“Gold on the inside,” says David Depuydt, owner of Place Vendôme Haute Parfumerie, describing Chanel No 5. The flacon is austere, but it contains a melange of the most precious essences available to perfumers. Depuydt’s comment applies equally to his store. Although you would hardly suspect it based on the plain façade and modest location, the boutique is a unique luxury beauty destination.
Place Vendôme is located in Wevelgem, a small Belgian town of red-brick houses, surrounded by farmland, that is a world apart from the rarefied glamour one typically associates with perfume. But, like its Parisian namesake, Place Vendôme is all about quality. The store’s focus is on Guerlain and Chanel; it’s one of the few places in the world where you can find the brands’ complete perfume ranges, along with limited-edition items. Depuydt, however, is modest in acknowledging its cult status and explains that he established the luminous gold space in 1989 simply to fulfil his fascination with beauty products.
The jewels of the boutique’s collection are its Guerlain and Chanel rarities. Recognising Place Vendôme’s reputation among aficionados, Guerlain often allows it to present new perfumes before they become available at its other shops. Hard-to-find fragrances, including Sous le Vent (€240 for 125ml), Liu (€200 for 125ml) and Rose Nacrée du Désert (€195 for 75ml) are all on display, alongside limited-distribution launches such as the Hiver en Russie candle (€65 for 180g) and Pâte de Velours shaving balm (€73 for 100ml). And for those seeking the ultimate in exclusivity, there are the one-off Collection Privée fragrances, each scent made for an individual buyer and bottled in a range of flacons, including a 500ml Baccarat-crystal design. These cost €30,000 each.
In contrast to Guerlain’s opulence, the Chanel enclave is appropriately understated. The boutique stocks the entire collection of fragrances, with exceptional finds including the rare 900ml deluxe editions of the iconic No 5 (€4,500) and Gardenia scents (€4,400), as well as a new extrait of 1932, a perfume from the limited-distribution Les Exclusifs collection (€190 for 15ml). And as with Guerlain, the complete array of Chanel’s skincare and make-up lines is also available.
Alongside these gems are products by luxury marques such as Cartier, Hermès, Amouage, Jean Patou, Parfum d’Empire and Parfums de Rosine. “I am not interested in exclusivity for its own sake; quality is what matters the most,” says Depuydt. The same principle leads him to search for what he considers to be the best products from around the globe, be it the BioEffect Serum from Iceland (€135 for 15ml) or Menard’s Authent Cream from Japan (€840 for 50ml).
The out-of-the way location doesn’t hinder the success of Place Vendôme. “Each visit becomes a special occasion,” explains Depuydt. He is discreet about his famous clientele, but mentions that the Queen of Belgium visits to buy her favourite Arty Fragrance candles (€45 for 180g). “We aim to make everyone feel like a royal,” he smiles.