The best brands are those that disrupt the industry in some way, big or small. These brands bring a new perspective to a world that, at times, relies on the same formulaic methods of making and marketing scent. Unique voices are always welcome, especially when their olfactory exploits are in tune with the distinctiveness of their vision. Atelier Cologne is one such brand and they’ve always done things a little bit differently – most notably building their vision around an entirely new olfactive style: the Cologne Absolue.
Atelier Cologne was started by Sylvie Ganter & Christophe Cervasel. After meeting in 2006 and falling in love, Ganter and Cervasel realised that they shared a love for the classic Eau de Cologne and set out to create a line of fragrances that boasted the character of this style but with the longevity it often lacked. The result is the Cologne Absolue – Eau de Colognes that wear like Pure Parfums. Atelier Cologne was birthed from this idea and now the brand, which recently sold to L’Oreal, has points of sale all across the world. It’s a modern day success story – one that is a testament to the quality and artistry of the brand’s unique style.
Recently I was invited to experience Atelier Cologne’s new boutique in Covent Garden, London. Having only ever tried a handful of scents from the collection (all of which I had enjoyed) I jumped at the chance to get to know Atelier Cologne a little bit better. What I discovered was a finely curated collection of scents all with an inimitable personality that captures the essence of worldly voyages and timeless romances, all with a free-spirited and care-free disposition. The Covent Garden boutique is a little treasure trove of loveliness and as you will learn through this post, it provides quite the unique perfume shopping experience.
If you’ve paid a visit to an Atelier Cologne concession within a department store recently you’re likely to notice a big difference stepping into the Covent Garden location. Why? Well the full spirit of Atelier Cologne is explored in the concept boutique, as opposed to the points of sale, which are a bit more functional (although this is expected to change). The boutique is open and airy with the brand’s 30+ fragrances organised by collection. There’s a lot in the boutique – tons of unusual one-of-a-kind trinkets like miniature bicycles or typewriters, all arranged in artistic tableaus around the fragrances, but somehow it never feels cluttered. Instead, the Atelier Cologne boutique feels relaxed with just a touch of quirk, create a balance that I can only describe as ‘spot on’.
Visiting the boutique is the perfect way to get to know Atelier Cologne. One can work their way around each of the five collections, getting to know the scents before then choosing some nifty personalisation options (we’ll get to those later). As a consumer I always like an informal approach to sniffing – it’s something that you should be able to do with or without guidance and Atelier Cologne offers an easy way to sniff the fragrances, with note guidance and help on hand from knowledgeable and passionate staff if needed. It’s the perfect balance.
The great thing about Atelier Cologne is the variety, with each of their fragrances taking inspiration from moments in time or stories of encounters and travels. Despite the fact that they have over 30 fragrances across five collections, things never feel same-y and if you leave the boutique not finding something to love then I’d be very surprised. In fact, the trouble with a visit to Atelier Cologne is the fact that there is a lot to fall in love with…
The brand’s signature collection is the Collection Originale, which features the fragrances that epitomise the Atelier Cologne style and the spirit of the Cologne Absolue. The brand’s very first fragrance and their flagship is Orange Sanguine, a technicolor rendition of oranges that feels as if it was filmed in IMAX. If you try but one scent from Atelier Cologne, let it be Orange Sanguine. It perfectly captures the full beauty of citrus fruits but unlike many fragrances of this style the juicy, tart and green impression extends for hours in a breezy musky trail that lasts, and lasts, and lasts.
Standouts for me: Orange Sanguine (obv.) and the bubblegum fruitiness of the brand new Clementine California.
The Collection Matières applies the same transparent style of the Eau de Cologne to materials that are atypical to the genre. With this collection, Atelier Cologne experiments with rose, vetiver, vanilla, amber, patchouli and jasmine to create unusually transparent fragrances that last. Take Rose Anonyme for example – it’s a juicy, fruity rose with a dark undercurrent of patchouli, yet it has a silky transparency that almost makes it feel weightless. The Collection Matières is for those who want the style of Atelier Cologne but who long for something deeper and richer than citrus.
Standouts for me: The airy coastal patchouli of Mistral Patchouli and the transparent, yet oddly creamy vanilla of Vanille Insensée.
No luxury brand would be complete without a luxury collection and for Atelier Cologne opulence comes in the form of the Collection Métal. Unsurprisingly inspired by precious metals, this collection puts unique twists on rich ingredients such as sandalwood, oud and immortelle, creating unusual and luminous orientals such as Santal Carmin, with its golden saffron-soaked sandalwood, for example. It’s the heaviest collection that Atelier Cologne offers, packing quite the punch, and it certainly is the one that strays away from the idea of the Cologne Absolue the most. These are oriental perfumes with an effortless style.
Standouts for me: The stunning radiance of Camélia Intrépide and the golden saffron-sandalwood of Santal Carmin.
The Collection Orient is an oriental collection with a difference. First off, the bottles are white instead of the typical black and gold one would see in such a collection and secondly, the scents themselves put a subversive twist on the oriental style. Tobacco Nuit, for example, is not a sweet cherry/vanilla tobacco a la Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille, instead it’s a beautiful labdanum-tobacco that explores the smoky, more resinous aspect of the material. Poivre Electrique is also fascinating and is suitably electrifying with its crackly blast of pepper, continuing to wow with a fascinating rose-incense accord. If, like me, you’re tired of the orient represented as exotic ouds and ambers, then Atelier Cologne’s Collection Orient will hold much fascination for you.
Standouts for me: the supple mimosa-leather accord of Mimosa Indigo and the cherry blossom, fruity incense of Encens Jinhae.
The perfect finishing touch to any perfume purchasing experience is personalisation and Atelier Cologne offers something entirely unique. Once one has selected their perfect perfume they then have a number of options in terms of sizing and personalisation, including leather travel cases and engraving for the 30ml travel sprays.
I can guarantee that when you walk in to the Atelier Cologne boutique in Covent Garden there will be one thing you notice before anything else: the rainbow wall. That’s right, this boutique boasts the most eye-catching and beautiful feature – a wall neatly outlined with a vast array of leather cases in rainbow order. If I could have one in my home, I would, but The Husband would not allow it.
Once you’ve picked your case, which with so many colours to choose from may be difficult (talk about spoiled for choice) you can then have it engraved with your name, initials, short message, or whatever you fancy provided it’s within the character limit! There are a number of styles of font to choose from and one can even pick where on the case they wish their engraving to go, which just leaves one more important choice – perhaps the most important of all: silver or gold?
I’d describe Atelier Cologne’s gifting options as generous and varied. The most notable is the Nécessaire Absolu, which includes a 100ml bottle and a 30ml travel spray with a complimentary leather case in one’s colour of choice. The scents can match or they can include a 30ml bottle of any of the Collection Originale or Collection Matières. This is the perfect thing for indecisive sniffers like me who always love more than one thing, so all tantrums are avoided by the ability to pick a big bottle of one beloved scent and a smaller one of another. Problem solved.
I walked away with a gift set that contained a 100ml bottle of Orange Sanguine – my new favourite summer scent, which feels almost as if someone has squeezed a thousand oranges into each bottle, and a 30ml of Mistral Patchouli, my second fave which is such a translucent take on patchouli I had to have it. For my travel case I went for baby pink, because I need to stay on brand (obviously) which was engraved with the name ‘Candy’, because once again: branding. The Husband even walked away with a travel spray of Clementine California, so it’s safe to say that we enjoyed our visit. I for one, couldn’t be more chuffed and I’m already thinking about which combination I would go for next – a big bottle of Encens Jinhae with a 30ml of Vanille Insensée, perhaps? Hmmm….
Suitably on brand, don’t you think?
11 Market Building
Samples and info via Atelier Cologne. Images are my own.