Extoled as ‘London’s most stylish nose’ by Vogue, Lyn Harris is one of Britain’s most prestigious perfumers. Classically trained in France, Harris made waves in 2000 when she launched luxury fragrance brand Miller Harris. After selling the company 13 years later, she poured her passion into Perfumer H, a small-scale artisanal brand and atelier in Marylebone inspired by her olfactory journey and the changing seasons.
Sunspel has produced a limited-edition run of sweatshirts designed to compliment Harris’ core scents and draw on shared values of craftsmanship and provenance. The sweatshirts and fragrances are now available at selected Sunspel stores.
We caught up with Harris to talk about Sunspel and a life driven by scent.
Tell us a little about the Sunspel collaboration, how did it come about and what was the concept?
I always knew with my fragrance names that I wanted to put them visually on something, that’s how I kind of created the brand. I work with Studio Frith, who do all my graphics, and the whole ethos was to make the words evoke the fragrances and obviously the colours as well – and I’m a bit of a sweatshirt geek! We had made this sweatshirt and I was really amazed at the response but I wanted the provenance that comes with a brand like Sunspel, because that’s what I have all the way through my brand. I know Nicholas [Brooke, Sunspel CEO] and we met over coffee and started talking about the idea of creating something together. He liked my product names and could see that I was a bit obsessed with sweatshirts and details, so it was just a really beautiful thing that came about through a cup of coffee, really.
The sweatshirts have the words ‘Ink’ and ‘Charcoal’ emblazoned on them. Why did you focus on those two fragrances in particular?
I like those words. Ink is one of our bestsellers and Charcoal was part of last year’s Perfume exhibition at Somerset House. The sweatshirt is a bit different to the usual Sunspel style, we got rid of the little ‘v’ because the words are the detail. The quality of the sweatshirt is just amazing, I love it – it’s been great to work with Sunspel, it’s just such a beautiful company with so much heritage.
What do the two brands have in common?
We’re all about beautiful things that people cherish. There’s a lot of soul and integrity in what we do. We are very like-minded and it’s exciting to be working together.
You’re Britain’s first classically trained female nose. Why did you go down this particular route?
I’ve just always been driven by smell. As a child growing up in the countryside, scent was always associated with people and I always used to express the smells I liked. I worked in a fragrance shop in my hometown on Saturdays when I was at school and I had this dream to not just sell fragrance but to make it. I went to school in Paris and trained with an amazing woman who really believed in me and gave me one-to-one training. Then I was introduced to Robertet in Grasse, which is still my fragrance house today. Back then there were no female perfumers, I was this quirky sort of tomboy. It’s still dictated by older generation masters but they accepted me – I think I was refreshing and different.
What’s your earliest scent memory?
My grandparents, always. Every holiday we would get shipped off to Scotland and they had this little smallholding where they grew all their own vegetables and fruit, it was very idyllic. I just remember waking up in the morning and I would smell the fire and my grandmother would be baking and making jams – to me she always smelled of soap and lavender. Everything was so clean and pure. Those natural smells were so intense.
Do you always have a precise idea of what you’re trying to achieve when you’re creating a scent?
Yes, very. At the moment I’ve got a lot of things going on so sometimes you can be quite blurred, but when you smell it you know. I juggle lots of different projects but that feeds the adrenaline of it all and makes it work.
Was it important to you that your Marylebone store included a working lab?
Yes, I wanted clients to see how a perfumer works. There is a mystery because you see all the bottles and you don’t know what’s going on inside – that magic comes from the creator. So you’re not spoiling that, you’re just giving a little bit more insight into the creative process.
What kind of customers are drawn to Perfumer H?
I would say like-minded people. I think I attract people who like beautiful things and details; who are stylish and like provenance.
Has your style evolved?
Yes, of course. You develop a signature style that is recognised in the industry. I don’t like smells to intimidate or dominate. I like smells to work with people and really sort of touch the soul but make you feel very intriguing and special – they give you a personality.