Lyn Harris is a classically trained perfumer who lives and works in London. She creates bespoke fragrances for a lucky few clients each year and continues to develop great new scents from her laboratory. We spoke to Lyn about her work and the inspirations behind it.
When did your fascination with perfumes begin?
Since I was a very young child, I have always been fascinated by fragrance. During the school holidays, I worked in a perfume shop in my home town when fragrance was only for the elite. It was very luxurious, very grand and this impression has stayed with me ever since. I was intuitively driven to go to Paris where I studied to become a perfumer. It is something that has always been with me.
I used to spend long summers with my grandparents in Scotland. They were entirely self-sufficient so I used to wake up to the smell of fresh bread baking and there were always interesting aromas – open fires, jam making etc. My grandmother had a walled flower garden with lots of different types of rose, geraniums, sweet pea. My grandfather was a carpenter. My senses were constantly stimulated.
How was the concept for a Miller Harris perfume line born?
I worked day and night for many years on my ideas, crafting and perfecting my art until I found my style, which took a long, long time and I had to be patient! But it is this patience that has allowed me to finalise my style and work today.
Where do you draw the inspiration for your perfumes from?
The source of my inspiration is life. Reading, history and observing the world around me offer me a limitless supply of new ideas.
Also, when I work with my private clients, they give me the inspirations for the next trend
|“When it comes to finding a signature scent, I believe we should always have more than one – we should develop a wardrobe of fragrances that evolve and allow us to explore different moods, ingredients etc. We would never wear the same jumper or trousers throughout the year so why do the same with fragrance? As the seasons change, we need to change our fragrance as this enables us to really experience the magic of this essential accessory.”
How do you source the ingredients for Miller Harris perfumes?
I only use the finest quality raw ingredients. I take pride in carefully selecting my materials from different regions and with my chemicals, again, I have my favourites, which I obtain through certain suppliers whom I favour. As I defined and refined my style, I have found that I am far more selective of the chemicals I work with. I have now got to a stage in my creativity where I am happy to limit myself to around 300 out of thousands and thousands available in perfumery. This is important in defining my style as a perfumer. I am confident about limiting my vocabulary in terms of these materials. However, the opposite is true of natural ingredients. I try and discover new naturals – I don’t like to be limited in that respect.
At the back of your Bruton Street store in London there is a library. What is its purpose?
This space is a peaceful sanctuary for customers to relax and discover the fragrances at their leisure. We often serve freshly brewed coffee and customers are invited to take their time and enjoy the process of choosing their scents.
Of all the fragrances you have designed so far, which is your personal favorite?
It changes but at the moment I would probably say Fleurs de Sel.
You pioneered the concept of creating custom made perfumes. What is involved in the bespoke perfume process?
The bespoke service was the starting point of the Miller Harris brand. I started this in 1994 and at the time I was the only London-based independent perfumer in the UK so it soon got round town that I was offering this service. It is very exclusive, the ultimate luxury, to have your very own fragrance created uniquely for you. I was young and enthusiastic, just having come back from my formal training in Grasse and I was eager to use my talents and this seemed the most natural route. Little did I know that I had hit a nerve in the industry which went from strength to strength and inspired the launch of my own luxury fragrance house, Miller Harris, in 2000. At this point I moved my laboratory to below our first shop in Needham Road and this is where I saw all my private clients, whilst upstairs was the home of Miller Harris, which started with the four classic fragrances: Fleur Oriental, Coeur de Fleur, Citron Citron and Terre de Bois.
In the first two years of Needham Road opening I had a waiting list of over twelve months. I was rushed off my feet with bespoke commissions. This side of my work is actually where a lot of my inspiration comes from as these exclusive clients have the taste element to tell me what the next trend is. There began a pattern of fragrance trends which inspired me for the next Miller Harris launch.
Creatively the bespoke is in itself the biggest creative challenge a perfumer can have as to fulfil an individual is much harder than fulfilling a brief for a fragrance brand or even my own brand. The fulfilment of course is so rewarding which is evident in the on-going relationship we have with them all.
I see six clients a year on average but also we service our existing clients with bespoke products i.e candles, body cream, bath and body oils. The bottles are all hand-engraved with the client’s details as requested.
In terms of the process, it begins with an unhurried personal consultation during which I can determine the theme of the fragrance. Then, over a period of weeks, three different samples are developed and trialled. The customer’s chosen formula, delivered as a perfume in an initialed crystal flacon, can be adapted to all Miller Harris body care products and candles. A permanent record is maintained in the Miller Harris laboratory and the customer’s supplies can be refreshed indefinitely.
What’s new this year at Miller Harris?
Fleurs de Sel, which is inspired by the salt marshes of Brittany where wild flowers and herbs grow in abundance, and a fragrance balm in Geranium Bourbon, composed entirely of natural ingredients including jojoba seed, avocado and sweet almond oil.
What is the best way to apply a perfume?
Fragrance is for you to experience as well as those nearest to you therefore applying to the décolleté is sensual and intimate. Applying on hair, back of the neck and favorite scarf is also a very personal touch.
For fragrance to be more long-lasting, use the accompanying scented body products in and straight after the shower and then spray the fragrance liberally on top.
What advice can you give us for picking that signature scent?
You need to go to a specialist store where you can receive expert advice or if you go to a department store, try to approach the niche brands, for more personalized service. At the Miller Harris corner in Saks, Fifth Avenue, NYC, we offer free consultations with our own fragrance experts who have been trained by myself and have first-hand knowledge of how a perfumer works. Choosing a fragrance is so personal and everyone is so different – it is determined by so many factors, from hair colour to skin type, through to your character and personality. It is important to always try fragrance on the skin as this confirms whether it works or not.
When it comes to finding a signature scent, I believe we should always have more than one – we should develop a wardrobe of fragrances that evolve and allow us to explore different moods, ingredients etc. We would never wear the same jumper or trousers throughout the year so why do the same with fragrance? As the seasons change, we need to change our fragrance as this enables us to really experience the magic of this essential accessory.
Which celebrities are rumored to be fans of Miller Harris perfumes?
Mischa Barton, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Jane Birkin, Annie Lennox, Nigel Slater, Helena Bonham Carter, Tyler Brule, Goldie Horne, Liberty Ross, Madonna, Sophia Copolla, Samantha Morton, Sharleen Spiteri, Joely Richardson and Michael Caine
What other passions do you have besides perfumes and Miller Harris?
It was a pleasure to interview Lyn to find out more about her amazing company visit their website at www.millerharris.com