You recently opened your own independent shop called ‘Perfumery + Co’. What compelled you to do this?
I have been a lover of perfume and beauty for my entire life, and I reached the age of 40 and decided it was time to sign my own lease. I had signed over 200 on behalf of brands and I wanted to start my own personal journey within the industry. As retail was unraveling on a national scale, it became clear to me it wasn’t the online platforms killing our high streets, but rather retailers themselves failing to deliver a truly fantastic customer experience, which is why I am so passionate about making ours as beautiful as possible.
What has the customer reaction been like so far? Has anything surprised you?
They adore us; they are besotted by the assortment we have created from HERMÈS, NEOM, ELEMIS, CLARINS, MOLTON BROWN, PARFUMS DE MARLY to name but a few. Customers just love that we are local, independent and that they can truly support us; likewise, our tourists are always thrilled, if pleasantly surprised, to discover us. Rather touchingly, we see our customers very frequently, some even weekly. We have fun, we take our customers on fragrance fittings, we listen carefully and respond to their needs. There's something truly special about the atmosphere we've created in-store.
You have a wealth of retail experience with brands like L’Occitane and Disney. What do you think it takes to succeed on the high street in 2022?
Hard work, consistency from us as owners, and really showing up. We keep our store fresh, we have inviting displays, we really listen to what the customer wants and also help them discover what's new. It’s not at all difficult, you just have to want to create a connection with your customer and the rest is very easy.
You have brought L’Atelier Parfum to the UK (as M.D. and distributor) What was it that appealed to you about the brand and their offering?
I adore our founders – I have worked with them at L'OCCITANE for many years and they have created something very unique. We are natural, vegan, sustainable and everything is from Europe. The fragrances are simply stunning, the collection OPUS 1 has something for everyone, and it's very easy to sell something which everyone falls in love with upon discovering it.
What was the fragrance that got you hooked on perfume as a younger man?
EGOISTE PLATINUM by Chanel – and I love it just as much to this day.
Do you have any plans to open more stores?
Yes – a location in Ringwood, Hampshire this summer. We love the New Forest, and our customers love what we do. We want the stores to be close to us so we can actually be in them daily, as we really love what we do too. We plan also to open a SPA above one of our stores when the space becomes available.
What led you to naming your fragrances after cities?
Travel, wanderlust, connection with the world around us - those are the stories I want to tell with my fragrances. And for the naming, I really wanted to keep things as simple as possible.
Sometimes long complicated / impossible to pronounce names just get in the way - and I want the perfume to do the talking.
What did you want to capture about the city of London?
The grit as well as the glam. Rain and shine.
Are there any new fragrances in development?
Yes, I have something special (an orris) ready to launch.
And 4 more in various stages of development.
What inspired you to become a perfumer and perfume brand owner?
I fell in love with the craft, and the materials - that’s the real creative beauty of perfumery.
Gallivant fragrances come in 30ml bottles. Is there a reason for this?
I like the idea that your perfumes live with you, that you can carry them around - not left at home for some future “special occasion.” I hope GALLIVANT is a simple everyday pleasure.
And I also like the idea of us all having a fragrance wardrobe - so we can reach for different scents to suit different moods and weathers. Good training for the nose too.
Some of the Gallivant range
What led to Thomas Clipper developing their own fragrance lines?
Thomas Clipper is for men who want to keep discovering - we live that mantra. So after starting with premium razors and handmade shaving accessories, we asked ourselves what else we could improve in our customers' lives. Fragrance seemed to be something that was deeply underwhelming for men. One size fits all, advertised by Hollywood stars and more often than not designed to smell strong on a tester strip in a duty free (not subtle on the skin). In short: we believed men deserved better. So we began a series of trips to the heart of French fragrance country, Grasse. Slowly we began to learn the art of fragrance making over glasses of rose and countless scent explorations. And finally one morning we had a meeting with our nose and briefed her on the beginning of a new range we'd conceived of. That's how it all began.
What did you want to achieve with the COAST fragrance? Is there a specific place that inspired it?
When we briefed our nose in Grasse, we wanted 'Coast' to reflect two things: place and feeling. The place was Grasse where the fragrance was developed on the mediterranean. That influenced some of the pine and citrus notes, as these are found all along the med. The feeling was inspired by the British coastline. We wanted to evoke a colder fresher splash of sea spray and cold air with Coast to ground the fragrance and balance the more exotic scents of the mediterranean. The blend of the two inspirations gives a refreshing and cool fragrance grounded in some deeper notes that we think lend a sophistication to what is really a bright and optimistic scent.
Who do you see as the ‘Thomas Clipper’ customer?
