editions items, new release collaborations with renowned artists, contemporary art exhibits, and international pop-ups.

Starting with the Grand Tour which originally was a traditional trip through Europe undertaken by young upper-class European men of sufficient means and rank (typically accompanied by a chaperone, such as a family member) when coming of age in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The primary benefit of the Grand Tour would be to be exposed to the cultural legacies of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, as well as the aristocratic and fashionably polite Culture of the European continent.

In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain music genres. This latter-day Grand Tour offers new horizons by re-engaging with the tradition of the tour whose name it borrows.

The Grand Tour travels via divine scents and fragrances, engaging all of our senses. SO in celebration of this history, this limited edition collection revisits and highlights five important places that have provided inspiration to the Maison over ist 60 years of life: Paris, Venice, Milies, Kyoto, and Byblos, cities either they dreamed about or visited.

Paris scented candle (190mg) Image Chantel King.com

Starting as mentioned at kilometre zero is Paris, is the candle. Find on it the rose compass that adorns the oval label with the item designed as a homage to France’s capital city.

The colour, fragrance, and design are all reminiscent of Paris. The verdigris colour is recollective of the bookstalls at St. Germain-des-Prés. Perfumer Olivia Giacobetti’s fragrance conjures a stroll down the Seine’s quays, the weeping willows bordering its banks, the elaborate wood smells of antique stores, as well as those of Parisian cobblestones and the pages of ancient books.

The carved black wood lid, inspired by an antique display stand for diptyque candles, is a homage to the Maison’s heritage, bringing this opening olfactory, cultural, and memorable stay to the start of the journey.

Destination number two on the Diptyque Grand Tour is Venice.

The vegetable gardens of the Serenissima lagoon, the Mediterranean air, and herbal fragrances in the early morning freshness, the aroma of soil combining with that of bell peppers, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.

An island of vegetable fields near Venice with fresh basil and green peppers mixed. Mandarin’s strong tones contrast with those of vetiver. This route becoming a box set of three limited-edition Eau de Toilette.

The package including three travel-size bottles of Perfumer Cécile Matton’s new Venice-themed fragrance, as well as a carrying bag specifically designed with an image from the Maison’s archives.

Venise set of 3 travel size eaux de toilette 7,5ml

Venice Set of 3 travel-size Eau de Toilette (7,5ml)

As we float towards Milies, on Mount Pelion (Greece), which served as the founders of Diptyque’s adoptive second home and preferred vacation spot for four years.

Pelion is a mountain in northern Greece’s Thessaly region that forms a hook-like peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea.

The memorable aroma of fig tree farms surrounded by cypress trees, giving way to the scent of immortelle bushes (a flowering plant of the daisy family) along the road going to the sea, 8 kilometres distant.

The perfumed oval retraces the aromas of the routes that led from the seashore to Mount Pelion. Immortelle’s spicy aroma mingles with the chilly Mediterranean breeze before warming up close to sun-drenched fig trees. The warm-cool mélange of spicy and woody fragrant elements in this arrangement depicts the contrasts and richness of this voyage to the heart of Greece.

Millies Scented Oval

A location never visited but much fantasized about by the three founders, lies ten thousand kilometres to the East. Japan, and more especially Kyoto, the city of art and history, the cradle of ikebana (arranging flowers) is a place whose aesthetic has frequently served as a source of inspiration for the Maison.

Take a moment of brief appreciation for Perfumer Alexandra Carlin’s spirited creation, remaking age-old floral art in a perfume that finds a delicate balance between incense, rose, and vetiver, echoing the triptych of the sky, heart, and soil.

Image Chantel King.com

The focus of this eau de toilette is on ikebana, an art form that depicts “the way of flowers” and transforms nature according to ancient rules.

The first ikebana school was established in Kyoto in the 15th century. This olfactory combination was inspired by the three iconic pillars of art: the rose represents man, the beetroot-vetiver pair represents the earth, and incense represents heaven. A woody floral design with the delicate beauty of the ikebana rose and branch arrangement.

The bottle is furoshiki-wrapped in a cloth with a pattern of the Sarayi flower design designed by the creators and is the bottle is constructed of tinted glass in a similar rose-purple colour.

Kyoto Eau de Toilette (100ml) Image Chantel King.com

We finish this journey by approaching the historic seaside city of Byblos, the world’s oldest harbour and one of the destinations on Yves and Desmond’s (two of the owners) path to the Orient in the 1960s.

The aromas of cardamom coffee offered in Ottoman souks, recreated for the occasion by Fabrice Pellegrin, are reminiscent of the harbour.

The old Phoenician harbour, not far distant from Byblos, formerly unloaded loads of spices and valuable timber. An encompassing harmony of roasted coffee is emphasized by the vibrancy of fresh cardamom and Atlas cedar at the core of the composition. A series of emotions and aromatic perceptions that depict the ambience of a city with its intriguing historical and cultural history.

Byblos Scented candle 300g

Byblos Scented Candle (300g)

This 300g candle is housed in a vase adorned with grey and sandy-coloured wisps, evoking the haze from this ancient beverage. The ceramic mixed-clay method is used to create each vessel, making each one unique. It includes a relief representation of this Levantine port of call, including a harbour scene and the alleys of the town market.

Despite their many cultures and tastes, the artists on this Grand Tour have a common curiosity about other people and their environment. Their techniques and practices differ, as do the places to which they have been invited to celebrate. What are their impressions of these locations? The response takes the shape of five artistic suggestions for these five fragrances, each inspired by a different place.

Joël Andrianomearisoa picked Paris as the city closest to his heart because of the feelings it evokes: “Paris is a driving force, not just in France but also globally. It is in permanent dialogue with the rest of the world. If you love Paris, it’s because you love the countryside, architecture and culture all in one. Paris is the embodiment of romance and aesthetics – an almost perfect aesthetic element in itself.”

Joël Andrianomearisoa

His initiative, Un temps après la jeunesse (Youth and After), pays homage to literary Paris as well as diptyque’s history and future. His idea is in the form of a “story combining present, projection, and melancholia,” printed on 34 pages and arranged in a “black box like a monolith, depicting Paris as a book because that’s what Paris is: a novel.”

Johan Creten, one of the finest modern sculptors, a pioneer in his creative use of ceramics and the first artist of Belgian descent to be awarded the honour of showing in the Louvre Museum in 2005, is the second artist invited by the Maison.

The decision to entrust him with Venice, a city adored and frequently visited by Diptyque’s founders, was obvious. Though he is most known for his enormous allegorical bronze sculptures, this Paris-based artist also enjoys nature, scent art, and Venetian bronzes, of which he is an avid collector.

How Artist Johan Creten Is Breaking All the Rules of Ceramics, and Getting  Away With It - Galerie

“Venice is the city of all fantasies, a mirage, a phantom, a siren – a city with a beauty that’s vivid, brutal, decadent and delirious. It is a place of intersections, of diverse artistic influences, but it is also the reality of a dense, complex economic world, of dynamism and decline.” says the sculptor.

He imagined a bronze sculpture, La Laguna, submerged in a 1.5-kilogram four-wick candle in a blue-tinted glass vase for diptyque. The transparent blue-green wax through which the female figure may be seen evokes the threatening Venetian waters of the “acqua alta” (seasonal partial flooding), which have lately become clear again.

diptyque recruited the help of Zoë Paul, a South African painter and sculptor, to recall Greece, a much-loved place and important source of inspiration for the Maison’s founders. Her links to Greece, its history, and its art are strong, as seen by her approaches, which centre on ancient shapes and materials.

“What struck me the most about the place was its profound spirituality. The church on the village square: a massive stone barn with a slate roof in the style of the Ottoman architecture of the region. Inside, the scent of incense, the gilded bas-reliefs, the mythological scenes painted on the walls by a priest from Mount Athos and the icons sparkling in the flickering light. In mythology, Milies is the home of the centaur Chiron, a healer and practitioner of herbal medicine. Following the road to the village, quite by chance, I came upon Chiron’s cave. It was surrounded by laurel bushes and, when I visited, little violet-coloured wild irises. Inside, the space opened out, taking on an unexpected resemblance to a sepulchre.”

Zoë Paul creates fragranced art for Diptyque exhibition | Wallpaper*

The artist was inspired by such locations to create her exclusive edition, which is limited to 15 copies: a small curtain made of ceramic beads, her signature, fired using the traditional Japanese technique known as raku, which gives each bead a different colour and creates relief, topped with a tinware crown.

