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Perfumer H, London. Infusing the traditions of French perfumery with an English slant

Planet-friendly ethics weave themselves into the brand experience. Building sustainability into the design, the laboratory part of the space has been made using reclaimed-wood

When considering the tradition of perfumery in Britain, a handful of names come to mind. Of those is England’s first trained female nose and perfumer, Lyn Harris. Founder of Perfumer H, Harris runs her boutique brand and part shop-part working laboratory out of her flagship in West London’s Marylebone district. From here she creates a collection of seasonal-perfumes and works with her clients to tailor-make fragrances that can cost up to £15,000. In addition to this, she has candles, incense, face masks, teas and kitchen condiments on offer. In the six years since the launch of Perfumer H in 2015, Harris has managed to infuse the traditions of French perfumery with an English slant and pave a path for her fragrance house. Harris’s journey dates back to her childhood. Hailing from Halifax in West Yorkshire, she recalls spending school holidays with her grandparents in the wilds of the Scottish countryside as being her first olfactory encounter. Here, she would wake up every morning to the smell of open fire with her grandmother baking bread and making jams and tisanes. With her grandparents being self-sufficient and living off the land, Lyn grew up in their flower gardens and vegetable patches. She credits these early years for instilling in her a love for nature that has inspired her work and continues to be a part of her compositions. «I am influenced by the beauty of the changing seasons. It is a part of who I am as an artist and a creative».

Harris produces two collections a year, re-editing them twice, once in summer and then again in the winter. These represent her predictions for the coming season and cover the five fragrance families – citrus, floral, wood, fern and oriental. There are scents like Smoke, Wood Land, Mist and Summer that capture the smell of air after burning wood, a lavender field, to a Sicilian Summer and a green forest. Fragrances like Heliotrope, Leather, and Rose pay homage to her British heritage. The fragrances can be bought by those visiting the store. They are complimented by a portfolio of laboratory editions – a pre-made scent that customers can buy, purchasing the formula for themselves. There is the challenging aspect of her practice which is to create custom-scents for clients from scratch. A process that can take over six months to come to fruition. «Creating a personalized scent is about building relationships. It is about having an understanding of what is precious to them. Creatively it has allowed me to be challenged because when you create for another, they are looking for perfection». Harris is no stranger to the pursuit of perfection. It is what she’s tried to achieve at every level of her business – a discipline instilled in her working with the masters of perfumery in Paris and Grasse, where she was trained. Harris was in her early twenties when she left home for Paris to study under Monique Schlinger, a female perfumer herself. At the time Harris was the sole British, female, to be studying perfumery in Paris. After two and a half years of completing her studies and apprenticing with Monique, she moved back to London and set up a small-laboratory. A chance meeting led her to discover the one-hundred- and eighty-year-old, Grasse-based, family-owned, fragrance manufacturer Robertet. She left London to go to Robertet where she was put under the tutelage of a master to learn the house’s style. «Being in Grasse, I was given time. Time with my master. Time to develop and immerse myself in every process of perfumery from how the ingredients are grown, extracted, certified to the creation of a scent. The time to develop what was going to be my signature».

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Detail of the Laboratory

Lyn has believed in naturals and their power and purity. She believes in the science and synthetics, in how they go hand in hand. It is the use of naturals and her selection process that sets her apart. Her clients have come to respect this ethos over the years. «The naturals are the souls of my creations. My selection process at the beginning of an idea is of importance and that is what I am known for. I am minimal, I do not clutter, I let my ingredients breathe. These materials that are used, need to be enhanced and put together to sing on your skin». When Harris started out in the Nineties in Britain, the landscape of perfumery was not the same. It was a time of brands with budgets to spend on the packaging, marketing and campaigns. She altered that with her vision when it came to the use of naturals, paving the way forward for independent-perfumers and bringing the essence of perfumery back to its roots. «I realized I was doing something for the industry and I was proud of that. People have responded to my style of perfumery». Harris chooses a path for herself and her label that doesn’t follow conventions. This is why she has been able to diversify her collection to candles, incense, beauty products, teas and kitchen accompaniments like olive oil and honey. For these, she collaborates with like-minded makers who share her passion for perfection. These are projects that allow her to fulfil a side to her creativity. The hand-rolled incense for instance, are a partnership between Perfumer H and a temple incense maker from Kyoto in Japan. Her olive oil comes from a Spanish family farm and her teas are made in collaboration with an old-friend who owns a tea brand. It has been a natural-progression to offer her authority to delicacies that people appreciate in their lives.

Of note is the creation of the bottles her perfumes are contained in. Two years prior to launching Perfumer H, Harris went on a journey to develop every last detail of the label and it was the bottles that became the starting point for the look-and-feel of the brand. To avoid adding to the noise of the industry, Harris chose to collaborate with a local-glass blowing artist – Micheal Ruh. Ruh’s London-based studio is known to create hand-blown glassware for luxury-brands, architects, interiors and individuals. Each of the apothecary style bottles are made in a palette of five colors, each representing a base scent, topped with a clear-glass stopper. They are engraved with the Perfumer H monogram in gold and customers can have their bottles personalized with their initials. Ruh continues to create these bottles for the label, adding colored, hand-blown candle vessels to the mix. For the design, Harris approached British architect, Maria Speake of Retrouvius – a design firm that is known for its experience in handling and using salvaged and recycled-material in their designs. Harris and Speake worked to convert an old-music school into the store we see today. Building sustainability into the design, the laboratory part of the space has been made using reclaimed-wood from the school. The store area is wrapped in teak shelving, cabinetry, and polished brass with velvet seating. This is a space that allows people time to walk into the lab and smell the materials, browse through the candles and fragrances and become involved in the process of making perfumes. «It is an experience on every level. There is soul to what we do and that is the experience they have. This is how retail should be – enriching».

Planet-friendly ethics weave themselves into the brand experience. This is in part a product of her farm-to-table upbringing where nothing was thrown, it was recycled or reused. Harris adopts these lessons in reusing by offering refills on the perfumes and candles at half price. She offers to address any problems in the bottles by repairing them and sending them back to the customers. This ensures zero-waste and a reduction of consumption, a problem that is persistent in the world of perfumery. Perfumer H controls its supply chain – manufacturing their products, working with artisans and sourcing their materials. Helping the brand achieve its standards in business practices is the perfume house Robertet. With over two-hundred-years of experience in working with natural-materials, the house has acquired a respect for nature and an approach to its practices from sowing and harvesting, to extracting and creating. The house prides themselves of their connection with farmers and their farms, they work with communities across the world and ensure the well-being of the people who work with them. This is one of the reasons why Harris shares a twenty-five-year-old relationship with the perfume House. She has been certain that she wants to create products that bring value to people’s lives and last. 

Perfumery has remained with Paris and the French, but with Perfumer H, Harris has been able to create a brand that respects the traditions of French perfumery while infusing it with the multiculturalism that Britain is known for. «I am trained French but I want to steer a tone for British perfumery».

IMAGE GALLERY

Perfumer H
106A Crawford St
Marylebone, London
United Kingdom

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