Lyn Harris of Perfumer H
The beautiful Perfumer H store and laboratory sits on a quiet leafy street in Marylebone. All teak and matt brass, the murky jewel tones of the store itself illuminate the current collections. Lyn Harris is the gently spoken powerhouse behind the retail concept, offering bespoke and seasonal fragrances and candles. She is understated, elegant and Britain’s first classically trained ‘nose’. One crisp sunny morning in January we visited Lyn, in her smoky glassed atelier, to find out more about the woman behind the forward thinking Perfumer H.
Can you describe your path into perfumery?
I was very particular about detail as a child...my mother was very stylish and loved good clothes and design. My father loved fragrance and always told us it was important to smell good, as did my mother. So I guess my detail translated into an obsession about smell and the visual element that accompanied it, which is why I love to create a fragrance, but also to see the aesthetic side which it must bring - from the bottle, to the environment it sells in. My grandparents also played a big part in the making process, as they were totally self-sufficient and had a small holding in Scotland where my sister and I use to go for long summers, and my grandmother would wake up and make bread, cakes, jams and tisane. My grandfather was a carpenter, and I loved going into the shed where he worked to smell the wood, and watch him making things with incredible patience. They had two great walled gardens, and one had endless vegetables and fruit. The other was my grandmother’s flower garden...a very special place and a total sensorial experience.
Do you think perfumery is an art form or a craft, or perhaps both?
It is definitely an art form as, through using your tools of creativity, you are fulfilling an idea which in turn brings so much pleasure to the individual; as a painting or piece of music does....
From where do you draw inspiration?
LIFE...and every day pleasures. I am very aesthetic, so my work place is very important to me, which I guess you can see in the shop I have created upstairs. I find heaven in my books, music, friends, places I visit every day and, of course, getting space without any disturbance. So, when I travel I love creating when I’m high in the air. La Fromagerie, Primrose Hill; my son/family, dog; my wonderful assistant who has been with me for 12 years; my glass blower; tea from Postcard Teas; the people I work with and the communal gardens where I live - all give me immense pleasure and happiness, which I guess in turn fuels my creativity.
Do you have days where you won’t feel inspired, and if so, how do you overcome this?
Never - is there something wrong with me?!
You’re on a lovely road, off the bustling streets of Marylebone. How did you decide on your store location?
It’s walking distance from where I live and I just love the street, the community around it and how it feels.
Your store, lab and studio space is beautiful. How did you approach the design process?
I approached Maria Speake, as I wanted someone interesting and English to translate my world. She completely got me in one go.
Perfumer H is 100% recyclable - has this always been important to you for running a business?
I try so very hard to always think about this. The brand is built around craft and working with like-minded people, which gives me so much pleasure. It is at the forefront of everything we do. How can it not be?
What does a 'typical day' at Perfumer H look like?
I walk in with the dog through Regents Park, go to La Fromagerie to buy some beautiful bread, cheese and butter, and then walk over to the shop - I’m usually late as I know so many people now. I love to smell my trials from the previous day first thing, that Caroline will have made up for me, with a cup of Perfumer H tea (that Postcard Teas created with me). Then I’ll create for a few hours, work on my formulas, then pop out again with Pop after lunch for a walk around Montague Square. I usually have a meeting in the afternoon, so maybe I will go out to see a client, then back to the lab ,and we always tend to smell some trials that we have been working on again, as I find the end of the day is also a good time for smelling.
Do you have a ‘uniform’ for work? Perhaps your wardrobe is for both work and play and there is no separation?
Not really. Of course I have a uniform - blue jumpers, sweatshirts, plain shirts from Agnes B (although I’m very partial to a bit of Studio Nicholson or a good t-shirt from Sunspel), jeans or suit trousers, an army jacket and trainers usually, or my old boots from Margiela.
Is there an item in your wardrobe that you cannot live without?
Blue jumper, Margiela trainers and APC jeans.
When you’re not working, how do you like to relax?
With my family - cooking, eating, playing games...
What are your favourite places for the pleasures in life (eg. fashion, beauty, art, food and drink)?
Fashion - Acne, Sunspel, Margaret Howell Beauty - Fresh, Aesop
Food - Postcard Teas, La Fromagerie, Leilas
What are you currently...
...listening to? Chilly Gonzales, Jarvis Cocker, Swayzak, Chopin
...reading? M Train by Patti Smith, Hockney - The Biography, Fasting and Feasting by Patience Gray
...interested in? Art, foraging/collecting and drying flowers/plants/herbs, music, walking, Yorkshire, France
...most looking forward to? Today...seeing my family later.
Name three women who inspire you.
My grandmother, my mum and my sister.
What’s next for Perfumer H, any exciting projects or collaborations?
I have some very exciting collaborations coming up this year, but can’t say anything for now!
Editorial by Chi San Wan
Photos by Jessica MacCormick
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