Tag Archives: Harrods

On scent, service and the science of perfume shopping

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

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.)

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.


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. Intertrade distributes 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 Avery Perfume Gallery (there are another eight stores globally), I was also introduced to Roads, Santa Eulalia and Re Profumo.


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’.

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.

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

Watch this: Harrods Inside The Studio with Matthew Williamson

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

The life of a fashion designer is more fascinating (and varied) than ever. Researching and designing the collections is the creative bit but then come the extras; production, promotion, collaborations, not to mention the social media and editorial that have become such solid components of building a brand.

Harrods has decided to explore the mystique around designers and their processes by giving us a behind-the-curtain peek into four British designers and their businesses. Continue reading

Content meets commerce: Introducing the Harrods.com ‘Inside The Studio’ campaign

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

Harrods is giving a big push to its digital content, bolstering its e-commerce with rich, online editorial. This month, I’m partnering with Harrods to spread the word on its latest editorial campaign, Inside The Studio.

In the run up to the British Fashion Awards, Harrods has teamed up with Alice Temperley, Antonio Berardi, Rupert Sanderson and Matthew Williamson to show us what we really want to see… what actually goes on in the ateliers? Continue reading

London Fashion Week SS15 highlights: Day 5

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

This post is a little late because I had so much post-LFW catching up to do.

Simone Rocha is a favourite for Londoners and has finely tuned her unique communion-chic aesthetic. I loved how the models’ heads were swathed in sheer, flower-scattered voiles. Also, those pink lace-ups… Continue reading

Harrods’ new shoe floor is retail heaven

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

Will we ever tire of buying shoes? Judging by the last few years, it would appear our appetites are bigger than ever. Each shiny new footwear department (some big enough to have their own postcode), mall and ecom site just opens up more possibility, choice and downright longing.

Harrods’ Shoe Heaven floor has become a thing of legend and it’s only just opened. Continue reading

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: HERMES LE BAIN; RAF SIMONS; LYST; FENWICK; MR HARE

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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. HERMES LAUNCHES LE BAIN

So here you have the ultimate bathtime experience. Can you think of anything posher than Hermes hand wash or shampoo? Continue reading

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: NIKE, HERMES, HARRODS, CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG, MARC BY MARC JACOBS

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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. NIKE’S NEW AIR MAX LUNAR1 IS HERE


Heads-up: Nike’s new Air Max Lunar1 trainer (£105) is here, an update on the original Air Max with new ultra-lightweight cushioning and mesh panels to make the cult shoe even more comfortable and flexible. I think they have done a great job adding in new technology while keeping the heritage good looks. Continue reading

Welcome to Pradasphere (and don’t forget your souvenirs)

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

When it comes to immersive, experiential retail, you can’t really beat Harrods and its epic store takeovers. Chanel and Dior have had their turn and this month saw the unveiling of Pradasphere, a fusion of shop windows (40 in total), pop-up shop, cafe and exhibition.

The exhibition on the fourth floor is the big draw. It starts with glass cabinets telling the story of the beginnings of the 101-year-old brand. Originally purveyors of leathergoods, we’re shown vitrines of ancient paper packaging, handbag frames and luxurious vanity sets for the travelling classes. All give an air of revered Milanese shopkeeper to the proceedings, nicely bringing us back to retail. Continue reading

Introducing the DRG STYLE INDEX: Celine, Hermes, Harrods, Uniqlo

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

Introducing the DRG STYLE INDEX, a ranking of the brands on my radar each week. In order of impact, these are the brands grabbing my attention right now…

1. CELINE’S RETAIL WOW FACTOR

My first foray into the Mount Street store (above). Um, wow. The smell! The flooring! The merch! The ratio of sales staff to customer (3-1 on my visit)! At the till, mulling over a two-tone luggage Tote, was a Ghanian lady in full Vlisco-print gear, including headwrap. Oh to photograph her printed skirt against the patchwork marble floor tiles… But alas no, I got the feeling it’s a No Photos kind of store… Continue reading

You’ve been Vogued

Posted on by Disneyrollergirl

Having seen the evolution of fashion blogs over the last seven years (this blog started in 2007), I’m interested in the shift from blogs to brands. Many of the fashion blog pioneers have extended their remit, transforming their blogs into successful creative businesses.

And this approach has spread beyond the bloggersphere to the wider world, hence these days, far from simply aspiring to ‘be a celebrity’ (how 2010!), everyone wants to ‘be a brand’. This thought was crystalised last weekend at the third Vogue Festival (in association with Harrods) at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Vogue, one of the biggest publishing brands is not content with being a print publication. It wants to be a multi platform destination, an event, a lifestyle brand. And as such it has created a means to engage with its future customers, who themselves have become pretty well versed in the stepping stones of brand-building. Continue reading