BEAUTY SPOTS

 

Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido

WHILE Paris is full of wonderful perfumeries, one of the most secret locations is tucked under the arcades of the 17th century Palais Royal, opposite the Louvre. Les Salons du Palais Royal is the showcase outlet for Japanese cosmetics and skincare company Shiseido, which opened the two storey premises two years ago. Its interior exquisitely decorated in late 18th century, Directoire style, the salon carries all Shiseido's products, but also sells a dozen perfumes not available elsewhere.

These heady fragrances have been created by Shiseido's artistic director Serge Lutens and are divided into three categories: Les Eaux Boisees; Les Somptueux; and Les Eaux Anciennes. The four perfumes in the first group all have woody bases, added to which in different circumstances are musk, vanilla, fruits or violets. The four Somptueux fragrances, as their name implies, are rich and heady; the best selling and exotic Ambre Sultan, for example, is based on amber, with additions of musk, myrtle and laurel. In the same group, Rose de Nuit contains essence of Turkish rose, as well as jasmine, sandalwood and apricot. Among Les Eaux Anciennes, the Encens et Lavande which was only added to the collection last September, has a top note of pure lavender while Iris Silvermist, in addition to iris, contains cedar and sandalwood.

Each of these perfumes has been given its own romantic legend by Monsieur Lutens - typically Cuir Mauresque tells of a Moorish king in the gardens of Spain's Alhambra palace. But the scents are so special that they need no further enhancement. The combination of unusual fragrances and very special setting in which they are found, plus the fact that they are for sale only in the Palais Royal, help to give the perfumes their appeal. They come in bell shaped glass bottles based on an 18th century original and cost 600 French francs (around £68) for 75ml of eau de parfum.

The bottles can be engraved with names or initials, provided four days' notice is given.

While staff like customers to call into Les Salons du Palais Royal and discuss personal preferences - after which details are kept on the premises for future reference a mail order service is also available. And if you are not sure exactly which perfume you wish to buy, Les Salons will send to anyone interested an envelope containing information on the whole collection and a small example of each fragrance in solid form. Still, it would be a pity not to call into Les Salons du Palais Royal and experience the enchanted atmosphere first hand.

NEW YORK

The Aveda Institute

ANY time spent in New York can be so frantic and exhausting that an hour or two's rest can make all the difference. If you do find yourself with the possibility of taking a break, then. It's worth making an appointment to visit the Aveda Institute in Soho. Aveda is a Minneapolis based manufacturer of cosmetics, skin and haircare products made from freshly distilled plant and flower essences. While the range is on sale at several outlets in this country, the institute offers additional services, as well as a chance to catch the very latest additions to Aveda's everburgeoning collections.

Based in a 15,000 square foot, remodelled warehouse on Spring Street, the institute houses a complete salon, day spa and aroma juice bar. The last of these features Aveda's new aroma flavours and is the site for seminars on nutritional, organic cooking. The enormous entrance foyer is a retail outlet for more than 700 Aveda goods, such as its latest cosmetic colour ranges and custom blending service for skin and hair products. Shampoos and conditioners, for example, can be mixed to incorporate specific fragrances and colours according to a customer's requirements.

In addition, the institute provides a host of other services, such as consumer workshops offering information on topics including stress management, massage techniques and aromatherapy. Best of all, the building accommodates a series of rooms where customers can get everything from a haircut to a make up lesson given by a certified Aveda cosmetician. Waxing and skincare services are offered, as is what the company call a Himalayan rejuvenation body treatment - it covers full body exfoliation, friction massage, plant steam bath and relaxation technique.

Cleansing for the back and shoulders; foot therapy based on the principles of reflexology; body exfoliation and polishing; hydrotherapy and body wrap treatments, as well as classic body massages, are all among the other options offered by the institute. Prices vary according both to what is being provided and also whether the member of staff is a senior or intern,

A 90 minute full massage by a senior, for example, costs $90; a 30 minute massage by an intern $25. Charges for a haircut start at $30, for a make up lesson $95 and for a face and body treatment $40. Because the institute is used by professionals as well as consumers, it's advisable to book in advance - probably the best idea is to telephone in advance of departure for New York and arrange a visit. After spending a few hours at the Aveda Institute, you'll find yourself refreshed and ready to face the demands of Manhattan once again.

LONDON

Wardrobe

THE idea of a one stop shop is so brilliantly obvious, it's amazing such premises are a rarity rather than the norm. Many Irish women who fly over to London for a couple of days' shopping will, therefore, be delighted to learn about just such an outlet - somewhere offering not just great clothes but also the chance to get a new haircut and make up advice, plus perhaps a reflexology treatment or a session of shiatsu.

Already known to a number of smart dressers in this country, Wardrobe is found at 42 Conduit Street, conveniently between Regent and Bond Streets, so right in the middle of London's fashion circuit. It opened at its present location in September 1995, but owner Susie Faux had previously owned shops with the same name on Chittern and Grosvenor Streets. She brings some 25 years experience to retailing and by now knows exactly what her customers want. That understanding is clearly the basis of Wardrobe's success; both Ms Faux and her highly personable staff make a point of becoming familiar with the needs of the clients. Details are taken down on a first visit - often a photograph of the woman in question is stored - and these are regularly updated. Whenever clothes which might suit an individual customer come into the shop, she is notified and an appointment made.

The majority of those clothes - sensibly sized from eight to 24 - tend to come from Germany and Italy, and while many of the labels will not be well known, the quality is indisputable. For the season ahead, Wardrobe is carrying Italians Antonio Fusco and Attolini and Germans such as Strenesse and Joop! The Kiton line is very popular with the shop's customers who tend to be predominantly - although by no means exclusively - professional women who have a limited amount of time for shopping and wish to be smartly dressed but not glaringly fashionable.

"Our clientele prefer what they're wearing simply to be noticed," explains Susie Faux, "not because of who it's by or what it has cost".

While obviously anyone can simply walk into Wardrobe, the best way to make the most of the shop and its services is to book an appointment in advance of paying a visit. There is a consultancy fee of £200, but this is redeemable against any purchase. In addition to spending time with members of the sales staff, customers are also introduced to Wardrobe's resident hairdresser Laurent Derame and beauty therapist Frances Hall, both of who advise on what looks would best complement the new clothes. A nutritionist is on the premises every Wednesday, while a shiatsu practitioner is available on Fridays. There's even a lovely in house perfume called Sfera, created by Susie Faux.