Yesterday upstairs on the men’s floors at Isetan Shinjuku was a scramble of male fashionables rummaging through lithe haute mode, a fascinating sight to behold as futuristically garmented assistants clad in hot fashion (and cold attitude) looked on blankly as the equally well put-together, handsome and moneyed men of Tokyo took advantage of the January bargain sales; discounts on Balenciaga, Yohji Yamamoto, Saint Laurent et al, all piled up in quickly discarded decisions or else bagged up and contentedly paraded out in swinging retail bliss from the overheated black interiors through the automatic doors and out to the chilly city air.





Leaving Duncan to scout out a choice item  ( I myself was very quickly overcome with claustrophobia ) I instead made my way down to the Perfume Halls downstairs to have a quick look at what was what, immediately finding myself drawn towards the new Guerlain Concession, wherein virtually all of the house’s perfumes have been put in identical bottles and given numbers in bingo or assembly line fashion; a factory line up of identically packaged scents, but with complicatedly different prices I personally find a little discombobulating: a lesser Guerlain Aqua Allegoria such as Limon Verde, for example, will be placed next to a classic such as Vetiver, and you make your selection based on your instinctive reaction to the smell, helped by the new Mindscent system, as explained below from the LVMH website:








Always seeking exciting innovations, Guerlain has developed Mindscent, a fragrance finder powered by emotion sensors. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies – neuronal headset and visual interfaces – customers in Guerlain boutiques are invited to discover a unique experience to find out which of the Maison’s 110 fragrances is their favorite, the perfume that brings them the most positive emotional reaction and best matches their personality. 


After inventing Olfaplay, a digital radio app and website for people who are passionate about perfume, Guerlain continues to tap into the latest digital technologies with Mindscent, a new perfume experience proposed at the Maison’s boutiques. Created by Guerlain’s Digital Innovation team and fragrance experts, this groundbreaking experience is based on an innovative concept developed by researchers from Nantes University called “Keurokiff” that is able to detect feelings directly from the brain.





Visitors to Guerlain boutiques simply ask a sales associate to fit them with a neuronal headset and are then invited to blind test four distinct fragrance families – fresh, floral, oriental and woody – before answering a few questions while looking at aspirational images. The neuronal sensor analyzes the customer’s feelings to guide them. After testing several recommendations from among the 110 Guerlain fragrances available in the boutiques, their perfect perfume match is displayed on the screen in just a few seconds.

The Mindscent app was officially unveiled at Guerlain’s emblematic 68 Champs-Elysées store on October 11. It will initially be available at the Guerlain Place Vendôme and rue des Francs-Bourgeois boutiques in Paris before being rolled out internationally, supported by the “My Emotion, My Fragrance” campaign.

(Me again):
I was too hot and consumer-bothered on this occasion to try out this new system in such hectic surroundings  – as I have written before, Isetan must have the highest ratio of staff to consumer in the world; the makeup counters are insane in particular; there is no space to move; it is a milling of gently pushing luxe that nevertheless has a certain pull as it is the centre of all such things in Tokyo………….yet to truly test out my brain waves as a newbie I would need more elegant silence and space. It might be interesting to see my emotions displayed in gigabytes instantaneously on a touch screen, though, and to know what images I may aspire to (and D and I have a thing about ‘aspirational living’ but I won’t go in to that right now).
The truth is I know virtually all of the perfumes already, of course, so yesterday it was just a question of sniffing from one to the other in order to check out the quality, refamiliarizing myself with them all (so strange though to have an extrait of Mon Precieux Nectar, say, which I rather fancied with his almondy crisp warmth, placed in a pea in the pod bottle next to it of something like Mandarine Basilic and then Tonka Imperiale, all the ranges declassified and reclassified into One. There is an unsettling clone/robot/factorized utilitarianism to it all, a, homogenisation of the line that while useful for the person unaccustomed to the glory of Guerlain, deprives them of the sheer beauty of each perfume’s original presentation and incarnation. Where they stand alone. Though I love the bee bottle itself and have several, such as Parure and Chant D’Aromes in that format (the chunkiness in the hand, the lovely apian glass insects giving you a heft of pleasure in its tactility before you get to the spray within), to have all of the line reduced to this presentation feels almost like the end of an era. I want Chamade to be in its heart shaped bottle, Jardins De Bagatelle to be in its own, awkwardly 80’s angular flacon, Insolence to be in its own violetty little twisty; all of them individualistic, distinct.
What are your own thoughts on the matter?


