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

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 take-over fragrance is, far and away, the most unappreciated by the core of Guerlain fans, who believed the LVMH ownership to be the kiss of death to the legendary perfume house. Guerlain's new CEO under LVMH rule, Christian Lanis, on the other hand, understood that in order to avoid extinction of the customer base, the brand needed to attract more than loyal old-timers. Eventually La Petite Robe Noire solved the problem, but back in the 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 the perfumer to think outside the box and come up with something that would appeal to the young, not least Asians and Russians who like fresh-floral scents and French luxury goods.

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. According to French newspaper L'Express, however, Jean-Paul Guerlain refused to put his name on the new fragrance, which he found incompatible with the soul of Guerlain. LVMH president Bernard Arnault wasn't too happy with his new Guerlain CEO either, as he thought the 15-million-Franc ad spot was unattractive, "hardly worthy as a tourism ad for Japanese visitors." A new ad campaign therefore had to be made in a hurry, featuring French actress Sophie Marceau. After the Champs-Elysées release, Christian Lanis was replaced with Thibault Ponroy, who had previously been with the brand as a commercial director (1985-1990), making Lanis the shortest-lived of all Guerlain CEOs.

While Champs-Elysées 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 perfume being a woody violet perfume typical of his era.

The contemporary Champs-Elysées was by contrast a clean, fresh-honeyed floral with lily of the valley, mimosa, rose, and almond blossom. The floral notes were balanced with blackcurrant, fruity and slightly tart, soft sandalwood, a touch of vanilla, and the musky-ambery scent of hibiscus seed. Although Champs-Elysées never became the commercial success it had been projected to be, 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, luminous style that would prevail chez Guerlain in coming years. Read about Parfum des Champs-Elysées

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 was later offered in 10 ml only. Interestingly, for the Parfum there was also a small gold atomizer in the same shape as the bottle. In 2017, Guerlain replaced the Champs-Elysées bottle with the standard quadrilobe bottle and a frosted version of the bee atomizer.

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.

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

The more intensely floral Too Much Champs-Elysées, composed of mimosa, lilac, jasmine and heliotrope, came out in 2000 in a 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. There was also an ephemeral airport release called Lights of Champs-Elysées (2006), only loosely connected to the original concept, with a different bottle and notes of mimosa, ylang-ylang, iris, cedarwood, vanilla and vetiver. This scent was reissued in 2012 as Shanghai in the Une Ville, Un Parfum series.

  We love: the Parfum version

  A spring-like, very feminine mood

  Maybe not

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