There is no single Thomas Clipper customer: indeed our customers are somewhat defined by their fierce individuality. But if we had to say something that our customers had in common it might be a quiet confidence. They've often achieved impressive things but they're not the sort to brag about it. Our design and fragrances reflect that, we think. They're assured but not aggressive, modern but not driven by trends, stylish in what we hope is a timeless way.
Are there any new fragrances in development?
Right now we're focusing on City, Coast, Country and Mountain... But as a man who knows the range, what would you like to see next? What would your followers be interested in us exploring? What place or feeling would they like us to bottle?
Where did the idea of blending the fragrances together come from?
We believe that there's no such thing as 'one size fits all'. More than that, our customers enjoy discovery - whether that's learning to shave with a single blade razor, or discovering where their products are made using the coordinates engraved on their shaving bowl or leather goods. Blending is an extension of that exploratory philosophy: why have just one fragrance when you can customise your scent to the season, occasion or your mood?
The name of the brand is very evocative and can be interpreted in many ways. Why did you choose it and what does STORIES mean to you?
At STORIES Parfums we want to empower conversation through the fragrance memories that can heal, uplift, remind and reinforce what makes you uniquely you. This desire and want was built because of my grandmother. She was an extraordinary business woman and broke a lot of glass ceilings for women in Northern Ireland in her time. Sadly, I never met her but she always wore one particular scent and that smell is still what connects me to her today. It brings me joy and positivity as every fragrance should do.
Through the art of perfumery I tell my story in the hope that people would connect to their own story past, present and future. My story is just that, my story, but my hope is that my fragrances will be a gift to the wearer to connect to their own story, memories and aspirations - I liken what I do to a painting - the person experiencing the art always experiences something different to the next and that is so incredibly powerful.
How did you go about developing the 2 fragrance lines?
Let me tell you a little about the brand first, as it really is the core of how different and unique we are. I chose to stay at home with my children while they were young, and what started out as a new hobby and personal passion discovering perfumery, soon developed into a launching a niche fragrance brand. As my twin daughters got older I wanted to find something for myself to do, and as scent was always something that connected me to who I am and what matters to me I wanted to learn even more about the world of perfumery and develop my own fragrance, which led me to Grasse in the South of France.
It was important that I worked with a perfumer who would be happy to teach me and also allow me to develop my own fragrances through my own intuition. It was during this time when I found that there is a unique connection with our sense of smell to our memories, I had such a mind-blowing connection with fragrance to the point where I was able to reconnect with memories from my childhood that had been blocked and forgotten. I left Grasse with my 2 new fragrances and a passion to tell my story of joy, healing and hope through my creations. That is the reason STORIES Parfums was born.
Fragrances have the power to connect us to the past but also gives us permission to stop in our busy day and connect to the now and make new memories for the future. Stories No 1 and No 2 mean so much to me and connect me to my story and continue to inspire my future and I invite others to do the same.
How do you see STORIES developing in future, are you planning new lines or products?
As a brand we want to empower conversation through the fragrance memories that can heal, uplift, remind and reinforce what makes you uniquely you. STORIES is dedicated to telling stories, expressing emotions and leading the way with sustainable and purposefully inclusive products. Only STORIES delivers to the nose and the soul. We have already launched a luxury Bath & Body line, which is not an addition to the fragrances but a standalone line in itself. The bath and body are transforming to your skin with the carefully chosen ingredients and also has the added luxury of our fragrances which you can use to layer your perfume of subtle enough to wear alone.
I have some exciting launches coming up of STORIES Nº.03 and STORIES Nº04 and an introduction to our very first candles. We have some fabulous collaborations in store for the future with interior designers, musicians and artists.
How does the landscape and environment of N. Ireland impact on you and your creative process?
It has the most exquisite landscapes and rugged coastlines, no matter where I travel in the world I always love the feeling of stepping off a plane and breathing in our fresh cool air. Being Northern Irish is of course my roots and has shaped the stories of my life and in turn my fragrances.
Can you recommend any other Irish brands in the fragrances/beauty space that we should look out for?
There are no other fragrance houses in Northern Ireland, we are the very first, something I am so incredibly proud of! We are a very entrepreneurial and creative island, with some of the best artists and musicians and I hear of so many new ideas and brands all the time coming out of my beloved island. We tend to have quite a few tanning brands, which could very well be because we see very little sun here!!! WE ARE PARADOXX is a beauty brand with environmental and social responsibility at its core, definitely one to watch.
What do you do for relaxation away from work?
