Musings of a self-confessed beauty addict from the heart of London!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

This is not Paris

Well, I've been a busy bee this week, revising for French exams, frantically cramming infinite irregular verbs and trying to memorise pronoun usage. It's not easy when all you want to do is hibernate and eat baked goods until April. Still, the world seems to go on even in January, and so I somehow managed to shift my sorry self to do some revision and try and pretend that I have a life to get on with by leaving the flat on occasion. And it's very disappointing leaving the flat. In January. In Brussels. The sales have been quite abysmal. Almost 3 weeks in and they're still trying to flog a load of sorry looking tat at only 20-30% off. How??!  Anyway, I digress.... so, the French exam was quite tough. Not because it was particularly difficult, but because my brain failed to fully come out of hibernation mode and was chugging along at leisurely speed refusing to focus. The sad thing is that I was far more focused when I was making myself up for the day:
Mascara application = 100% functioning brain capacity
Conjugating verbs into the subjunctive = 50% of brain switched on
100% brain capacity utilised

As painful as it was to force my braincells to shift up a couple of gears, I finally managed to get through  the majority of exercises with only a partial degree of humiliating responses. First part is now safely out of the way whilst part deux, the oral, will certainly be linguistic carnage on an unprecedented level. On my way home I felt like indulging in a little "swatch 'n' sniff' shopping. Basically I trawl drugstores, perfumeries and department stores spritzing various parts of my arm with perfume and swatching lippies and eyeshadows on the back of my hand. At the end of each expedition I end up smelling like a tart's boudoir and looking like I've trapped both my hands in a door, so smeared are they with various products, but I love this pass time all the same. It's my hands-on-catalogue chill out time and I wouldn't have it any other way. So, my first stop post exam trauma was the glamourously named Ici Paris XL.

This store, a Belgian chain of perfumeries, promises so much and, you guessed it, doesn't quite manage to deliver. It's not that the range of products isn't good, it's just the atmosphere and the more than blasé attitude of the sales assistants which makes the whole shopping experience as seductive as doing the weekly shop at the supermarket (and don't even get me started on the supermarkets here...) The perfumes line the walls and the make-up is displayed in the centre and back of the store, not as counters but as stands all lined up next to each other. Behind and underneath the counters is the skincare, well out of reach one might say.

As someone who absolutely needs to feel the texture of a product and test it's scent before purchase, this tester-less system is just a no goer for me. On the few occasions where I've braved the counters to inquire about a face mask or a cream, I've had various products shoved at me without any interest whatsoever or particular recommendation for my skintype.

Me (in dodgy French): Hello, I'd like a purifying face mask please.
Sales assistant: (picks up the first box she sees behind her and places it on the counter) This one says it's purifying.
Me: Erm, do you have a tester?
S.A: No
Me: Erm, so what else would you recommend? I have combination skin.
S.A:(Turns around and picks up another box, obviously not further than arm's reach) There's this one.
Me: Er, ok. How is that one different? Is it better?
S.A: It's a different brand.

So you get the drift.... You have to know absolutely what you want to buy before you go in and then ask for it. The make-up is displayed openly at least, which means I could still go in and swatch happily without being interrupted. Despite the fact that it's named Ici Paris (Paris is here), Paris is definitely not here. You can take the products out of Paris, but you can't take the service (or lack thereof) out of Belgium... And it's funny, because I googled the brand just to find out a bit more and discovered that they are actually owned by the same group who also own Superdrug and The Perfume Shop in London. But what really cracked me up was in their profile page for Ici Paris XL:
  The secret of the brand's success is in the service. When customers want information they are never overwhelmed by too many assistants or choices. (
Well, they certainly took that part seriously. Giggles over, I ended up finding some gorgeous eyeshadows by Helena Rubinstein (sadly no longer available in the UK) which swatched beautifully. The textures were soft and creamy, and the colours just divine. Unfortunately the prices, even in the sale, were not so heavenly, and after a good 20 minutes of swatching my hand until it was shimmering all over in silver and pink I left Paris just that little bit deflated.
Ici Paris... :)


  1. hihihihi...I am still laughing....!!!Are belgian people able ti sell something? Think they aren't.

    Lou I was thinking..why don't you suggest us the best colours of make up for brown or green eyes ecc ecc.....!!!!!!
    I am waiting!!!!!

  2. Let's just say that customer service it's not their strong point!

    Make-up suggestions coming soon, darling!



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