Moving from one mountain to the next, the trip brings us to Japan, the birthplace of the famed Japanese photographer, sculptor, and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto, currently based in New York and the fourth of diptyque’s invited artists.

It leads us to Kankitsuzan – “Mountain of Citrus Fruits” in Japanese: A rich region overlooking the sea not far from Tokyo that gave its name to the artist’s agricultural organization founded in 2008 and whose sceneries and the location was and continue to be his major sources of inspiration.

“This scenery is where I first encountered the ocean – my earliest childhood memory, which would later go on to inspire the Seascapes series.” It is also close to Enoura Observatory, “which I designed and conceived, and from which I endeavour to communicate the quintessence of Japanese culture to the broader public.”

HIROSHI SUGIMOTO 'At the Hawk's Well' | 19/09/2019-15/10/2019 |

For diptyque, Hiroshi Sugimoto conceived Fragrance of infinity, a bottle inspired by the mathematical model situated in the forest of Kankitsuzan – similar to a pseudosphere, symbol of the infinite.

The Grand Tour’s last honoree is an haute couture artist; a designer with his own fashion house: Rabih Kayrouz, known across the world for gowns with a flowing, precise cut and a personal universe that is refined, delicate and lyrical.

diptyque commissioned Kayrouz to produce an artistic edition inspired by Byblos, a town he grew up near to and which has captivated him since boyhood.

“It was the only historic location I was able to visit back then. For me, this town has always been a place to dream. I would try to understand the way people lived there, back in ancient times. I have countless memories associated with the town, and plenty of fantasies too.”

Rabih Kayrouz, le couturier libanais réfugié dans ses créations

So, inside a cedarwood box, we find three small sculptures – the kind of artefacts that the diptyque founders might have brought back after visiting the town: a fragment of a temple model, a fossil of a poppy from nearby Adonis Valley, where Rabih Kayrouz was born, and a golden fragment from a cedar crown that could have belonged to the King of Byblos, conceived as a tribute to the wand.

In celebration of its 60th year in the fragrance business, Diptyque, the luxury French Maison founded in 1950’s Paris, has taken up residence at Selfridge’s Corner Shop.

The four-week installation opens on the 6th of September and has been described as an ‘immersive cityscape experience’ that captures the history of Diptyque.

Each of the in-store ‘destinations’ evokes the European or Asian city that was the inspiration for the fragrances in the new Grand Tour collection.

Also, find some exclusive to Selfridges as part of this Birthday Trip new homeware pieces in celebration of the brand and its birthday. diptyque have gathered an inimitable collection of artisanal treasures inspired by Paris, Venice, Byblos, Milies and Kyoto.

A dripping wax ceramic candle holder sculpture handmade in Paris by ceramist Cécile Bichon limited to 80 numbered pieces, The Fold bronze vase which is again handmade into a wrap-around shape, punctuated and textured, is also a limited edition of 100 numbered originals or a divine Paris porcelain candle holder in white with black print around the sides are just three of the six artisan items on offer.

This exclusive-to-Selfridges decorative homeware and accessories collection has been curated to add a touch of the Le Grand Tour journey to your home.

As part of Selfridge’s Project Earth environmental commitments, the company now offers the diptyque refill station to Selfridges London’s Le Grand Tour Corner Shop. Simply bring in an empty bottle of your favourite Diptyque scent and the staff will refill it, reducing excess and unnecessary waste.

“The Grand Tour pop-up echoes the history of the Maison while focussing on the brand’s contemporary vision,” said Amanda Morgan, Diptyque’s UK Managing Director. Designed to celebrate Diptyque’s 60th birthday and showcase the brand’s creativity, the space is playful and original, hosting unique limited edition products and art pieces created by noted artists.”

The Grand Tour: A journey that was, from the 16th century onwards, an indoctrination, an apprenticeship, an artistic experience, sending enlightened young people off to wander Europe and receive first-hand knowledge of other cultures, of great music and art so this Grand Tour from diptyque is a reminder of the very cornerstone values of this distinct scent giving brand in celebration of its birthday year.

A marked point on the ground; a compass rose may well not stand outside the Selfridges London store but for diptyque it is kilometre zero for this their birthday year.

For more information on diptyque please visit here diptyque.com

For more information on the Selfridges diptyque pop up please visit Here

If you enjoyed reading A Birthday Trip, then why not read Joie de Vivre?