On scent, service and the science of perfume shopping

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

Avery Perfume Gallery London

Scent discovery has become something of a recent fascination of mine, odd because I never saw myself as a ‘fragrance person’. Maybe that’s because the fragrance experiences of my youth were really rich and over powering (Dior Poison, YSL Paris, The Body Shop Dewberry – remember those?). And also because perfume was mostly seen as a grown up, luxury pursuit and in my anti-glamorous youth, luxury was far from accessible or cool. Things changed a little in the 1990s when the gender-neutral scents of Helmut Lang, Joseph and Calvin Klein helped to round out my identity, an effortless and discreet addition to my Levis-and-Agnes-B-tee uniform. But then that was the thing, you would own one or two signature fragrances and that was it.

These days, fragrance has become a main part of the image industry that incorporates fashion, music, sport, entertainment, beauty and even art. Now we’re overwhelmed with choice and temptation – how do we choose, and how many?

This is where the changes in retail come in. To facilitate in the decision-making, perfume selling is moving away from the mass beauty hall model and the attendant commercial fragrances (and much feared tester-wielders). For the newly curious perfume connoisseur, there’s a more service-oriented offering and focus on discovery. Look at Liberty with its small but perfectly edited (and always rammed) perfume department, selling niche favourites Le Labo (below), Byredo and Frederic Malle. (Although Malle has just been snapped up by Estee Lauder so may not be so niche for long.)

Le Labo

Liberty’s discerning customer gravitates towards the knowledgeable staff and non-aggressive service, helped by the stream of self-education that comes from online editorial and fragrance blogs. Lesser known fragrance brands have another appeal; namely that without the huge ad campaigns of their megabrand competitors, the customer feels less prescribed to. The discovery journey feels more genuine without the brute force of advertising and branding.

But then there’s Harrods, which unveiled its Salon de Parfums to great fanfare last October. While its main ground floor perfume hall is still the bigger sales driver, on the 6th floor is Harrods’ grand 5,000 square foot niche-meets-mass scent destination. Here you have eleven custom designed fragrance boutiques for the likes of Dior, Chanel and Tom Ford, alongside Henry Jacques and Clive Christian, a.k.a the spendiest of luxury fragrance houses.

The result is an intimate setting that’s tailor-made to suit the store’s wealthy overseas clients, many of whom prefer to shop discreetly and privately. Here you find the best and the rarest that these brands have to offer. At Clive Christian, the star buy for the opening was a gold and diamond covered Baccarat crystal flacon filled with an ounce of the brand’s No. 1 perfume – a steal at £143,000. Meanwhile, I was captivated by Dior’s Musc Elixir Precieux (below), one of four highly concentrated perfume oils designed to be massaged into the skin (one small drop can linger for three days). It costs £225 for 3ml but that 3ml is presented in a very seductive and substantial, heavyweight bottle. The idea is to add your favourite Collection Privee perfume on top to make your own personal combo, a bit like a secret recipe. This sort of fragrance layering is popular with cash-rich types who don’t have six months to wait for a properly bespoke fragrance to be made.

Dior’s Musc Elixir Precieux Harrods Salon de Parfums 2
Dior’s Musc Elixir Precieux Harrods Salon de Parfums

Harrods head of beauty, Mia Collins, who masterminded the ‘Salon’, says the space is meant to encourage a conversation about fragrance and offer the sort of elevated service you might expect from a diamond jeweller. Although with the focus on huge money-spinner brands there’s an underlying feeling that these corridors of extreme luxury have almost been ‘SEO’-ed to deliver the obvious and flashiest brands, not the most interesting.

Which brings me to the Avery Perfume Gallery (below). This unusual concept lives in Avery Row, Mayfair, a standalone boutique with a personalised olfactory experience at its heart. Owned by Intertrade Group, the Italian-owned platform for contemporary artisan perfumery, it’s all about experiential retail and discovering a fragrance that you can call your own. You won’t find the likes of Chloe, DKNY or Intimately Beckham here. I loved the boutique-y feel and learning the stories behind the brands. Avery Perfume Gallery sells Nasomatto, my favourite niche brand whose owner Alessandro Gualitieri doesn’t reveal the notes or ingredients, letting the scent itself do the talking. On my discovery trip to the store (there are another eight stores globally), I was also introduced to Roads, Santa Eulalia and Re Profumo.

Avery Perfume Gallery London
Avery Perfume Gallery London

Roads is part of a three-pronged lifestyle brand based in Dublin that also encompasses book publishing and cinema. My favourite scent sample was ‘Harmattan’ a smoky, spice-fest, while ‘White Noise’ is a cool citrus, inspired by modern technology. All Santa Eulalia’s scents are unisex as is the modern way. (According to a recent quote by Holt Renfrew’s Wayne Peterson, gender-based marketing is old hat – why impose restrictions?). I warmed to the soft powdery notes of ‘Albis’ and the comforting sweetness of ‘Obscuro’. ‘Citric’ reminded me of A.P.C’s Orange Blossom cut with my favourite D.R Harris cologne – light and summery.

Although Avery Perfume Gallery likes the scent to dictate all, the bottles are as beautiful as the fragrances. Re Profumo presents its eau de parfums in the most handsome, majestic bottles. The brand is the brainchild of Italian writer Fulvio Fronzoni, who bases all his fragrances around a story set in Venice. Hence your bottle comes packaged in a box shaped like a book, it’s all part of the storytelling of course. All the scents I tried from Re Profumo boast an elegant Italian sexiness, from the subtle wood notes of ‘Adone’, to the punchy combination of lily, citrus and musk in ‘Sogno d’Amore’.

