There is what you want, what you need, and then that intangible thought: what you didn’t know you needed. It is officially spring, and thoughts are turning towards renewing mind and body. Fortunately, New York is full of stores purveying beauty products — waiting to be discovered. Many offer special experiences and unique levels of service. And while some have been around for a while, others are brand new. Together, they compose the ingredients in the secret sauce that makes this city delectable.
As the days get longer, and hopefully sunnier, why not get out, put winter behind you, and find something beautifully different.
La Maison Valmont has arrived in New York with a very original boutique in the Carlyle Hotel. The privately owned Swiss beauty house also operates a spa upstairs in the hotel. Everything here is just a little bit different. There is art on the walls, including these images of gorillas done by Didier Guillon, the owner of the brand. And there is a collection of bags with depictions of the Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong and skyline conceived by the Hong Kong artist Vivian Ho.
The family business is also a big supporter of the arts. The Foundation Valmont, located in Venice, supports and shows art from around the world. This wall mixes brushstroke works from Sol Lewitt with vibrant squares also painted by Mr. Guillon. His son, Maxence Guillon, has just been named President of the Foundation. There is an equal measure of art and product in the boutique.
Shaundra, a sculpture by Woodrow Nash, sits in one of the main windows. The striking figure sits between some displays of signature beauty offerings at either side. Products are sparingly displayed. But they are the reason the boutique is here. Art and commerce mix well.
This case displays the fragrances. There are three collections with different sorts of scents. And yes, art is displayed here as well. The family passion is always on display. The enterprise was started as a wellness and treatment clinic in Switzerland in 1905. A line of treatments was added in the 1980s. Valmont spas are found around the globe.
The Guillons also appreciate film. One of the spaces is a comfortable screening room. Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was being shown, and next up in April is Barry Lyndon (the candlelight scenes in the film were lit by actual candlelight!) by the same director. Weekly private screenings are being arranged. Ring Dinara Tuleuova at 646-891-4947 to schedule yours.
Another group by Sol Lewitt graces a screening room wall. The Sol Lewitt tetraptych is an exploration of saturated color. On the table is another limited edition artwork by Didier Guillon, Scarface. A limited edition perfume dedicated to the family comes with the piece.
Another American artist, Mark Tobey, is represented by a group of textured prints inspired by oriental calligraphy. If you are going to the Biennale in Venice this year, make sure to visit the Foundation at the Palazzo Bonvicini.
The wide ranging collection of luxury treatments are made with cellulotherapy, and have anti aging ingredients including DNA and RNA. The staff will be happy to show you products for the care of the face, body, and even your hair. While you are being pampered, take a look at the delicate sconces created by the artist Aristide Najean. The brand’s motto, “When Art Meets Beauty,” shines here.
La Maison Valmont, 35 East 76th Street
Around the corner in a different kind of renewal. Zitomer, THE emporium for one-stop shopping, did a gut renovation of its luxury beauty space. Thanks to global supply chain issues, the work was only recently completed. The result is a new, sleek space to discover all sorts of make-up and treatments.
The house brand of make-up, Z New York, is front and center. A full range of color cosmetics is offered. There are also cases of accessories and other necessities at each end of the new islands.
From Chanel to By Terry, there are a host of brands for sale. And plenty of staff to help you. Large mirrors make it easy to see how a product looks.
Looking for S. Maria Novella soaps and creams? There is a nice selection, along with other premium brands. The cases tease some jewelry too. There is more to be found upstairs.
Find skin care from Cle de Peau Beauty, Revive and other luxury purveyors. Or try something from smaller brands like Costa Brazil. Zitomer is a New York kind of a store, family owned, and a fixture in the neighborhood since the 1950s.
Zitomer, 969 Madison Avenue
There are lots of different beauty options available downtown. The Alchemist’s Kitchen is dedicated to health, well being and inner and outer beauty. The store celebrates the power of plants. CBD, hemp, mushrooms and other plant-based remedies and self care products are sold here.
The shop works with makers, who produce farm-based ingredients. The staff is knowledgeable and well versed in what items would be the best to use. They really do want to awaken your spirit.
Mushrooms are also part of the conversation. The medicinal mushrooms are generally foraged, and mycologists make small batches to heal and beautify. The store also sells many books on natural health.
There is a wide assortment of skin care and bath products. All natural, of course. There is also a full assortment of teas and elixirs to cure whatever ails you. Pamper your body and pamper your brain.
The Alchemist’s Kitchen is also building a community. They offer many online or recorded classes. Choose from courses like “The Rebel Apothecary Book Club,” “How to Grow Mushrooms” or “How to Make Vegan Deserts.” New courses are constantly added. There are also online and in person events, readings and workshops. They want to make plants a part of your life.
Alchemist’s Kitchen, 119 Crosby Street
Located next door at The Elixir Bar, a magical speakeasy and private event space from the Alchemist’s Kitchen, awaits. The classes and workshops are held here. The food offered here is primarily sweets and quiches.
There is an extensive drinks menu. Coffees, teas, tisanes, cacao, botanical and state changing elixirs are the main categories. Shots and herbal add-ons are meant to stimulate your mind and body. You can also purchase these products so you can replicate the experience at home.
A small selection of different sorts of products line the walls.
Loose herbal remedies are sold from the niche at the back of the space. Need a place in SoHo to hang out and recharge? This could be it.
The Elixir Bar, 117 Crosby Street
Olfactory offers a new experience in scent. Perfume that is custom made for you. When you make an appointment in the Nolita store, you choose from one of the base scents. They are displayed on a long wall. Each scent is made by an establisher perfumer, or nose. An introduction to the perfumer, what is in their blend, and what products are available in the scent, i.e. perfume, body lotion, shower gel are listed (with a tester to smell).
This is where the fun starts. The little bottles all contain different single ingredient oils. The ingredients are sustainably sourced. A scent mixologist will let you pick different scents that you might want to add to your special blend. Once you find your mixture, they prepare your unique perfume.
You can book the store for a friends and family event. Everyone will get their own creation. They travel, too. Olfactory can bring a scent station to your event, and create something special for every guest.
Once the scent has been finalized and tested on your skin, it will be bottled. You get to pick a name, and the color of the label. A record of each scent is kept so that it can be reordered. What fun.
Olfactory, 281 Mott Street
The Fragrance Shop has been selling splendid smells for over 25 years. The shop is packed with hard-to-find bath and beauty products from around the world.
They have their own extensive line of perfumes and oils. Made to measure scents are also a specialty. Make an appointment to work with a staff member, and your custom scent can be formulated as a perfume, oil, lotion, bath oil or bath salts. And the “recipe” is kept on file so you can reorder.
The Fragrance Shop also sells their own collection of essential oils. There can be blended into lotions and oils, too. There is a selection of new and antique perfume bottles to hold your custom scents.
The shop is also packed with soaps, lotions, bathing products and brushes, sponges and even floating tub toys. Customers’ happy photos grace the walls. Perfume-making classes can also be arranged so you can tinker with your own scents at home.
Fragrance Store, 65 East Fourth Street
Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn.