Roaming the crooked streets of the Marais on a recent trip to Paris, I stumbled across the most adorable little boutique with a lipstick-red façade. Tucked on the sleepy Place du Marché Sainte Catherine, Marie Antoinette is filled with rare perfumes and wonderful scents. For an original gift, these treasures are far more interesting than anything you can pick up duty free or in a Parisian department store. Just as charming is the store’s owner, Antonio de Figueiredo, a passionate man who loves perfume and loves what he does. His store is all about a return to authenticity, elegant products and beautiful materials.
The boutique carries the Claus Porto line of fragrances, scented soaps and candles, a company that started in Portugal in 1887. The all-natural soaps are hand-wrapped in beautiful paper and are perfect for slipping into your suitcase. I particularly like the Deco Collection, glam soaps developed by perfume makers with inspired Art Deco labels. What is so endearing is that many of the products have a connection in some way to Antonio’s own life, and it was when he bought a Claus Porto candle that he realised it was the same brand as the cologne his grandfather used to wear. ‘I lived with my grandparents from 4-7 years old and remember so well the smell of my grandfather’s Claus Porto Musgo Real.’ I think perhaps smell, of all our senses, has the most potent ability to transport us instantly back to a place, a person, or a moment in time. In honour of his grandfather and his Portuguese roots, Antonio stocks the whole range of Musgo Real men’s skincare: masculine, sophisticated and seductive colognes and aftershaves created in 1920. The store is named in homage to his grandmother, who also created fragrances.
Antonio tells me about the Frapin fragrances, a house primarily known for its fine Cognac. These scents are for both men and women and produced on a small scale. Frapin 1270 is a tribute to the origins of the Frapin family who settled in the Charente in 1270 and conjures the complex aroma of a very old Cognac. The beech wood cap is a reference to the wooden casks that impart a wonderful flavour to Cognac. ‘Cognac was my first drink when I was 17 years old so it was an obligation for me to have it in the shop, it reminds me of this time,’ says Antonio.
He pops the top off a Mona Di Orio fragrance for me to try. ‘This perfumer was a student of the famous Edmond Roudniska, creator of grand classics like Diorissimo 56 and Eau Sauvage 66. The bottle has a Champagne wire on top, and pops when you open it.’ If the French have two passions, surely they are Champagne and perfume!
Whether you are searching for an old fragrance with spirit or something more avant-garde, here in this belle parfumerie française you will find a beautiful and enduring souvenir of Paris.