June 10, 2016
Arielle Shoshanna Scented Luxuries Photo Credit Greg Powers
Unless you live in Perfumista havens in the U.S. (New York City, San Francisco, or Los Angeles) finding unique and artistic fragrances can be quite the challenge. We get much of our information from perfume blogs, click on websites like Luckyscent and Twisted Lily for blind buys, sample niche perfumes from subscription services such as Olfactif.com or take field trips to Sniffapalooza events to broaden our scent horizons. In some regards it makes our passion for perfume feel all the more exotic. As informative as this can be, as someone who works in the beauty industry, I know first hand that there is nothing that compares to the experimental and atmospheric ambience of a specialty store or boutique. Living in Washington, DC I have often had to scratch my head (or nose?) as to why such an erstwhile cosmopolitan city did not offer a store… an actual brick and mortar establishment where both the passionate and the curious could mingle. After all, the once conservative town has blossomed into a shopping mecca and has become a force in the national foodie scene.
At last, my perfume prayers have been answered and that’s why WE LOVE THIS STORE: Arielle Shoshana Scented Luxuries. Nestled in the brand new and bustling mixed used development Mosaic District in Fairfax, VA this intimate space offers an oasis for the scent starved living in Metro DC. It also provides a wonderful surprise for those meandering the walkable neighborhood who likely have never imagined such a specialty boutique existed. A whole new world opens up to those who come in, ask questions, and start sniffing!
The first thing that struck me when I entered the establishment was the elegance of the layout. The lovely cobalt couch beckons you into the lounge area just inside the door; a true scented salon! Ever the hostess, Arielle welcomed me with an invitation to start our chat with tea. I knew when she served the violet tea from Providence Perfume Co. in a charming vintage teacup that I would be in for quite a multi-sensory experience.
Arielle Weinberg photo: Photo: Liza Wade
As we got to know each other I discovered that Arielle is Arielle Shoshana Weinberg who began her career on the chemistry side of the perfume industry but ended up working in some of the most storied fragrance boutiques in New York City. A native of the DC area, Arielle returned to her home town and opened up the city’s first ever niche fragrance boutique, building directly upon her passion and experience. Arielle is also author of the fragrance blog The Scents of Self, which she began in 2009 and quips is “the nerdy perfume blog”.
Fragrance as Art Photo Allison Cooke
For her eponymous boutiqu,e Arielle has chosen to stock an edited assortment of 15 niche fragrance brands from all over the world ranging from Arquiste to Tauer Perfumes. However, at Arielle Shoshanna it all about the experience. The first point of difference is the luxury boutique esthetic which she showcases perfume testers on neatly appointed suspended shelves as opposed to the endless array of boxes common to the open sell model. Fragrance is, after all an art, why not display it as such.
Interior of Arielle Shoshanna Photo Greg Powers
In addition the perfumes are arranged by scent category rather than brand. This encourages the shopper to think about fragrance in a different way. In this environment it is not about brand loyalty or falling for a marketing campaign. To drive that point home Arielle has opted to forgo the traditional fragrance categories like chypre and oriental (which often mystify non fragrance aficionados) for more user friendly descriptive categories: Fresh, Sweet, Citrus, Spicy, Beachy, Wood, Oud, Smoky, Floral, and Fruity. For the hard to pin down fragrance there is “Undefinable” which, because the name is so intriguing, has drawn enough of the curious to become Arielle’s strongest selling category. The third point of difference is her extensive knowledge and understanding of the world of olfaction and business; one must think local, buy global and celebrate indies and artisans (such as smellbent and cbihateperfume) as well as luxury brands.
Zelda The Shoppe Cat (named for Zelda Fitzgerald)
I asked Arielle for a tour of each category but my visit soon became more organic as I sniffed away and we chatted about her best sellers (Saffron Troublant by L’Artisan is #1) and one of the most sought after brands is (Maison Francis Kurkdijian). I confessed that I was on the hunt for my Holy Grail of “amber”. We examined several ambers until I got hot and bothered by Amber flash by Tauerville which went home with me in a small decanted sample. In addition, I left with Noir Exquis by L’Artisan and Afternoon of a Faun by L’Etat Libre d’Orange from two different additional scent categories.
Sampling is also an experience at Arielle Shoshana. I was treated not to prepackaged vial on card typical of the department store but to a generous decant which she lovingly slipped onto a hard stock card and customized with a picture of each fragrance bottle. A brilliant move since shoppers are likely to forget a name bit will remember the look and shape of the bottle when they are ready to purchase! Plus, it was fun since she literally pulled a sticker from a well-organized scrapbook and placed it on the card as we recapped my choices. Arielle ‘s approach to further enhancing the customer’s scent experience is emphasizing special events.
This coming weekend the boutique will host a trunk show for Eris Parfums featuring founder Barbara Herman on both Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12. Barbara is also the author of the book Scent and Subversion and will happily autograph the copies that will be for sale. Arielle is providing Barbara the ideal environment; this is the type of event that DC Perfumistas have been dying for and that newbies will love as they discover hard to find and special collections, (such as Neela Vermiere Creations which is difficult to find in the USA in store) they have never heard of before stopping into Arielle Shoshanna. There is also a lovely selection of candles, tea and home fragrance and bath and body products to choose from, which make lovely gifts.
Appropriately, Arielle Shoshana’s tagline is “a shop for fragrances as interesting as you are. Come smell the difference.” If you live in or travel to the Washington, DC area, a visit to this store is a must; be prepared to get comfortable and stay awhile. For those who cannot visit the store in person you can still support small business by shopping Arielle Shoshana’s website. Be sure to check out the latest new arrival- Parfumerie Generale; Arielle Shoshanna is one of the few brick and mortar retailers in the USA to stock a curated selection from the House that Pierre Guillaume built.
-Liza Wade, Contributor (with contributions from Michelyn Camen, Editor in Chief)
Arielle Shoshana Scented Luxuries-2920 District Avenue-Fairfax, VA 22301-571-308-3182
Mon-Sat 11 am -7 pm and Sunday 11 am-5 pm
Thanks to Arielle (who works seven days a week), we have a $25 gift card for a registered US reader. To be eligible, please leave a comment with what you enjoyed about your virtual visit to Arielle Shoshanna Scented Luxuries, what fragrance you might buy should you win, and for extra credit a line you wish to see Arielle carry. Draw closes 6/13/2016
We announce the winners on our site and on our Facebook page, so Like Cafleurebon and use our RSS option…or your dream prize will be just spilled perfume