I relax with my friends and family and my dogs. I live on the coast and heading to the beach is extremely enjoyable and calming to me. I love to exercise and tend to focus on TRX, Barre or Reformer Pilates and make it a priority for my mental health and wellbeing. Home is where my relaxation begins, always, family is extremely important to me..
STORIES No. 01 & No. 02
You have a sea salt spray, mousse and now paste. What are the benefits of sea salt for the hair?
Sea salt is a great addition to styling products because it gives a great voluminous and textured finish to all hair types. Usually giving a matte finish, sea salt based products also create a good foundation and hold for your style to last all day!
How did you get personally involved in the design of this product?
I’m lucky enough to be part of our product development team which I became part of because all of our barbers try and test the products before they go into production. From there, I worked my way up into the team and I was also lucky enough to be the lead developer for the Sea salt volume mousse and the Sea salt paste, so my involvement was testing each prototype and tweaking the products until they were just right for our clients.
What do you think sets the Murdock London men’s grooming range apart from other brands?
For me what makes our range so good is it’s no fuss. All the products do what they say they do - and there isn’t anything that goes into them that isn’t needed. Simple and effective while maintaining a more luxury finish.
Do you have a favourite fragrance from the Murdock cologne range?
My favourite fragrance in the range is Vetiver, I love the freshness. It reminds me of being in the countryside or in the forest. It is a great fragrance for day or night and it isn’t overpowering.
Where can people find the Murdock products?
All of our products are available in store and online at https://www.murdocklondon.com
What trends are you seeing in men’s hair at the moment?
I’ve noticed the return of the ‘bed head’ era. Looks are remaining a little softer on the edges and being worn a lot looser and textured which our sea salt range is perfect for. The other trend I've noticed is crops, some guys are going the other way and going super short all over for a lower maintenance finish.
Murdock products have the ‘Clean’ badge. What does this mean?
Our clean badge means that there is nothing in our range that is harmful, no sulphates, no parabens, no nasties. Absolutely nothing in there that could cause any sort of health issue. The range is also vegan and ocean safe. You could literally pour it in the ocean and nothing or no one would be harmed.
What inspired you to launch your debut perfume ORIGIN?
When I was pregnant with my daughter in 2017, I started making switches to cleaner foods and personal and household products. One of the more difficult switches though was fragrance. I simply couldn’t find one that had the same luxurious feeling as my designer perfume, but which was more discerning about its ingredients. The natural perfumes I tried didn’t have the complexity of ingredients I was looking for. Fragrance is important to me, as I’m sure it’s important to many of us, and I thought there were probably people out there who were going through the same journey.
How would you describe the fragrance?
Origin was designed to be a timeless and comforting scent and I really feel we have achieved this. It smells like stepping into an English meadow: you feel a rush of sunshine, soft rose and cut grass swirl around you. It’s the perfect blend of sweet and soft florals with a touch of freshness.
You mention that you want the brand to have ‘clean & transparent principles’. How is that applied in a practical sense?
All aspects of our perfume production are carefully considered and have to adhere to a certain set of values. For us, that means that every ingredient we use has (1) laboratory research disclosed on the Environmental Working Group’s site that supports its safety for long-term use, (2) sound environmental credentials, and (3) is not animal-derived or is not tested on animals. There’s a lot of discussion about ‘greenwashing’ in the beauty industry – I think that the way of addressing those legitimate concerns is to be clear with people about the values that we have, and how we measure our own success.
What are your early scent memories growing up in Canada?
My earliest scent memory is of fresh cut grass. This has always reminded me of hot summer days growing up. It is such a comforting smell to me that I wanted to include it in our debut fragrance and indeed, it appears as a top note.
What’s next for Medeau? Do you have plans to add to your product line?
We’re trying to bring clean fragrance into people’s lives in as many different ways as we can, so apart from the additional three fragrances we are releasing this year, we are starting to work on a candle and diffuser range. Body wash products are also a logical place for us to explore too! We are excited about giving people that clean alternative in multiple parts of their life.
(Other than your own!) what perfume do you like to wear?
I love trying different perfumes. Right now, when I’m not wearing Origin, I wear Ameline by Phlur during the day and Dior L'Or for special occasions. I have also just discovered Revolution De La Fleur by Sana Jardin. This gorgeous scent transports me to the days when we were able to go on tropical holidays.
What were the origins of the brand?
When I created Noble Isle, I had a passion to produce something truly British – a British company, making products in the British Isles, sourcing ingredients from celebrated local producers in the UK. I wanted to promote and highlight what is happening in the country – amazing places, people, ingredients. The British ingredients are unique to Noble Isle.
