Whenever I think of France, I think of perfume. And while many people might think this is a stereotypical association, as a beauty editor who has spent a lot of time in France with various perfume brands, I can assure you it's one founded in reason—everyone in France seems to smell great. They waft the distinctive aroma of richness wherever they walk. Even if they don't live a life of riches, they smell like they do.
Throughout my career, I have made it my mission to hunt down fragrances that hit the French-girl-perfume nail on the head, and the truth is I'm still not entirely sure what makes the perfect blend. I wish I could tell you that every perfume that contains a specific note will guarantee French-girl chic, but I cannot. It is not merely down to aromas of subtle rose and clashing ambers—instead, the perfume must possess an air of laid-back coolness, be attention-grabbing but understated and, most importantly, leave you feeling like a million pounds. And truthfully, there is only one fragrance brand I deem to be a failsafe when it comes to these criteria, and it's Serge Lutens.
As a heritage luxury French brand, it makes sense that Serge Lutens creates perfumes fit for the coolest French women around. If you've never heard of Serge Lutens before, let me give you a quick recap, as I believe that knowing some background might help you to understand why the brand's perfumes are so special. Born in France, Lutens himself has lived a life filled with best of French beauty. He has, I suppose, helped define the French beauty standard. Having delved into the professional worlds of photography and makeup by the age of 14, Lutens essentially grew up with fashion and beauty royalty—think the likes of Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. In the late '60s, he created Dior's first-ever makeup collection. In the '80s, he helped launch Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido into international markets and make it the global powerhouse it is now.
In the early '90s, inspired by his time spent in Morocco, Lutens started to create perfumes, eventually launching them under his own brand in 2000. Made in France but inspired by the rich aromas of Morocco, the fragrances marry a blueprint of iconic French chicness and the luxurious notes associated with North Africa. And trust me when I say all Serge Lutens perfumes are wearable, beautiful and unique. Oh, and it's not just me who thinks it. In fact, Kate Moss once shared her love for the brand's cult Fleurs d'Oranger perfume in an interview with Evening Standard.
In short, Serge Lutens fragrances are the sort that make heads turn—the kind that have you sat on the Tube psyching yourself up to break London protocol and ask the stranger next to you what perfume they're wearing. They ooze expense and luxury in the best sort of way and work for everyday wear just as well as they do for evening soirées. True to their French roots, to me, they symbolise the beauty of minimalism. Are they expensive? Yes, but if you buy a Serge Lutens perfume, it will be the only one you ever need. In fact, despite being a beauty editor with nearly 100 perfumes, I often have to remind myself to reach for others—if I could have it my way, I'd wear a Serge scent every day.
Shop the 9 Best Serge Lutens Perfumes
1. Fleurs d'Oranger Eau de Parfum
Key notes: orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, white rose
Unlike so many other orange blossom perfumes out there, this scent isn't sweet. It's floral, uplifting and a little bit citrusy, for sure, but it has a deep woodiness to it that steers clear of sickly stickiness. Think of it like spritzing your go-to citrus scent on to your neck before stepping foot into an expensive bar filled with cocktails, leather furniture, wooden floors and people in sharp suits—Fleurs d'Oranger is what the collar of your shirt smells like the next day.
2. La Fille de Berlin Eau de Parfum
Key notes: rose, pepper
If I had to associate only one perfume note with French women, it would be rose, of course. This scent possesses all of the French-ness of rose without any of the old-fashioned, English-garden powderiness we so often associate it with. This stuff is notably powdery and rose-like, but it also has an uplifting, spicy zing to it that keeps it lightweight and moreish, rather than all-encompassing and headache-inducing.
3. Un Bois Vanille Eau de Parfum
Key notes: black vanilla absolute, coconut milk, beeswax, caramelised benzoin, liquorice, bitter almond paste, gaïac wood, tonka bean, sandalwood
My favourite Serge Lutens perfume, Un Bois Vanille, is also probably the scent the brand is most known for. Let me first say that I am not a vanilla kind of girl. I like it in my ice cream but not my fragrances. This one, however, is an exception. Rather than being heady, warm and suffocating, it melts into the skin like a warm milk. It's like coconut, driftwood, balmy sunshine, lapping waves and exotic plants—total paradise.
4. Nuit de Cellophane Eau de Parfum
Key notes: Chinese osmanthus flower, mandarin, jasmine
I'll admit when it comes to describing the beauty of Nuit de Cellophane, I'm a bit stumped. It's fresh and floral, like breathing in a lung-full of freshly cut bouquets. But if you're not a lover of floral scents, fear not. It marries flowers with a hint of zest that proves almost impossibly mind-clearing.
5. Chergui Eau de Parfum
Key notes: immortal flower, Russian leather, hay
Chergui, to me, is deeply nostalgic. Smoky, woody, fresh, and floral all at once, it's a delight on the senses. It's reminiscent of exotic holidays and evenings spent in beachside bars hidden under towering, tropical trees. With a lingering aroma of lavender, it almost puts me into a dream-like daze.
6. Feminite du Bois Eau de Parfum
Key notes: cedar, cinnamon, plum, peach, clove, ylang-ylang, violet, orange flower, ginger, rose, vanilla, musk
This perfume means business in the best kind of way. The spicy warmth of clove and ginger shine through to make it one of the most deeply uplifting scents I've ever smelled—like honied treacle pouring over the skin, leaving a subtle waft of smoky woodiness in its tracks.
7. L'Orpheline Eau de Parfum
Key notes: incense, castoreum, musk
If you like androgynous musks, you'll fall head over heels for L'Orpheline. It's dark and deep thanks to incense but beautifully skin-like thanks to musk. One of the brand's more typically masculine scents, it risks teetering on the edge of overbearing, but it never quite gets there. Instead, it merges with the skin in a way that says, "I've always been here."
8. Ambre Sultan Zellige Limited Edition Eau de Parfum
Key notes: amber, vanilla, patchouli
If you're a fan of power scents, listen up. Ambre Sultan is the deep, warm and kind of dark perfume you've been waiting for your whole life. It's the sort of perfume that shouts out from the rooftops and lets everyone know you're there. If you like to hide away in the corner of the room, this one isn't for you.
9. L'Eau Serge Lutens Eau de Parfum
Key notes: aldehydes, citrus, magnolia and white mint
I have never in my entire career encountered a perfume that nails the aroma of luxury soap quite like this. Imagine pressing your nose into a bar of hotel soap, and you get L'Eau Serge Lutens. And the best bit? While so many skin-like, soapy scents out there fade away in a matter of minutes, this stuff lingers playfully on the skin all day long.
Shop More Serge Lutens Hero Products
Like a crackling fireplace and woody embers, this room spray is the perfect way to scent your home throughout the colder months.
With the same soapy scent as the aforementioned L'Eau Serge Lutens, this hand-and-body soap leaves you feeling (and smelling) unbelievably fresh and clean.
Not just limited to fragrance, Serge Lutens also offers makeup, including this comb mascara.
Ideal for lazy girls, this eye tint can be swiped over lids and blended with fingers for a five-second eye look.
Beautifully pigmented and creamy, this warm, orange-brown lipstick is the perfect shade for autumn.
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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