The resume of Lyn Harris always impressed me: as a young woman she moved to France to receive a classical training as a perfumer at one of the prestigious schools in Paris and at Robertet in Grasse. Right after moving back to the UK she founded Miller Harris, a niche brand avant la lettre, still growing and thriving today, twenty years after its birth.
In 2015 Harris founded her second label, Perfumer H. Located on Crawford Street in Marylebone, Perfumer H explores the artisanal side of the perfume world, inviting each client to encounter how a perfumer works and experience the working laboratory. To create the brand’s original and visionary appearance, Harris collaborates with some of the leading creatives in their field, such as glassblowers, graphic designers and architects.
When we featured two new scents by the German brand Legendär in our 2020 Winter Holiday Special we were thrilled to learn both perfumes had been created by Lyn Harris. Legendär offers a small range of carefully considered stationary and writing goods. Both scents, Bigarade Santal and Juniper Leather, beautifully mirror this devotion to quality and craftsmanship with more than a nod to materials Legendär frequently uses such as wood and leather.
No wonder I was thrilled to finally have the chance to talk to Lyn Harris about her brand perfumer H, her commissioned projects and about olfaction in isolation.
“For me this pandemic has made more people understand and appreciate what I do.”
Helder Suffenplan: Naturals play a central role in your creations. What qualities make them so attractive and precious to you?
Lyn Harris: Naturals are the soul of perfumery and the chemicals are the magic and the two go hand in hand, always.
HS: Nature in general seems to be a strong source of inspiration for you. How do you ensure you get your regular dose of trees, flowers and skies in times of pandemic, when travelling has become almost impossible?
LH: And I live in a city … I live in a very special part of London surrounded by two parks, Primerose Hill and Regents Park and as I sit in my apartment I overlook my communal gardens which has one of the most special private gardens in central London. I love to watch and feel the seasons and feel totally immersed in nature at all times. We had an amazing Spring during the first lock down which was a total inspiration for me as I had never been so immersed in the garden for such a long period of time and watching all the bulbs and flowers blossom literally before me was magnificent and I never have seen this before.
Silver from the Perfumer H 2021 summer collection. Photo: courtesy Perfumer H.
HS: During lockdown particular fragrances have become very important to me to create a space of ease and serenity. Has the pandemic changed your idea or use of fragrance in any way, both in your personal and your professional life?
LH: For me this pandemic has made more people understand and appreciate what I do which brings me great joy and fulfilment. People on so many levels have been using smell to bring them comfort and happiness to their lives. They have reached out to fragrance and nature with a new understanding and appreciation and there is no turning back. On top of this there have been those who have suffered from covid and lost their sense of smell and taste and are having to re-engage with their senses again. When they do they always tell me the about joy this has brought and realize the power of smell in everything they do and will never take for granted again.
HS: You grew up in Halifax, West Yorkshire and moved to France to receive a classical training in Paris and Grasse. What was this like for a young woman from England to enter this very French realm of perfumery?
LH: It was the 90’s and it was a very male orientated industry as you know and I landed in Grasse in my jeans and converse with my broken French and was so different that actually it sat in my favour as I was no threat to the male perfumers. They just thought I was the British eccentric girl and so they let me in, which I loved.
Santal Bigarade. Photographed by Axel Kranz for Scentury.
“I have a strong opinion of what goes together.”
HS: Is there a fundamental difference in the British versus the French idea of perfumery?
LH: Hard as I’ve learnt my profession in France I do know that I am a modern voice of British perfumery. I have a confidence in my materials and my palette which I articulate through my olfactory paintings. I have a strong opinion of what goes together and I can be brave. Is that being British? It’s for you to decide but that’s my feeling.
HS: The names of the perfumes from the Perfumer H. line are simple and straight forward, yet they have the power to invoke memories and feelings. Is this a hint at your general approach towards the creation of perfumes?
LH: I think its because the names are real and not dreamt up. I create the names with my olfactory landscapes, it’s part of my individual process.
HS: I am sure you receive countless requests to create fragrances for both emerging and existing brands. What tipped the balance for you to develop the two fragrances for Legendär, Bigarade Santal and Juniper Leather?
LH: Axel and Max Stürken from Legendär are such an interesting family full of character, energy, charisma and I loved their ideas, so how could I not. They both wear fragrance effortless so they are themselves the ideal client that I love to dress with my creations and come alive .
HS: Thank you very much, Lyn.