During the creation of the brand, we travelled the length and breadth of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to source authentic, quintessentially British ingredients that celebrate our rich cultural history. Our sumptuous lotions and washes feature extracts sourced from celebrated local producers, including Rhubarb from Yorkshire, Samphire from Ireland, Barley from Scotland and Beetroot from Wales.
The British ingredients are unique to Noble Isle and the name and logo celebrate this idea. Noble Isle was the first term used for Great Britain in the 15th century by Kings and Queens and our Coat of Balms show the four flowers that represent the great countries within the British Isles.
What makes Noble Isle unique?
Britain in bottle captures the heart of our brand and it is truly what separates us from other brands in the market. We promote farmers, charities, conservationists – people doing exceptional things in our country. Each producer is incredibly passionate about their ingredient. So, the most important factor when making our products is that we use British extracts from local celebrated producers from the British Isles.
Is it a challenge to source all the ingredients from the UK?
Not really, sometimes the weather can change crop timings and volumes but we make super concentrated extracts which can help us cope with this.
Noble Isle is 9 years old now. What’s next for the brand?
We are preparing for the Christmas season and have some lovely gift boxes inspired by bouquets of flowers and a few stunning Christmas limited edition candles launching in October.
Further ahead, Noble Isle turns 10 years old in May 2022 and we are planning a year of celebrations with new packaging and product launches.
Noble Isle create beautiful body, bath, hair and home fragrance products. Would you ever consider creating a perfume?
You have read my mind! Yes, I am planning on launching perfume for 2023. We have many customers asking for fine fragrance as over the years they have fallen in love with the complex and sophisticated layers of our fragrances so it is a natural step for the brand. Watch this space!
Do you have a favourite smell?
I love fresh green notes and white florals. Within our collection, my favourites are Willow Song and Scots Pine.
If you could wave a magic wand and put your products into any hotel bathroom in the world - which hotel, would it be?
La Splendido, Portofino, Italy
How did Miller Harris describe to you what they wanted from this new fragrance?
The team came to me initially to talk about the summer of 2020. It was a new relationship and they wanted to share about the changes we’d seen in the world, how I had managed, how I was feeling and find common thoughts on topics that we felt positive about. We were keen to look to 2021 through a lens of optimism, but to do that we had to start with reviewing the summer of 2020. We’d were a world in flux, and still are, so trying to capture a moment in the middle of all this change was hard. So we focussed in on the things that felt universal. In France and the UK, the sun had shone all Spring and Summer. We found that we had both shared a lot of time with our families and we’d sought solitude in music, food, literature, poems and re-discovered nature. Our gardens became very important for us. So from this, we forged a brief. A citrus cocktail, with aromatics of gardens herbs. Sunshine and optimism, but grounded with solid foundations that represented the strength shown by people.
The Miller Harris team shared a typical weekend morning playlist of music with me so I could fully immerse myself in the sparkling universe of this new olfactory project. This became a backdrop to my work on the parfum, and I set out to create a joyful and summery scent, with a high use of natural ingredients.
Was is always planned that bergamot would be the hero ingredient?
Not initially no. For us, the reverie and mood of optimism was more important than any single ingredient. We wanted to tell a story. To paint a picture, where the wearer could transport themselves into their own reverie. I created a cocktail of citrus accords for the top notes that also included mandarin and orange. We worked on a few ideas for the top notes. Some were much more floral and we explored a coffee note that was really exciting but we couldn’t balance the note in the blend. Late in the process when we were finessing the fragrance, we increased the bergamot to the fore of the citrus accord and the name came very late. This fragrance is unusual in that it isn’t pure bergamot fragrance. It’s prominent, but we wanted to wrap it in a complex array of notes that felt unusual but wearable. That is what Miller Harris do very well. The herbaceous aromatic heart is equally important as is the vetiver in the base.
What’s your way of working on the early stages? How do you seek inspiration?
The music and the imagery we created in this case were the starting point for me. We’d agreed what we were trying to capture and an area of olfactory world we would explore, but we didn’t pin down any ingredients. Starting with a mood and trying to capture a feeling is a lovely way to start a project. Then through development we worked to refine and finesse the creation.
How long did it take from initial brief to finished product?
It was quick for a fragrance launch. Less than 1 year. The team came to me in the middle of a very specific moment and wanted to capture a feeling of looking forward, while looking at where we’d all been. We wanted it to feel of the moment, so worked hard and the team let me take some risks and were brave in trusting me to bring their idea to fruition.
Where did you source the bergamot used here?
