It takes a lot to get me to an 8.30am press launch, but the addition of seven new boutiques to the Harrods Salon de Perfums did the trick. Joining the original ten boutiques, this 6th floor haven is a destination for serious scent seekers.
Let’s talk personalisation and experience, two big lifestyle trends that are a gift to luxury retailers. At Harrods they’re expected by wealthy overseas customers, who demand excellence and uniqueness from every visit. With bricks and mortar retail struggling overall, it’s the ‘wow’ experiences that get people talking and – crucially – returning for more.
New to the Harrods Salon de Parfums are Bond No 9, Burberry, Sospiro, Frederic Malle, Penhaligon’s, Armani Prive and the brand new Floraiku. For personalised perfume, this is a good place to come, as every brand seems to offer some form of bespoke or customised service.
For example, Penhaligon’s offers a completely bespoke service where you get to talk through your likes, stories and memories and have a kind of olfactory portrait made for you by noted nose, Alberto Morillas. After months of trial and refinement, the final perfume comes in a crystal flacon and a handmade marquetry presentation box. There’s also what Penhaligon’s calls its semi-tailoring service, where you can choose from a set choice of four signature Penhaligon’s essences, mixing it with one of four base notes to create a combination that suits you. I think we’re all much more experimental these days and brands are encouraging this interactive approach.
At Burberry, there’s the worldwide launch of its bespoke collection, which lets you choose one of seven fragrances in a choice of three strengths. You can then have your bottle monogrammed and choose your own coloured leather bow. I really like this countryside-inspired collection and the elegantly chunky unisex bottles.
Frederic Malle – now owned by Estee Lauder – joins its label mate Kilian here, selling everyone’s favourite, Portrait of a Lady alongside its beautiful ancillary body products. For some fabulous retail theatre, the scent is sprayed into this special scent chamber, to give you the sense of what people will smell as you waft past them. Beats those little cardboard strips, no?
Meanwhile, one of my favourite exclusives in the Salon de Parfums is the special Frederic Malle X Goossens perfume travel case. There are only 200 of these beauties, made in collaboration with the iconic French goldsmiths and they’re selling for £1,200 each. I love the idea of the perfume bottle or holder as a beautiful objet. Even if something like this probably isn’t that easy to carry around (it looks pretty heavy), it’s more the idea of having it on your dressing table and the sensorial experience of picking it up and using it.
The best experiential moment of my morning happened at Floraiku. A beautiful new French perfume brand based around Japanese haiku poems, every touchpoint is exquisitely realised. As in Japan, it’s all about the ceremonial presentation, starting with a hot towel and their own ‘haiku’ tea. You also get a green tea biscuit imprinted with a poem!
In front of us were laid slotted wooden trays in which to place the scented sample cards. These have all the info written on the back for easy referencing. It’s about tantalising the senses in the most leisurely fashion here, with the saleslady explaining the inspiration behind each scent in a gentle, non-hard sell way. Your job is simply to drink in the delicious smells, sip your tea and Instagram your biscuit…
The Floraiku perfumes themselves are far removed from generic commercial perfumes. They’re made from 50% natural ingredients and smells are from nature – think flowers, herbs and smoky incense. Of the 11 fragrances, my favourites include I see Clouds Go By (a fruity cherry blossom combo), Sound of a Ricochet (from the Forbidden Incense range) and the gingery piquancy of I’m Coming Home – note the romantic, evocative names. Interestingly, there are also two ‘shadow’ fragrances. A bit like fragrance layering, you spray this next to your perfume of choice to lighten it or intensify it.
And in terms of presentation, not only is it beautifully decorative, it’s practical too. The 50ml bottles come in a bento-style box (£250), with an illustrated fabric cap that doubles as a purse spray. If you like, you can add personalisation with an initial or emoji. And adding to the thoughtful attention to detail, everything is refillable. Floraiku is a new launch from the founders of Memo Paris (which I’ve not experienced so I can’t compare) and is exclusive to Harrods in the UK.
There are certainly lots of developments going on in fragrance retail. The beauty battalions of old, with their firing squads of perfume squirters are becoming extinct. In their place are smaller, niche offerings and even online competitors like Phlur, which let you buy, try, then pay. But even if they invent a way to smell through the screen, there will always be those of us who appreciate a multi-sensorial fragrance experience. If you’re one of them, the Salon de Parfums awaits.
WORDS AND IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
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