A London perfumer creating bespoke fragrances from a shop that doubles up as a laboratory
Hailed by Vogue for “reimagining the signature scent” and credited with putting “independent British perfumery on the map” by the Perfume Society, Lyn Harris offers Perfumer H customers an unparalleled transparent glimpse inside her creative process from start to finish. Now she is aiming to show us how to re-embrace the art of subtlety in a world of loud fragrances.
When it comes to independent perfumery, Lyn Harris is one of the true sophisticates. After studying under the late perfumer Monique Schlienger (former professor of olfaction at IsIPcA and founder of perfumery school cinquième sens) and after having worked with French perfume manufacturer Robertet, she co-founded Miller Harris with Christophe Michel in 2000. Famous for scents such as the musky amber fragrance L’Air de Rien (originally a bespoke scent for Jane Birkin), the brand has since gone global with retail expansion into Asia and Russia. Harris left the company to found Perfumer H in 2015, and although producing on a smaller scale, she has gained an equally devoted cult following.
“I knew I couldn’t create another brand in a classic way,” she explains. From its packaging to its presentation, Perfumer H is permeated by modern elegance, from the sleek, jewel-toned glass bottles, to scents with stripped-down names like Angelica and Gold. The former is an intriguing twist on the fougère genre, incorporating notes such as angelica grain and basil, while the latter marries citrus fruits with balms and spices to give these often light notes more warmth and depth for the colder seasons. Seemingly small details, like personalizing each 100% recyclable cardboard package with the customer’s initials, or offering a refill service for the brand’s perfumes and candles, all help to reduce the company’s carbon footprint in a stylish way. “I wanted to break all the usual codes of packaging—really create something with integrity that is for life and doesn’t have the layers of superfluous packaging that just get thrown away the minute you buy it,” Harris notes. For the ready-to-wear collections, the brand releases five scents (one for each of the main fragrance families) twice a year.
“I love working with the seasons, expressing my love of nature and my surroundings,” explains Harris. “Perfumer H enables me to have creative fulfillment and satisfaction on so many different levels, which I love sharing with my customers. It’s about being real, authentic, and true.” Harris allows her audience—whether via her Instagram feed or a visit to the brand’s store in Marylebone—a glimpse into the often elusive and highly secretive world of the perfumer’s process. “Perfumer H is about expressing the world of perfumery in its entirety, from the perfumer to the glassblower who hand-blows my bottle, the architect who creates the space, and the designer who translates my product vision,” she comments.
Perfumer H’s retail space (designed by architect Maria Speake) has an equally minimalist aesthetic while also offering shoppers a full view of Harris’s impeccably designed fragrance lab. Inside, she offers shoppers three ways to dive into her olfactory world: a completely bespoke fragrance, a pre-made Laboratory edition (which customers can secure as exclusively their own), or a fragrance from her seasonal collection.
“The shop is a translation of my vision and style. It houses my working laboratory so you can see all my materials as well as my assistant working on my formulas, which ultimately gives a unique insight into how a perfumer works and has never been shown before. I believe this is retail of today and tomorrow,” Harris states. “Education is key, which is helped so much by the internet as customers today are equipped with knowledge before they enter your shop. The only thing left to educate the consumer about is that a fragrance doesn’t have to dominate you and the world around you. It should be subtle and beautiful for those close or brushing past you to encounter and admire.”
Explore the evolution of scents and how it turned into a global industry through The Essence.