Miller Harris has been observing, respecting and mastering natural raw materials for it’s 21 years. The association between bergamot and the territory in Calabria, located along the Ionian sea in Italy, is very strong. We harvest between November and February. The Calabria region enjoys a concurrence of natural conditions that exist nowhere else. After washing the freshly picked fruit, the essential oil is extracted by cold press extraction from the outer part of the bergamot rind. We’ve worked with the same bergamot supplier for two decades. Calabria obtained the seal of the AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protegee meaning Protected Designation of Origin) for “Bergamot of Reggio Calabria-essential oil”. Among other things, this allows us to guarantee the traceability of the bergamot to the fields. In fact, the area used to grow the bergamot of Reggio Calabria PDO is very narrow: it covers 100 kilometres of Ionian coastline, on the southernmost point of the boot, overlooking the Strait of Messina.
What kind of feelings do you hope it will evoke for people wearing it?
Optimism, a sense of hope, love for simple pleasures and hopefully some ‘reverie’ and daydreaming.
Can you recall your earliest scent memory?
Do you know, I actually can’t think of a specific one. Many people working in fragrance return to this scene of watching their mother applying perfume before going out for the evening, but that’s not something I experienced. I do remember finding the scent of other people’s houses quite intense and interesting as a child, a little bit scary almost.
What led to you pursuing a career in the olfactive arts?
The first time I really considered what makes a scent, and who gets to make it, was as I was smelling a perfume by Christopher Brosius in a bookshop in West London around 10 years ago. The perfume was called Black March, and it smelled strongly of soil. It was so immediately evocative and powerful, and I was just filled with questions. Wait a second, how can something that’s not soil smell like soil? How does anything smell like anything? How do you get to make scent? With what? That lit a little spark within me which I tended to over the following years, with a whole lot of google research, time spent lingering around perfume shops seeking out the ‘weirder’ fragrances, and after a while I began slowly buying my own materials. After moving to Glasgow five years ago I finally had the bandwidth and space to really pursue working with scent.
What can people expect if they visit the ‘Library of Olfactive Material’ in Glasgow?
So many things to smell! Hundreds of materials, books, oddities. Mostly I think they can expect first of all to be a bit overwhelmed, there are limitless possibilities with scent. But just as with a library of books, we can start where their interests lie, and see where that leads us. I act as the Librarian, pointing people towards materials they might find interesting or useful for what they are trying to achieve. We can straight away work on making something, or leave you to explore.
Did it feel like a natural progression to create your own fragrances?
Both yes and no. Yes because I already had combinations of materials I found intriguing, and wore myself. No because I find it harder to create without a brief, and also find it difficult to reconcile my own creative exploration with how a product will be received commercially. This is a bit tricky to talk about, because I love perfume, but the fragrance itself is really only one part of perfumery. The same way that art is not just about the artwork itself, it’s about everything that surrounds it, the gallery in which you are viewing it, the art that came before, and particularly the capitalist structures within which we all operate and exist, these things can’t be removed from it.
That’s not actually a criticism of the product nature of perfume, more an insight into where I struggle to know what I truly want to make. If I were working to make things that I think would be popular and sell that would be one thing, making things that are pure expression or recreation that would be another. I often think about the scents I create being on a scale with ‘scent’ at one end and ‘perfume’ at the other, and in creating an Early Modern fragrance I might start out closer to one end than the other and spend time trying to shift it more towards the middle. Ultimately I’m looking for a fragrance that I make to be wearable, but sometimes only just. At other times I’ve made something purely catchy and wearable, and then I’ll see it as my task to push elements of it to make it have a slightly more challenging character.
I think Veil is an incredibly evocative perfume - what was the inspiration behind it?
Veil actually began life as a stripped back version of a different scent, still to be released. I think that’s a funny thing that can happen in creating a perfume, that one direction veers off and becomes its own thing. At its heart, the combination of Benzoin Resinoid, Labdanum Absolute and a really textural musk called Velvione felt to me so much like some kind of gossamer blanket I could cover myself in. I’ve always loved resinous scents, so it really was a case of taking this material combination that felt so good to me and letting it become its own thing. I was working on it in the Autumn, the nights were drawing in, the clocks had gone back. It felt very protective, weighty but gentle. A hint of smoke reminded me of blown out candles, a slight tip towards a nostalgic medicinal scent with the eucalyptus and honey.
How did the collaboration with Scent Trunk in the U.S. come about?
The team at Scent Trunk are doing an amazing job of seeking out and working with independent perfumers. It was a total dream for me to work with them, they gave me a very free reign in my creative interpretation of the brief we set together. They were keen for me to represent Scotland in my own style - big abstract gradients of scent to evoke the pastel sunsets of midsummer.
What’s next for Early Modern? Are there new things in the pipeline?
A new release! Celadon will be released in late November. You heard it here first…