This summer, a new perfume store will feed the olfactory adventurers of the French capital. Situated on the left Bank’s rue du Bac, the Bureau Postal D’Orsay features an elegant interior that recalls an early-20th century post office, and it will retail perfumes by D’Orsay. But this is no 21st century upstart; it is the reincarnation of an iconic French perfume house, injected with new life by entrepreneurial sisters Amélie and Mélanie Huynh alongside creative director Erwan le Louër.

Count Alfred d’Orsay was a dandy who became renowned among Europe’s artistic and political elite as a playwright, painter and sculptor before giving his name to a perfume brand in 1830. He forged ties with the likes of Victor Hugo, Lord Byron, Napoleon III, Alexandre Dumas, Charles Dickens and Franz Liszt, and his successful career also led him to be appointed director of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Erwan le Louër and Amélie and Mélanie Huynh
Erwan le Louër and Amélie and Mélanie Huynh, founders of relaunched perfume brand D’Orsay, in their private showroom in Paris. Photography: Marion Berrin

It was a clandestine romance with the Countess of Blessington that turned d’Orsay’s creative focus towards scent. He created a perfume for her and they both wore it, keeping it concealed in a secret bottle. The visionary had designed the first androgynous perfume.

Almost overnight, the scent became a bestseller, much-loved by the upper echelons of society. By 1932, the D’Orsay perfume house was selling more than five million bottles a year, and it would collaborate with the likes of artist Jean Cocteau, Lalique and Baccarat to craft unique interiors and products.

With this pioneering spirit in mind, Amélie and Mélanie Huynh bought what was left of the brand, and decided to relaunch and modernise it. A private showroom, in an elegant hôtel particulier on rue de Marignan, designed by Erwan Le Louër (of Le Gramme fame), is breathtakingly modern: materials – a mix of walnut, brass, concrete and travertine stone – give the space a minimal yet sensual atmosphere, while a wall lined with letterboxes hints at d’Orsay and Lady Blessington’s historical correspondence. A new boutique, which opens on 15 June, develops the theme of correspondence further with post office ephemera, and offers an experience centred around ‘lost and found’ objects, letters and secret doors.

The relaunched brand’s new collection of perfumes is composed of five body fragrances, called Equivocal Portraits, and five home fragrances, called Stolen Moments. The body fragrances embrace a state of mind rather than a genre – think freedom, trust or introspection – while the home fragrances evoke a time and place, like a nocturnal moment in an artist’s studio or a peek into a dancer’s dressing room. The range comes with handcrafted brass fragrance diffusers, which have the appealing allure of a fine jewellery piece. §

As originally featured in the July 2019 issue of Wallpaper* (W*244)