Perfume As Jewellery - Harrods’ Head Of Beauty On The Salon De Parfums


04th June, 2015

Reactions have been mixed. Some have called it the best addition to the UK’s perfumery scene for years. Others have said that it’s pointless, unwelcoming and pretentious. But differing views aside, it seems reasonable to conclude that Harrods’ Salon De Parfums - which opened its doors in mid-October 2014 - has made quite an impression. Everyone who’s seen it has strong views on it. And those who haven’t yet seen it are eager to do so.


Image Credit: Harrods

Conceived as a glitzy space in which to showcase - and, of course, sell - the boutique’s most exclusive fragrance ranges, the Salon occupies almost 500 square metres on the roof (aka the sixth floor) of the iconic building. Running off a long central corridor, inside individual, tailor-made mini-shops, several brands tout their wares, including Guerlain, Dior, Chanel and Tom Ford. The Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie is here too, having made the climb from the fifth floor. And there’s also room for a few slightly less well-known names, such as Henry Jacques (a purveyor of Arabian-style oils) and Ex Nihilo (a relatively new, Paris-based brand which offers the facility for customers to create semi-bespoke perfumes on the spot).

At this stage it’s difficult to tell whether the Salon has been a success; the brands represented within its gleaming enclosure insist that business is fabulous. So while we wait for time to reveal all, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about Harrods’ need to create the uber-luxe environment. To this end, I contacted Mia Collins, the boutique’s Head Of Beauty and I began our email conversation with the most obvious question: why?

Mia Collins: We strive to be market leaders at Harrods and we are blessed that our discerning clients push us to deliver against this aim, with their unwavering sophistication. We’d witnessed several years of strong growth from our luxury, niche fragrance brands and so we felt a natural and much-needed evolution to this would be the creation of a space dedicated entirely to the epitome of haute luxe, niche fragrance. Salon De Parfums was our answer to these objectives. The space on the roof previously existed as offices, for our Selling Support teams, so the structure already existed on the sixth floor / roof area.

Persolaise: In your view, what are the factors which prompted the growth in the luxury fragrance sector?

MC: It’s difficult to say what prompted the growth, but certainly within Harrods, it’s a trend we’ve been seeing for many years. Arguably this is in part because we constantly strive to provide a point of difference for our clients and therefore brands with more limited distribution (and ideally those that are exclusive) gain more traction with our clients, who are looking for something unique.

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P: I’ve heard that the original plan had been for the roof space to be converted into a hotel, but that this fell through (no pun intended). Are you able to shed any light on this?

MC: I wasn’t aware of any plans for the space before we started planning Salon De Parfums, so I’m afraid I can’t comment.

P: Who designed the Salon?

MC: We worked with MPA architects to design the space. MPA had previously worked in store to create our Garrard and Harry Winston fine jewellery boutiques. From the outset, MPA understood the aesthetic we wanted to create. Within Salon De Parfums fragrance is king. The brief included a will for the main walkway to essentially act as an elegant, yet quiet canvas against which the boutiques would stand-out like jewels in a jewel box. This is why the colour pallet is warm, yet neutral, and the architectural detailings are limited to a softly arched ceiling, with detail provided instead by the use of textures. We wanted to hero the fragrances like the Fine Jewellery brands champion their finest pieces: in the neat windows that flank their entrances. The scents you find in Salon de Parfums are rare and precious. They deserve nothing less than the treatment afforded to diamonds and gem stones.

P: What were some of the challenges you faced when creating the space?

MC: The challenge was to adhere to the ambitious and unforgiving build schedule we’d set ourselves and coordinate the works so that everyone could ultimately access their boutique spaces when needed. The dedication of the brands was universally remarkable. Teams worked around the clock with craftsmen flying in from France, Portugal and Italy to get the job done and we did it.

P: You say the build schedule was ‘unforgiving’. How much time did everyone have to get things ready?

MC: We shared the concept with all of our partners in March of 2014, which gave us seven months to complete the planning and build process.

P: Who were some of these European artisans? What did they work on?

MC: We had a Portuguese craftsman come to hand paint all of the gold leaf detailing on the oak panels, in the Henry Jacques boutique; we had a team from Italy lovingly install the Murano light fitting in the Xerjoff boutique and over 3,000 origami flowers were created in France for the Dior boutique.

P: A few people have stated that they find the decor of the Salon’s main corridor to be rather stark, almost intimidating. What would your response to this be?

MC: The walkway areas were designed to be a neutral backdrop, to better allow the boutiques and their exquisite products to take centre stage. We certainly intended for the space to feel welcoming and somewhere people felt at ease and keen to spend time and certainly not a space people would feel intimidated.

P: How have customers responded to the Salon? How do they react to the sight of brands which may perhaps be less well-known than the likes of Dior, Chanel et al?

MC: Customers have responded better than we’d ever dared imagine. Our clients educate us every day and Salon De Parfums is simply another example of how we’ve heeded their feedback and delivered an experience that is unique, luxurious but ultimately designed with them in mind.

P: In what way do your clients educate you?

