Uncommon scents in the air in Gemmayzeh

BEIRUT: The perfumery looks like a chic, modern take on an old-fashion drug store. Shallow shelves are lined with unassuming jars and bottles that belie the world of smells they contain. When owner and creative director Ludmila Bitar founded Ideo Parfumeurs in 2009, it was just a small company for private clients that created luxury bespoke fragrances.

Now, her shop, recently opened among the bars and cafes on Gemmayzeh’s main drag, features a successful line of candles, linen water and soap, as well as its own “bar a parfum” that gives customers the opportunity to design and mix their own scents.

“We started slowly, to try out and readjust our concept,” she says.

And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it is the perfect place to nose around in for a gift. There is also the enticing option of creating a custom fragrance for your significant other from scratch.

After a successful pop-up shop at Ginette in the fall of 2012 that featured her set of candles, Bitar opened up her fully stocked shop in November. Her extensive background in perfume, having worked for Japanese fragrance giant Takasago and L’Oreal in France, as well as holding a degree in business and human behavior, makes Bitar an expert at developing alluring scents.

Her candles take inspiration from where their ingredients originate, while the linen water is a modern-day take on the light fragrances launderers in the south of France used to spritz onto clean clothes. It can be used to cover the lingering smell of cigarette smoke or sprayed on bedsheets in conjunction with the lingerie perfume to enhance any encounter.

“Your olfactory sense is very important, it triggers so many memories in the brain,” she says.

And with all their ingredients sourced from Grasse – the perfume capital of France – Ideo represents the perfect fusion of French olfactory tradition with local sensibilities and globe-trotting influences.

But ultimately, when it comes to personal scents, perfumes are a reflection of the wearer. With this in mind, Bitar has set up a simple, three-step process for customers to design a unique fragrance for themselves or a loved one.

“I found most personalized experiences frustrating; they either ask you to wait two weeks before you can receive your fragrance or they only offer you 20 of their premixed scents to choose from,” she says.

“I wanted something where you really feel like you did something, you learned something about yourself.”

In a process that takes about 15 minutes and costs $150, the client first answers a 10-question survey about their lifestyle and taste, with prompts ranging from their personal style to their ideal night out.

Then, after a graph of their results is generated illustrating the notes they will be drawn to, they are asked to smell several potential elements and answer further questions about them.

Finally, their favorite notes are mixed together one at a time so that they can experience each scent as it is added. In the end, the customer will have their own, unique perfume.

While Bitar and her staff offer advice, the customer has full control over the final product.

And, unlike what one might experience at a department store or duty-free shop, she and her staff are careful to drop the jargon and use simple words so that in the end the customer has “a mix between their lifestyle and personality” that is “95 percent close to what you smell at the time of mixing.”

The shop then keeps a record of what the client likes so that at any time they can advise friends or family on possible gifts. But Bitar encourages customers to try their hand at creating a scent for their loved ones, as often times people wear perfume just as much for the people in their life as for themselves. She has yet to have a recipient dislike a scent custom made for them as a gift, she says.

For those less daring, Ideo offers customizable gift boxes, and in two months time, the company will introduce new ready-made fragrances: seven for women and four for men.

With products set to go online at My Souk and a website in the works, Bitar is already moving closer to taking her “perfume lifestyle” concept from Beirut to the global market.

But for now, the shop is still focused on providing the Lebanese with a unique olfactory experience, one nose at a time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 07, 2014, on page 2.




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