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The new luxury must-have: bespoke perfumes


London’s top perfumers offer bespoke services to their most discerning clients. From unique twists on house classics to completely made-to-order experiences from start to finish, Frances Wasem reveals the names to know

Frances Wasem portrait
Frances Wasem,

In 1957, couturier Hubert de Givenchy created a perfume for his muse Audrey Hepburn. The delicate, floral and powdery scent of L’Interdit (‘forbidden’) was exclusively mixed for Hepburn, and for years was made for her alone. It was only in the 1960s that the actress allowed the scent to become available to all.

L’Interdit shows how a bespoke scent can capture the unique spirit of its wearer. To own a fragrance that utterly represents us is surely the desire of every perfume purchaser. In a time of mass-market perfumes, big brands and overwhelming choice, this has seemed an ever more elusive dream – but not for much longer.

In London, a new breed of British perfumer is looking to the history books for inspiration; specifically to the 18th century, when perfumers used all-natural ingredients of the utmost quality. Back then, bespoke creations could take as long as a year to develop; today’s modern technology has streamlined the process, allowing perfumers to take the bespoke experience to the next level.

Perfumer H by Lyn Harris
Last year, Lyn Harris opened a chic bespoke atelier, Perfumer H, in London’s fashionable Marylebone. Harris, the founder of Miller Harris, a luxury fragrance house favoured by Londoners in the know, is the only classically trained female ‘nose’ in the UK. In her new atelier she focuses on the individual, hoping to bring bespoke perfume values to a wider audience, and, she has said, to ‘pioneer naturals back into perfumery.’

The Perfumer H range offers three levels of exclusivity. While Harris’s Seasonal Editions are off-the-shelf, they are still far from mass market. Her Laboratory Editions are collections of past and present formulas that clients can experience in the boutique’s laboratory and order instantly. Find one you love and for £1,500 the formula can become entirely yours, registered exclusively in your name. The fully bespoke service starts at £15,000.

Bespoke fragrances by Roja Dove
Another British perfumer flying the flag for bespoke scents is Roja Dove. Dove, who worked for 20 years at Guerlain, believes that overmarketing of perfume was killing the industry. Big corporations ‘forced classical perfumery to its knees,’ he says. ‘It was about marketing.’ In 2001, Dove introduced his own bespoke service, which costs around £25,000 and includes body lotions and candles as well as the perfume itself. The formula of the final unique fragrance will ‘never be revealed,’ he says. At the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie in Harrods, which opened in 2004, customers are guided through the perfumes already on offer to find the one that truly reflects their personality – not quite bespoke, but there is still a sense of finding ‘the one’. Dove has also reintroduced classic perfumes such as Diorama by Dior and Ombre Rose by Jean-Charles Brosseau, widening the choice for customers seeking something a little different.

Personal perfumes from Azzi Glasser
Last October perfumer du jour Azzi Glasser opened a bespoke atelier in her London studio. Appointments are bookable via the Harvey Nichols department store’s concierge service. Glasser has created bespoke scents for Hollywood names such as Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Jude Law. During a consultation lasting several hours, Glasser takes into account her clients’ personality, scent likes and dislikes and personal style to create a fragrance that ‘reflects the client’s DNA.’ Unusually, she also works visually as well. ‘I can see what the fragrance will smell like and look like, before I even start the creation process,’ she explains. Clients are enthusiastic about the results. ‘She has made me a scent I feel like I’ve always had – it is me, I just never had it in a bottle before,’ says Law.

The finishing touches
It’s not just the perfumes that are unique. These perfumers extend the bespoke experience to the bottles that encapsulate the perfumes. Lyn Harris’s bottles are hand-blown in England, making them unique and collectable. Roja Dove’s perfumes are presented in Baccarat crystal and the gold lettering on his bottles is screen-printed by hand.

A bespoke perfume is the latest in genuine luxury, as intrinsic to an outfit as the perfect handbag, the right pair of shoes. Christian Dior once said that ‘a woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.’ Make sure, then, that the person you reveal to the world through your fragrance is who you truly are.

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