Filed under Flowers

23 responses to “‘MINDSCENT’ : : THE GUERLAIN PARADE

  1. Tara C

    Thankfully we don’t have the Mindset app in Montréal, it sounds annoying and gimmicky. Plus like you I pretty much know the whole line. We have several rows of the rainbow-coloured bee bottles, but the Art et Matière line is still in its regular bottles thankfully. I would hate to see every single scent in that same blah atomizer bee bottle. I spent this fall stocking up on my favourites in their traditional bottles – that will give you an indication of me feelings on the matter. It looks cheap, not stylish to me – not a trend I appreciate.

    • I know exactly what you mean. The sheer SPLENDOUR of the Guerlain classic flacons when placed side by side is not to be trifled with.

      At the same time, if you WERE a curious neophyte, there is something quite democratic about this new numbered system in the sense that you are basing your decision purely on the smell of each one and nothing else. I can’t see it lasting permanently but it would be interesting to know if people go for it.

  2. Tora

    Fucking kill me now.

    P.S. Do try Puredistance Gold, and if you can’t, I’ll send you some.

    • I have reviewed it ! ( please see review – a good solid amber… how does it smell on you?)

      Thanks for thinking of me though. I LOVE your packages x

    • But I kind of agree re the Guerlain actually : it doesn’t feel quite right, does it, even if I am tempted to try the system just to see what perfumes get chosen for me: there IS something quite intriguing about the technology of it even if the uniformity of the perfumes does something to aggravate my brain, like soldiers lined up for the Mao Cultural Revolution.

  3. Marcus

    Who would be the target group for such system? Not those aficionados like you and your readers, we long for more details to decide for a full bottle. Maybe those who want to buy luxury goods no matter what? Note this finder can’t work if someone looks for a present. And imagine the headset on that wealthy elderly woman’s headdress!
    I’d say such mechanism could work for young and inexperienced people rather new to perfume or simply interested in a quick decision. But then Guerlain is the wrong counter.

    I’ll look out for this Mindscent to be available in town and probably will try it.

    • Me too – I actually wish I had done it yesterday but I am going to do it and will report back. I agree, though – it must be aimed at ‘the young’, as the bottles look pretty enough not to look too old fashioned or collector’s cabinet; they glow from behind, and there is something oddly alluring about the numbers attached to them like prizes at a shooting gallery despite my reservations.

      You are right though: who the hell is going to actually put on the headset? It could work in a quieter space, but not really in Isetan. You would think you were at the neurologist.

  4. David

    I’m not a big fan of all the tech glitz. I did however, get a kick out of the Comme des Garçons website, the interactive way you can select a free sample. I’m old school. I’ll be in NYC next week, and I like visiting fragrance counters at the old, venerable department stores. I’ve also always wanted to visit Neiman Marcus, and I have heard the new one in NYC has a huge perfume area. I always like to visit the Estée Lauder counters, always staffed by friendly and chatty staff. I need to get ready for listening to life stories, however. Most of the perfume shops in NYC like Osswald encourage browsing. I’m excited for the first East Coast outpost of the Scentbar. Just my experience, but perfume staff in NYC are sassy (in a good way), flirty, and don’t mind when customers handle the testers. I had some rough experiences in Tokyo about handling the merch, but also a few really nice ladies at the Men’s Hankyu.

  5. emmawoolf

    Well quite….I’m sorry, but this is marketing balls from Guerlain of the highest order: utter hokum! “The neuronal sensor analyzes the customer’s feelings to guide them.” How is this remotely possible – I am not a scientist but does the department store have an MRI scanner in the basement?! I do think that Guerlain are laughing all the way to the bank as someone unintentionally picks the “neuronal sensor’s” choice of a $200 perfume and ends up walking out with it in the generic bee bottle. You must try the experience though, and report back. (I miss the old bottles, too. Bring the 80s column of Jardins back, please, Mr G).

    • I agree. The bee bottle castrates the glamour of the Bagatelle bottle – it literally NEEDS those glass crenellations to smell right.

      I am all for customers having full MRIs at department stores in order to find their perfect perfume. Ten or so, ladies lined up – technicians grimacing when La Vie Est Belle pops up on their video monitor.

      But seriously, if they SAY they have found a way to measure olfactory emotion in some way, doesn’t that mean that they have ? Or am I just being gullible ?

  6. I was in Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC a couple of weeks ago and they had this whole set-up there.
    Needless to say, they really paid me no mind, so I just reached up to the shelves and pulled bottles of to smell them. I don’t need any of these modern theatrics when looking at fragrance.
    It is funny though, my hubby (who usually could care less about fragrances) loved everything I had him smell from Guerlain. I don’t even remember what I pulled off the shelf, all the same bottles😒, but he loved them.
    He was not as excited about the offerings from the Chanel Les Exclusifs range; thought N°18 smelled like a cheap cleaning product.
    Oh, my poor Guerlain. Still offering nice scents, with way too much hullabaloo about the selecting.

  7. Robin

    I think it would be mildly entertaining to plunk on the neuronal headset, sniff some smells, flip through some “aspirational” images and see what the computer has to say. But if this is more than a passing gimmick, Guerlain has lost its marbles.

    Hey, call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always, even as a frag-curious teen, been interested in history, chronology, back-story and genres/families/styles/individual notes. Of all the zillions of companies flogging fragrances these days, Guerlain is the richest in every category. Priceless stuff that took generations and a lot of genius to accumulate. But here, it’s as if they’re throwing that all away. To me, it’s what makes perfume compelling, addictive, etc. — magical, endlessly interesting.

    The digital analysis BS reduces it all to a handful of neurons firing after inhaling some generic odours and blinking at a tropical sunset, a butterfly and a shiny airplane. Here, here’s your number, take this bottle and off to the cash register with you.

    Actually, no, I don’t think so.

    What the hell is WRONG with these people???!!!!

    • This analysis is hilariously accurate (laughing out loud at my computer at the butterfly and airplane).

      Dying to try it even more now!

      • emmawoolf

        Exactly as Robin says! What are these “aspirational” images? We need to know. I’m really hoping that it might be a butterfly and a sunset. What if you get a Ferrari and a designer handbag instead? You must try it and report back. I hope actually the experience is wonderfully lo-tech, a bit 1980s, a bit Willy Wonka…you know, something like put on your Sony Walkman and look at pictures in the ViewFinder… (did you ever have one of those? I had a Rescuers one) – and lo! out of the chute pops a shiny bottle of perfume.

      • I want this to happen.

        And to never work again.

  8. JulienFromDijon

    I can’t reject the “mindscent system” too quickly. It’s very likely to be a gizmo, but since two decades we got accustomed to widgets that held their promises.

    I think it’s best aimed at people who can’t read the french names. For that, the number system is very convenient. Still, I laugh at some plausible result. “Deary, what result did you got?” “The machine told me I should smell of eau du coq. :B” “Lucky you, I got number 2.”

    I can’t trust a computer like this to be taught to treat each fragrance and concentration equally. Saying that you love florals, and being headed to Chamade extrait, is very not the same as “the emperor new clothes” that’s Idylle. For the programmer, there is a huge difference between the pyramidal composition, and what the fragrance truly smell. The same goes for sellers, because there is a huge gap between what a fragrance is play pretending to be, and the dreary little thing you end up with.

    Logarithm, and even self-learning program, are known to amplify human prejudices. Most of the time, what counts as a success for a machine, is how much time you waste with it. That criterion doesn’t mean efficiency.
    And the brand is likely to prepare a result for your gender, depending of their best sellers, or what’s on tv, or the first regular priced EDT with the highest margin. It’s “cold reading” applied to machine, in some way.

    At the beginning of my passion, I had prejudices against hesperidic. “Smelling of citron and cheap cologne, what’s the big deal?” I did not know it could be done right. Eventually, if the machine get the people to be curious and stick around for fun, I’ll judge it a success.

    One last word of caution : when we use a vending machine, or our own printer to print a ticket, we are offering free time and free work for the brand, like an employee. Compared to a human counter clerk, who knows the stuff, the machine is often marginally faster or more convenient for us. But a company get more money by sparing a paying roll and using us as an untold free employee.

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