In Defense Of: Fancy Candles, Or Why $68 For Diptyque Is Totally Worth It

This is a story about longevity.
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Anne-Marie
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This is a story about longevity.

Once upon a time, way back in the early 2000s, well before I became a glossy magazine editor, I was living in Chicago, dreaming about becoming a glossy magazine editor. I could never have predicted then that some 11 years later, I would not only be living in New York, but would eventually become editor-in-chief of xoVain. But life is weird, and I’m glad for that.

As a regular reader of the ladymags, I aspired to be a classy lady as defined by said ladymags. One of those ways, they assured me, in addition to acquiring a crisp white shirt, a go-anywhere suit, and a statement handbag, was to burn Diptyque candles at every opportunity. Classy ladies loved this French brand, known for its chic typeface and sophisticated scents.

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At the time, I was a frequent window shopper in the beauty department at Barneys, which, to my memory, had the meanest sales associates I’ve ever encountered anywhere in my life before or since. I suspected Barneys imported these people from New York for authenticity, which I assumed accounted their dismissiveness--a notion I’ve since ruled out: Having lived in New York for a long time, I now know that the Chicago Barneys beauty staff of that era were simply a-holes.

In spite of this, one of my favorite counters to peruse there was Diptyque’s. So I saved up my pennies to buy Baies, a rose-currant scent. (I think they were around $50 back then, which was and is a TON of money for a candle.)

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After work one day, I gingerly approached the sales associate behind the Diptyque counter. Here’s how it went:

Me: “Hi. I would love some help, please.”

Sales Associate: [Once-over of my Kate Spade Sam statement bag and poly-blend Limited go-anywhere suit.] “I’m with another customer.”

Me: [Looks around. Sees no other customers.] “OK. Is there someone else who can help?”

SA: “I’ll check.” Walks away. Doesn’t come back.

Me: [Blinks.] Walks over to another sales associate at a different makeup counter. “Excuse me--”

Other Sales Associate: “I’m with a customer.”

Me: “OK, when you’re done, I could use some help with--”

OSA: [Deep sigh.] “We’re just really busy right now.”

Eventually, I found someone there to sell me that damn Baies candle, and it was worth it: Baies filled my studio apartment with its velvety, sultry scent, mostly obscuring the commingling odors of beer and pizza that frequently wafted up from Armitage Avenue’s restaurants down below. 

And I felt classier, indeed. It remains, to this day, in my top-five favorite candle fragrances and I always have one on hand. It also reminds me of how far I've come since then.

After The Baies Incident, I vowed never to set foot in that Barneys, or any Barneys, ever again. BUT: The ladymags got me once more. In 2003, news broke that Diptyque collaborated with John Galliano on a candle, called Essence of John Galliano, a blend of musk, leather, smoke, and vanilla. I had to have it.

Time had not mellowed the beauty folks at Barneys (and they’re not exactly killing it in RE: customer service today), though the transaction was decidedly less fraught than my previous one. But here's the real takeaway: The candle, ELEVEN YEARS LATER, still smells almost as perfectly sweaty-sexy today as it did when it was new.

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Essence of John Galliano was created by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti, who has also made scents for Frederic Malle, L’Artisan Parfumeur, and her own niche line, Honore des Pres. Now I know a lot more about fragrance: how it’s made and how difficult it is to translate scents into candles, which makes me appreciate its longevity all the more. White Barn Candle Company, this isn’t. (Wait--I don’t think that’s even still around. But I remember they had a Bread candle that was pretty epic. Did I make that up?)

After Galliano’s many problems came to light in 2011, the candle quietly disappeared from shelves, but it's once again available on Diptyque’s site for $68. I think I paid slightly less for it in 2003, but there’s still about ¼ of it left to go. Beauty math tells me Essence of John Galliano has cost me approximately $5.45 a year. Worth it? Every last penny.

What’s your favorite fancy candle brand?