We find it fascinating how the epicentre of London cool can shift from one corner to another almost on a dime. Not long ago, the lower reaches of Regent Street were somewhere you only really headed for to buy tennis shoes, CDs or tatty London souvenirs.
Now, with the arrival of Burberry (and their fab in-store café), the reopening of the super-swanky Café Royal, Firmdale’s Ham Yard Hotel (with its fabulous ‘village’ of shops) and – just the other day – the Jo Malone London flagship store, it’s all about Piccadilly Circus, suddenly.
And oh, what a temple of delights this is. Post-opening party frenzy, The Perfume Society descended for a proper guided tour, to take it all in. Wide and spacious, with an ‘atelier’ room in the back for bespoke-ing up fragrances in many different ways – perfect for making a Jo Malone Christmas gift seem that little bit extra-thoughtful.
Here’s what you’ll find…
The animated ‘wall’. When we uploaded a mini-film of this on our Instagram feed, within hours it became our most-liked post. Not surprised. Eight wonder of the world, is this, so far as we’re concerned – the first scented example we’ve seen of ‘the internet of things’, where objects are controlled via sensors. When you lift one of six fragrances from the shelf, an animation springs into life on the screen behind, filling it with roses (the iconic Jo Malone London Red Roses), dropping pears from a tree (English Pear & Freesia), or seemingly twining the display with brambles (that’s Blackberry & Bay). Amazingly soothing to watch.
The fragrance ‘bar’. A long central ‘bar’ where more than 50 different scents are arrayed for spritzing. Our advice: take it slow. It is easy to get into a frenzy and overdo the spraying, but follow our usual advice: label the blotters before you sniff, and in a perfect world don’t spray more than a half-dozen in a session. (This gives you the excuse to return to the store at frequent intervals, which is absolutely no hardship at all.) Do look underneath the ‘bar’: there are some wonderful body treats down there, including the Velvet Rose & Oud Dry Body Oil: definitely our new favourite bare-skin-slicker as the party season looms.
The Artisan Studio In a beautifully wallpapered ante-room at the rear of the store is a large dining table where Jo Malone London ‘elves’ are hard at work personalising bottles, caps, boxes and more. So: engraving with initials and monograms, tags, calligraphy, illustration – and there’ll be special guest appearances from visiting artists, too. We like the way you can choose a coloured cap for any bottle (100ml Cologne with Coloured Cap is priced £89), in red, blossom pink, fuchsia, lavender, spearmint, ice blue or pale gold.
The Living Garden. Aromatic notes are brought alive alongside ferns, palms and lush mosses in a humongous stone trough window display, which must have taken an army of strongmen to install. These plantings will change seasonally; our money’s on spring flowers next. (And just like that, the trend for the ‘green wall’ is OVER.)
The Archive Collection. Is there a Jo Malone London fragrance that you loved and lost? Some of the oldies-but-goodies are back, exclusively at the Regent Street store. Think: Assam & Grapefruit (from the Tea Collection), in which those notes are underpinned by patchouli, almond and cardamom. Think: Peony & Moss (one of our all-time favourites), a straight-from-the-flower-shop scent, with its earthy mossiness contrasting delicate peony. And think: Vintage Gardenia, a beautiful execution of a voluptuous white floral, which has been much-missed by many.
A dozen fragrances are available altogether in The Archive Collection, and a little bird tells us that other ‘lost loves’ may return in future. (Lobby the sales consultants for your heart’s desire to be revived.) All are priced £89 for 100ml Cologne. Stockpile while you can.
The gift-wrapping station is something else, too, with its ribbons, bows and adornments – see below, for how your parcel might look. (It’s enough to thrill anyone’s inner Candy Spelling – click here for more about her Gift-Wrapping Room) There are hand treatments on offer, naturally, being a Jo Malone London store. And in all, this is truly a very special place – worth a scent pilgrimage to this newly-groovy end of Regent Street.
Next stop Piccadilly Circus, anyone?
The Jo Malone London Flagship Store, 101 Regent Street, London W1B 4EZ/0370-192 5021