Vancouver: The smell of NYC

Vanilla Bath Foam from Sabon
Vanilla Bath Foam from Sabon

I visited New York for the first time last week, and the bounty of boutiques and shops for every taste really blew me away. It really is endless.

When I compare New York and Vancouver, I question which of these two places I prefer. In New York, the world is at a fashionista’s fingertips. The variety of styles available is incredibly exciting. But then I wonder what there is to look forward to in the world, if you already have it all. In that respect, being in New York gave me a greater sense of fondness and appreciation for Vancouver’s boutiques. Their rarity makes them that much more special.

What does stand out to me about New York is the innovation that exists in product development and shop design. While you may have been in and out of a dozen shops already, the constant excitement of stumbling upon something new keeps you shopping all day (even if only window shopping). This was particularly embodied by the beauty industry—the city is especially full of unique soap and fragrance companies.

Take Sabon. When you enter their SoHo store (123 Prince Street, 212-982-0968, sabonnyc.com), you will at once notice the large fountain in the middle of the shop. The staff welcomes you to join them in a traditional hand washing ritual, which is sublime. And the signature bath, with salt, foam and mineral powder, demonstrated in a miniature pedestal tub, was also incredibly luxurious.

Another exceptional concept was Le Labo (233 Elizabeth Street 212-219-2230, lelabofragrances.com), tricked out in laboratory style decor and white coat clad perfumer-sales people who assemble the fragrances right in front of you (or make them to order and ship anywhere in North America). The company’s scents, each built on an essence from Grasse, France, are exotic and complex and are like none I’ve ever encountered before. I sampled a bit of Rose 31 (yes, rose for men), and then felt a bit foolish smelling my own wrist throughout the day. But I must admit I was impressed at how the woody fragrance evolved on my skin, with the hint of cumin seed becoming increasingly pronounced. Cumin is my favourite spice to use in cooking, so perhaps I’m not surprised by my fondness for Rose 31. I guess it’s true when they say you are what you eat.