What's It Like To Go To A Fragrance Launch... In Paris?

Behind the scenes at an over-the-top beauty editor event.
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Michelle Villett
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Behind the scenes at an over-the-top beauty editor event.

Not gonna lie: sometimes being a member of the "beauty media" is pretty darn sweet. Like pinch-me-is-this-really-happening kind of sweet.

That's the only way I can describe a trip I took a few weeks ago to attend the Paris launch of the latest fragrance from the house of Nina Ricci. I mean, it's not every day that you get invitations like this one:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch invitation

At least not in my life, as a writer for various Canadian magazines and this here website you're reading right now! I think I literally jumped up and down, and did a little dance, when I got it.

But since this site IS called BEAUTY EDITOR—and I'm an ex-beauty ed myself—I always like to give you guys a sneak peek behind the scenes of what this weird and wonderful beauty editing world is really like. So here's the deal: invites like this one, involving international trips, can roll in quite regularly when you work on staff for any of the big magazines. It's an incredible, extravagant perk, and now that I have a blog I can finally "open the kimono" (as Tim Ferriss would say) and show you how it all goes down.

The launch in question here was Nina L'Eau, a new fresh-floral scent that I was going to be writing about for a magazine (as well as telling you guys about... er, right now). A small group of us from Canada were flown to Paris, put up at an amazing hotel on the Rue Saint-Honoré—a.k.a. the BEST shopping street—and then delivered by our driver (!) to the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild in the 8th arrondissement.

Hotel Salomon de Rothschild

It's an absolutely majestic building that is also a regular venue for Fashion Week shows and other fashion industry events.

Hotel Salomon de Rothschild

[legal]Image via Haïti Action Artistes.[/legal]

Inside, this is what you're first greeted with:

Hotel Salomon de Rothschild

[legal]Image via Madame Rêve Paris.[/legal]

It's all high ceilings, ornate mouldings and crystal chandeliers. So basically, my dream home.

We were led up the stairs and I really had no idea what to expect. Most launches, to be honest, are fairly straightforward presentations where you're just told about the new product's features and benefits over canapés and champagne.

Which is all very nice... but what happened next was completely over-the-top. We were told that we were entering the fictional "Nina girl's" apartment, and in each room there was a teaser where we could discover a different part of her story. This came first:

That's right—there was a LIVE SNOWY OWL just hangin' out on a pedastal. (You can tell by my shaky videotaping that I was in shock!)

In another room, we found an enormous life-size silver tree and dry ice swirling all over the ground.

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

The next room was all pretty in pink (and will you look at this chandelier?!?) and we got to watch a video on the screen to further set the mood. (It was about the Nina fairies, and you can watch it here.)

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

By this time, it was dawning on me through my jet lag that this wasn't the usual beauty launch, so I grabbed my iPhone (the right way 'round this time) and got some more footage just to take it all in:

Then, we entered a room where it was all about the fragrance notes (frosted neroli, apple blossom, gardenia, white musk). So there were platters and platters of the luscious ingredients:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

I really want one of these tiered bowls of sugared fruit:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

And how gorgeous is this blue and white pottery?

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

As for the next room, well, remember this guy?

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

It turns out they had not one but two owls at the event—and we were invited to actually HOLD the second one, whose name is Paloma. (Why owls? There's one in the ad campaign, which I'll show you in a sec.)

Paloma's handler had us wear a glove before he perched her on our forearms, where she squawked and flapped her wings. But what an amazing animal! I loved her yellow eyes and beautiful white coat. Here's the pic they took of us:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

I have to say, she totally stole the show!

After that, we entered the final room, where we got to see more of the hotel's grand decor, and rows and rows of the fragrance itself...

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

Here's a close-up of the frosted glass packaging, meant to echo the frosted neroli note inside:

Nina Ricci L'Eau fragrance

At this point I should probably show you what the ad campaign looks like (you can see how the press event echoed all these elements):

That's Swedish runway model Frida Gustavsson who's the face, and she's telling the story of a girl on the cusp of becoming a woman, which is what this scent is all about. (You get the symbolism with the apple, yes?) They wanted to address the question of what it means to enter womanhood, and to be discovering your powers of seduction and sensuality—but with the brand's signature femininity, elegance and grace.

The dress Frida wears in the campaign is Nina Ricci couture, of course, and we got to see it up close and personal. (By the way, just to the left of the mannequin in this pic is the guy who created the scent, master perfumer Olivier Cresp.)

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

The gown is a one-of-a-kind that apparently took 15 seamstresses more than 300 hours to make. Here's the back view (and see if you can spot a certain Beautygeek on the right):

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

Breathtaking. We all see these kinds of dresses on the red carpet, but when you get to view one in person... WOW.

The final touch? Plates of the most decadent French sweets:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

I couldn't resist photographing all of them because they were way too pretty:

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

Obviously, I left with a total sugar high.

Nina Ricci L'Eau launch - Paris

After that, we were whisked away from Nina's dream-world back into reality... although I could've stayed inside that "apartment" forever! I'm telling you, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the emotional side of a fragrance. It's not just about the notes!

Nina L'Eau is out in April for $62 (50 mL) or $74 (80 mL) at all fine department stores and drugstores across Canada.

Tell me:

Can you believe these types of events are par for the course when you're a beauty ed?
What do you think of the campaign for Nina L'Eau? (And will you try this scent?)
What's your favourite feminine fragrance?