MC: We are blessed that our clients are often well-travelled and digitally savvy. They are consequently very sophisticated in terms of what makes them enthused and ergo what they buy in to. Of course we analyse the sales, but we also heed their verbal feedback when they’re in store and engaging with our stellar sales teams, but also via our social platforms and dozens of other external sources.

P: What are Harrods’ plans for the future of the Salon? Is some sort of expansion likely?

MC: We’ve just traded our first six months in the space and whilst results are very positive and our dream is to expand, we are keen to allow the department to grow roots and trade at least 10–12 months before formalising any Phase 2 plans.

P: Finally, are the brands at the Salon being encouraged to produce Salon-exclusive pieces? If so, are there are any such releases we can look forward to?

MC: Based upon the feedback clients are giving and what is selling best in the space, we are encouraging all of our Salon de Parfums brand partners to create something exclusively and specifically for the space. There are lots of exciting things to come, not least from Tom Ford, Kilian and Sospiro.

The Salon De Parfums is at Harrods, London. The easiest way to get to it is via the escalators by door 3.

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About the author: Persolaise

Persolaise is a four-time Jasmine Award winning writer with a lifelong interest in the world of fine fragrance. His perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published in English by Hardie Grant and in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has written for Sunday Times Style, Grazia, Glass, The Scented Letter and Now Smell This, amongst others.

Website: http://www.persolaise.com/

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    Comments

      • gandhajala | 7th June 2015 20:26

        If the Salon were easier to find, I'm sure it would see more footfall. Half the time it just seems dead up there.

        Harrods needs better signage and better training for its staff: on several occasions I've asked for directions to the Salon only to be met with blank stares or told 'no, there's only staff access to the 6th floor'.

        I understand there's a cafe opening at the Chanel end, so that might attract more people. Maybe.

        At any rate, I'm not wowed by the space. I'm more likely to stop and sniff in an open-plan area where I can wander about freely, than have to enter a mini-boutique to do so. And with the SAs all standing at the entrances, trying to entice you inside it almost feels like a bazaar, but without any of the fun.

        Also, poor Les Liquides Imaginaires, just stuck on a wall with no boutique of their own and no one apparently responsible for them.

        If all of that sounds overly negative, I'll finish by giving a shout out to the French SA at Ex Nihilo, as well the Chinese SA at Chanel: I've had lovely long chats with both and they are really great at their jobs.

      • hednic | 7th June 2015 22:28

        On my next trip to London, have to make a point to go there.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 10th June 2015 19:23

        Gandhajala, I'm not in charge around here, but I don't think you need to worry about sounding overly negative :-)

        You're certainly not the first person to have expressed reservations about the space. I know several people who have commented that the shop-in-shop design makes for an uncomfortable experience, because as soon as you move from one section of the Salon to the next, you're 'attacked' by yet another SA asking the same questions as the previous one, and you have to keep going through the process of saying, 'I'm okay, thanks. Just looking. Yes, I'll be sure to ask for your help if I need it etc etc'. And yes, I'm afraid I can corroborate what you say about Harrods staff on other floors not knowing about the existence of the Salon. For that, there is no excuse.

        However, reservations aside, I still give the place a thumbs up, but that's just my personal view. I think it's great that those of us who can get to London fairly easily now have a single, quiet (!!!) space in which to sample Chanel's Exclusifs, Dior's Collection Privee, Guerlain's exclusives, Tom Ford's Private Blends, Cartier's Heures as well as several other interesting pieces of work.

        I'll be very interested to see how Harrods develop the space.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 10th June 2015 19:23

        Hednic, when you do, come back and let us know what you think of it :-)

      • El Jack | 10th June 2015 20:32

        hednic, next time you're down drop me a PM. Let's make a day of it.

      • joshuaang | 11th June 2015 05:05

        The answers provided in the responses to your question gave absolutely no nuggets of information beyond boring corporate speak. I usually love your interviews, my dear Persolaise, but in this case I really didn't learn anything of import. No fault of yours, of course - I just wish your interviewee would be more forthcoming beyond sounding like a press release. I've never liked Harrods, and the new Salon makes me less likely to shop there.

      • nathanthomas500 | 11th June 2015 16:21

        I've never enjoyed the space, the minute you enter the wave of silence hits you and you see the SA's all hanging around the entrances looking bored and chatting to each other to relive their boredom while they wait for their next browser. As you say, going from one store front to the next and rebuffing each SA is tiresome. The space itself is quite cold and the mini-stores the,selves aren't very characterful. The space is only accessible from one escalator and for the life of me though I'm in Harrods often I can never remember which escalator it is so end up walking from one end of the store to the other to try to find it as the stairwells to the 6th floor only access the staff only areas.

      • Persolaise (article author) | 12th June 2015 09:21

        Joshuaang, as is so often the case, what's left unsaid is as illuminating as what is said.

        It's a shame you don't like Harrods. I can't say I do much actual shopping there, but I always enjoy wandering through the various departments. I find it a beautiful space, in many ways. And there's Laduree... ;-)

      • Persolaise (article author) | 14th June 2015 14:42

        Nathanthomas500, thanks for the comment. I know you're not the only person who feels this way about the space. It does seem to be very divisive. It'll certainly be interesting to see how it develops over the next few months.