Olivier Cresp 1996, Too much... 2000, Lights of Champs-Elysées 2006
Family: floral, fruity
Notes: mimosa leaf, rose, almond blossom, mimosa blossom, buddleia, blackcurrant, sandalwood, hibiscus seed, vanilla
Shimmering floral
Period: The searching years
Héritage collection

In his perfume guide, Luca Turin described Champs-Elysées as "the second-worst perfume Guerlain ever made." (Mahora took his prize for the worst.) He was not alone: Guerlain's first post-LVMH fragrance is, far and away, the most decried by the core of Guerlain fans, who believed it (and the LVMH takeover) to be the kiss of death to their legendary perfume house. Guerlain, on the other hand, understood that in order to avoid commercial extinction of its customer base, it needed to attract more than loyal old-timers. Aqua Allegoria, L'Instant de Guerlain, Insolence, Idylle, Shalimar Parfum Initial and La Petite Robe Noire eventually have solved the problem, but back in the mid-1990s, most young people thought of Guerlain as something only their grandparents would wear, all heavy, dusty orientals. Under the tag line "Life is best played without a script," the marketing brief for Champs-Elysées asked Guerlain to think outside the box and come up with something that would appeal to the young, including those living in Asia and Russia whose capacity and taste for French luxury goods have soared during the last two decades.

Several prototypes for the fragrance were presented to the Guerlain committee and the sample by Olivier Cresp (known as the nose behind Thierry Mugler's Angel) was chosen over Jean-Paul Guerlain's. For several years, this fact was kept a trade secret, with PR materials and staff training manuals attributing the scent to Jean-Paul Guerlain, even if his failure to be chosen displeased him. Rumour has it though, that Champs-Elysées was far from Guerlain's first fragrance signed by an external perfumer. Champs-Elysées paid off, its sales records actually exceeding the initial forecasts. While the launch deviated olfactively from the Guerlain norm, it held on to the old family tradition of telling a story. The one for Champs-Elysées was to pay tribute to the famous Parisian boulevard on which Maison Guerlain is situated and hence it borrowed the name of Parfum des Champs-Elysées, a long-gone perfume created by Jacques Guerlain to commemorate the inauguration of the house in 1914. Several fragrance websites confuse the two, sometimes mentioning Champs-Elysées as a reintroduction of Parfum des Champs-Elysées, however, they are completely unrelated, the Jacques Guerlain one being a powdery leather perfume typical of his era.

The main accord of the new Champs-Elysées was by contrast a pure, translucent, sweet floral mélange of mimosa (floral soap), rose (floral shimmer), almond blossom (floral cream) and buddleia (floral honey). The flower heart was balanced with blackcurrant, fruity and slightly tart, soft sandalwood, a touch of vanilla and the musky-ambery scent of hibiscus seed. A layperson would not be able to recognize Champs-Elysées from Luca Turin's bleak description, for it smelled truly pretty and charming in every modern way, heralding the airy, delicate, sunlit style that would prevail chez Guerlain in coming years. Read about Parfum des Champs-Elysées

Bottle. Robert Granai, noted for his ability to bring several historical and symbolic elements into the Guerlain presentations, succeeded once more in translating a perfume storyline into tremendous visual beauty. He designed the Champs-Elysées bottle as a walk along Paris' so-called Axe Historique, the vista to the west seen through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel near the Louvre. As with many Guerlain bottles, the geometry of the shape is simultaneously suggestive of a woman's figure. I.M. Pei's controversial glass pyramid inside Louvre's courtyard is the starting point for the base of the bottle. As one passes through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Place de la Concorde, the Obelisk from Luxor comes into view. The top of the obelisk is echoed in the triangular shape of the bottle's base. Travelling past the Marly horses at the gateway to the Champs-Elysées boulevard, one will eventually come to the head office of Maison Guerlain at no.68 on the right. The vanishing point of the boulevard is crowned by the grand Arc de Triomphe whose flat top level is the inspiration for the lid of the bottle. The Parfum bottle first came in a magnificent 30 ml size but is offered today in 10 ml only. Interestingly, for the Parfum there was also a small gold atomizer in the same shape as the bottle. In 2016, the original Champs-Elysées Parfum bottle is being replaced by the standard quadrilobe bottle.

Parfum, EdT, EdP. The EdP and Parfum concentrations are markedly different from the EdT, exuding much more of the luxurious, rounded depth and warmth we know from the Guerlinade signature.

Reformulation. Champs-Elysées seems to have stayed true to its formula over the years.

Variations. The more intensely floral Too Much...Champs-Elysées came out in 2000 in a luminous bottle of the same shape but with a squarer cap, in some cases coloured blue. The neck of the bottle was entwined with a double gold or blue cord to match the colour of the cap. The dominant notes were bergamot, mimosa, lilac, jasmine and heliotrope. There was also an ephemeral airport release called Lights of Champs-Elysées, only loosely connected to the original concept, with a different bottle and notes of mimosa, ylang-ylang, iris, cedarwood, vanilla and vetiver.

  We love: the Parfum version

  A spring-like, very feminine mood

  Maybe not

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