Arts and Entertainment

Black Opium Addiction And Neon Lights: A Tale From A YSL Exhibit

I explore a limited-time exhibition featuring not only a new fragrance of my favourite brand, but an otherworldly experience to boot.

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Yves St. Laurent is a French luxury brand known for its simple and comfortable yet elegant fashions and quality cosmetics. Though their merchandise is pricey, it is not uncommon to see the average New Yorker carrying that brown-checkered handbag (or a knockoff!). As a fan of their products, I was excited to find that Yves St. Laurent was opening a pop-up shop on September 8 and 9 in a SoHo townhouse.

This pop-up shop has appeared internationally from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, opening in select cities for one or two days before moving on. While I wasn’t going to hop on a plane for wherever the next pop-up shop was, hopping on the subway to SoHo seemed worth it.

The entrance gave a mysterious vibe. Peeking through the threshold gave no hint of what lied beyond the dimly fluorescent-lit purplish hallway. It did, however, give the security guard a reason to shoot me an unamused expression.

“So,” I laughed nervously. “Can I just walk in, or…?”

As it turned out, the event was exclusive and it required some previous online booking.

“But since we’re not at full capacity,” he said, shrugging. “I guess you could go inside,” he said.

I didn’t need to be told twice. I bolted through the door and whipped out my camera. The #YSLBeautyHotel promised some photogenic sights that my camera roll wasn’t going to miss for the world. The dark hallway lead to an open space, where on my right women were lining up to take pictures posing in a luggage cart illuminated by a string of bulbs radiating a violet glow. It was the sole lighting that was enough to envelop the floor and bounce off the black walls. On my left was a winding staircase. Enticed by crimson glimpses of the floor above, I ran up the flight, eager to explore the other three floors.

The second floor was an open room with a TV screen playing footage from various YSL fashion shows on the center wall. The floor was mainly covered by two cerulean pools with neon red lights blazing on either side. A sliver of floor was raised as a platform, slicing through the center of the room. And for 30 seconds, one could live a supermodel-wannabe’s fantasy—being filmed giving your best attempt at channeling Tyra, posing and smizing as you strutted your stuff, no payment necessary. On the catwalk, I was a force of feminine energy powerful enough to part water on either side of me as wispy invisible clouds of some sort of delightful aroma wafted down in graceful beckoning from the floor above.

While this alone was a playground for my imagination, I returned to journalist-mode once I hopped off the runway and returned to the staircase, ascending to the third floor in order to uncover the source of that vanilla-laden scent. YSL creates some of my favourite fragrances, but this was one that I did not recognize. The center of the room featured the sole display, the new perfume that was permeating the place like a blanket of invisible fog: a special edition of the Black Opium perfume. Who knew that coffee notes, vanilla, and jasmine could blend together in such euphoric harmony?

On the left side of the room, the fluorescent violet lighting I had seen from the first floor reappeared in a lounge-like area, where a beverage bar would serve anyone just about anything (non-alcoholic, that is). One could temporarily let their limbs turn to gelatin in plushy marshmallowy seats as French pop music filled the air. On the right side of the room was a king-sized “Black Opium” bed with a pale light above it reading “YSL Beauty Hotel”. One had the option of posing on it (guitar optional) and having a photographer take professional-looking photos that could later be delivered through e-mail.

One floor remained. It consisted of two parts: one indoor, one outdoor. The indoor component was a mini shop where one could purchase from a variety of lipsticks from the recently released Rouge Pur Couture collections, and even get engravings on them to make them more personalized.

The outdoor component was a small barren rooftop overlooking some of surrounding SoHo. Given that it was a rainy Sunday afternoon, I could only stay out for a few moments nomming on some (complementary!) macaroons before my phone camera lens needed drying.

Overall, the entire exhibition was an incredibly sensuous one. When it was announced that YSL was bringing this beauty hotel to NYC, there was an emphasis on the visual components of it. And sure, you’d definitely get some social-media worthy shots out of this entire pop-up experience. But the physical beauty transcended even the limits of what Instagram could capture. YSL had indulged my other four senses in the most addictive way.