Veteran perfumer Lyn Harris founded her independent label Perfumer H in 2015. Having begun her career in a fragrance shop in Yorkshire, she honed her sense of scent at prestigious fragrance houses in Grasse, before launching — and later, selling — the internationally acclaimed brand Miller Harris. Now, Lyn creates her unconventional fragrances from her laboratory and shop in Marylebone, London, just a stone's throw away from our shops on Chiltern Street and her home in Primrose Hill. We sat down with Lyn to learn a little about her background, the creative process behind Perfumer H, and how foraging for materials gets her inspired to create new scents.
Why did you create Perfumer H?
The reasons are two-fold. I wanted to create an honest and sustainable brand, and I wanted to get rid of the commerciality of this industry. There is so much excess packaging, unnecessary cellophane, box waste. Perfumer H is instead all about the perfumer; it’s about craft. I work with a glassblower to make our bottles, and with a designer who turns my fragrance names into beautiful typefaces. We make our fragrances in Grasse, the heartland of perfumery. Each bottle is a piece of art.
But you forage for materials?
I’ve foraged since I can remember. I live by Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill; I prefer foraging in open countryside but these parks are close to me. I like to do it at the start of each season, I use my pockets or a rucksack to store things in. At the moment I’m collecting acorns and chestnuts, ivy and berries. I love to smell the honeysuckle, wild orchids, dandelions in wet woodland. But my big passion is for collecting different types of moss. Recently I was in Cornwall and I gathered the most amazing fallen oak branches with blue mosses draped over them. It triggers the start of my creative process.
How does it translate into a fragrance?
Each scent begins in my laboratory with a natural smell I have been obsessing about. I recently created a scent called Tobacco which is all about my favourite elements from early Autumn. The leaves are represented with sage, the damp moss is portrayed by vetiver and oakmoss. The peaty scent of wet earth is added with notes of patchouli and sage. Plus a hint of tonka bean and leather. It’s very chic but it’s good for autumn.
Lynn at her shop and laboratory in Marylebone, London.
Have you always had a nose for scent?
I used to crush rose petals with my sister when I was little, to make perfume. I grew up in Yorkshire, near Hebden Bridge, and I spent long summers at my grandparents in Scotland — they had a smallholding and were very self-sufficient. My grandmother grew amazing flowers; those summers are synonymous in my mind with the smell of her making jam. Every day we would be woken by the smell of baking. And my grandfather grew vegetables. He was a carpenter and made beautiful pieces of furniture in his shed; I loved smelling the sawdust on the floor.
Why do you think fragrance is so evocative?
It stirs so many emotions; it’s warming for the soul. I want to make fragrances that, when you walk past someone in the street, they turn back and ask you what you are wearing. And I love at Christmas when people’s faces light up when they smell something they like. Fragrance is so personal. It’s an expression of who we are on every level and it defines our style — as part of our wardrobe it’s the essential accessory.
How would you spend your ideal Sunday?
I don’t wear perfume when I’m working as it clutters my senses, so on my days off I love to wear some of my creations that I’m working on; to road test ideas that I’m obsessing about. I love to wear men’s clothing to walk in Hampstead Heath with my dog — I think women wearing menswear is becoming more common. This is the best time of year to be in the park, during the change in season. It’s enriching and refreshes my senses. I love the change of light and the leaves’ changing colour.