Lyn Harris is a quietly spoken powerhouse of fragrance innovation. Not content with creating one game-changing fragrance house – Miller Harris – she has just opened Perfumer H, her newest scented venture. The beautiful new London store, inspired by 50s architecture and the film, I Am Love, features seasonal perfumes presented in hand-blown bottles, sensual textures and colours and welcoming sofas, looking, for all the world, like the Next Big Thing in perfume.
“I like a clean palate, to smell everything around me and always have done. I can’t wear fragrance when I’m working, because when you create you can’t wear it. But at home, I’m a big cologne person and on nights out I wear Rose. I’m quite boyish and love suits or trousers and shirts, so I think Rose make me seem a little more feminine.
I guess my first scent memories are of holidays spent in the highlands (of Scotland). My grandparents had a small holding, with a major flower and vegetable garden, so it was idyllic surroundings. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about that place and all the smells. The minute I got up in the morning, I could smell the fire being lit, bread being baked. And my grandfather, who was a carpenter, always smelt of wood shavings.
My father was very meticulous and had beautiful taste in fragrance. He wore Guerlain Vetiver and my mother wore Chanel No 5, although occasionally I would smell Mitsuoko or Jicky on her when she bent in to kiss me.
I was a really naughty girl and wasn’t very academic, my older sister was and studied hard. I was the creative, arty one but my parents didn’t know what to do with me. I got a Saturday job on a fragrance counter and finally the light went on, I realized I loved this magical world. I was always reading about fashion and I loved this thing –the perfume- that went with it, this bottle of ‘spirit’ that brought people to life.
Eventually, I took myself to see Monique Schlienger in Paris and enrolled at her fragrance school. She was one of the very first women to stand out in perfumery and was everything I loved; she was independent, loved naturals but also introduced me to the science of perfumery and how it was so important that the two worlds combined.
I was, and still am, obsessed with naturals, but she made me see the magic of combining the two. I remember I was such a purist to start with, but Monique said to me “Lyn, naturals are the soul and integrity of what we create, but the magic is the science”.
I’ve always loved to observe how fragrance transforms people, it’s amazing how it gives confidence and there’ve been lovely letters over the years from customers saying “thank you, you’ve completed me!” People are on an endless search for the perfect fragrance but you shouldn’t become obsessed with one thing. I’m not a signature scent girl and I don’t really understand that.
It’s that confidence of wearing different smells that I’m trying to give to people with Perfumer H, to encourage people to experience perfumery on every level, to really ‘feel’ the fragrance, and to have the confidence to change it with what you’re wearing or with the seasons. If you are feeling vulnerable, for example, or tired, you can use your fragrance to inspire and uplift you. If you’re wearing jeans and are feeling relaxed, then think the same with how you approach your fragrance.
We’re in a new era of perfumery. The way science has advanced in the last 50 years is phenomenal, we have some amazing synthetics that don’t exist in nature and there’s some beautiful things coming through. It’s an innovative time for fragrance. I work with Robertet Grasse, which has a new state of the art factory in France, taking extraction and the development of naturals to a new, very sophisticated level.
If you analyse how much of our lives is fragranced, from mass market cleaning products to your clothes wash, all the time we’re using something. So when people say ‘I only use natural fragrance’, it’s misinformed. If I showed you the synthetic versions of rose and jasmine, you’d much prefer them to the naturals, they are so much softer. I’ve done events where I show people the constituents of rose and they go ‘I love this’ and it’s always the synthetics they prefer!
When I launched Perfumer H, I got rid of hundreds of smells from my lab that I felt safe having around even though I didn’t use them. I feel much more confident now and I’ve ended up with about 150 that I swing in and out of. Then I bring in new things to challenge me each season, as a discipline to keep it interesting. They’re always a mix of naturals and synthetics and if I have a bespoke fragrance client who wants something specific, I’ll go the guys at Robertet and say ‘anything interesting coming up?
I also want to push things on every level with Perfumer H on what it is to be a perfume brand, because it feels like the industry needs a shake up. I always wanted to work with a glass blower to create beautiful bottles, so I worked with Michael Ruth. It took us two years but I’ve got this lovely hand-blown bottle, with a glass stopper, because I love that intimate ritual of applying fragrance with the glass wand. And we’re showing the craft for the first time, so my lab here in the store is a working lab, not a marketing lab! It’s like my kitchen, these are my ingredients and it’s got to look wonderful because they’re my lifeblood. Nothing makes me feel better than being in this little room. “
Perfumer H does not have an ecommerce site, so we can’t add any Buy Now buttons to this post. But we can tell you that from the current selection of fragrances available in the shop, Velvet is a favourite, with its sensuous velvety iris/patchouli/rose undertones. We also loved Rose, which is bright, clear and bold, with incredible lasting power and Heliotrope, a deliciously sexy oriental that we wanted our skin to smell of forever. Visit Lyn’s beautiful shop at 106a Crawford Street, or phone her on 0207 258 7859 to discuss sending fragrance by post. She also does bespoke fragrance appointments.
Images Maya Glaser
Make Up Hina Dohi