Re Profumo

Fragrance shopping is a personal experience and the moment of discovery has become an important part of that experience. It’s why I would never buy a new fragrance online, although I might if I’m simply restocking. We’re also more knowledgeable and keen to learn about the craft and science behind what’s in our bottles. Thus, we’re seeing some very creative and even conceptual examples of fragrance marketing. In May, Harrods is exhibiting at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show for the first time, installing a concept ‘Fragrance Garden’ (below). It will portray the art of perfume making on one side – all test tubes and oil extractions – with giant paper blooms ‘growing’ on the other, plus a visual digital component too. It’s an unexpected way for Harrods to market its perfume selling heritage, and a memorable one. And it’s as far from a generic department store hall as you can get.

Chelsea Flower Show Harrods Fragrance garden

WORDS: Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl; Le Labo; Avery Perfume Gallery; Re Profumo; Royal Horticultural Society

Nail news: Givenchy’s matte nails and Dior’s cult nail creme

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Givenchy matte nails in Rose Evocation and Jaune Expression
I can’t pretend I’m not thrilled that beauty is going through a natural phase for Spring. I much prefer peachy cheeks and a balmy lip to labour-intensive make-up theatrics. That said, it’s not all nude lips and smoky eyes, Givenchy’s spring palette is unapologetically candy-coloured with some fun tricks up its sleeves. Continue reading

Chanel Rouge Coco – new and improved

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Chanel Rouge Coco lipsticks relaunched

Let’s be honest, it’s always an event when Chanel launches a new makeup product. They’re just consistently on point with their textures, colours and packaging. Continue reading

Top 5 styling moments from Dior AW15

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Dior RTW Fall Winter 2015 Paris

The verdict on Dior AW15 is that these highly commercial RTW pieces wll fly off the rails. I’m quite taken with the accessories and beauty direction too. Here are my favourite styling elements…

1.WALKING-ON-AIR BOOTS
These ankle gripping boots with Lucite heels were unmissable, giving the illusion of walking on air. Continue reading

Feeling at home at the revamped Hermes New Bond Street store

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London's Hermes New Bond Street flagship reopens

Making your retail store feel like a home – a relaxing, inviting and luxurious one – is quite the thing right now and Hermès has of course nailed it. Enter exhibit A: its newly re-zhuzhed London flagship in the old Time & Life building in New Bond Street. This year marks its 40th anniversary in this location and it’s celebrated by doubling the size, enhancing the tactile factor and giving us a whole lot more product. Continue reading

Buy it now: Bobbi Brown Art Sticks limited edition

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Bobbi Brown Art Sticks in limited edition shades Hot Pink and Hot Orange

I’m feeling thoroughly spoilt on the colour-pop matte lipstick front. Bobbi Brown has expanded its new-ish Art Sticks line of fat lip pencils with three hi-vis shades; Hot Pink and Hot Orange (both shown above) and Hot Berry (not shown).

If you love a bright, matte mouth, these are great no-faff tools that deliver excellent coverage without feeling like they’re sucking the life out of your lips. They’re very matte, so they will feel a little dry, but the finish on the lips is beautiful and dramatic. Sold!

Buy Bobbi Brown Art Sticks (£19.50) from Selfridges, House Of Fraser and John Lewis or click to shop below…

WORDS AND IMAGE: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla

Buy it now: Les Intemporels de Chanel

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Les Intemporels de Chanel limited edition palette and nail colour

Is there anyone better at translating its brand ‘codes’ into make-up? I think not. Chanel has done it again with its new limited edition Les Intemporels de Chanel palette and nail polish, which pay homage to the classic 2.55 bag.

The five eyeshadows in the L’Intemporel De Chanel palette (£47) are embossed with the unmistakable chain motif, while the dramatic colours are an interesting choice – unapologetically intense shades of green and purple, the blackest of blacks, plus silver white and soft gold to highlight. They almost look like little jewels in a jewellery box… Continue reading

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: BYREDO BAGS, SOPHIA WEBSTER, RODARTE X SUPERGA, HARVEY NICHOLS’ SNEAKER CONCEPT

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Here’s the latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, a round-up of the brands currently buzzing on my radar…

1. BYREDO BAGS ARE COMING
Byredo bagsWho doesn’t love Byredo? The scents, the packaging, the whole brand concept. This Spring, founder Ben Gorham is extending the brand into its first retail store and launching leathergoods. Continue reading

On trial: NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation

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Nars All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation

The new foundation formulas just keep on coming. I’ve had quite a lot of successes recently; I’m currently flipping between Burberry Fresh Glow Luminous Fluid foundation and Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Youth-Boosting Perfect Skin foundation. But NARS has popped up with its new All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation (£32), promising a full coverage, oil-free formula with 16-hour wear all in one drop.

It’s an interesting foundation. Continue reading

DKNY AW15

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DKNY aw15

Dream coats (and trousers, sweaters and dresses) at DKNY AW15. This has to be my favourite DKNY collection in years. The hair, make-up, colour palette and styling (Donna said this is for the ‘ageless working woman‘) are perfect… Continue reading

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