Yesterday we found Amanda Carr experiencing Part One of her fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ adventure. Today, we continue her olfactory odyssey, as she makes her way to some of London’s most-loved independent perfume boutiques to find out what’s in store…
‘By the time I left Jovoy, I was both skipping and singing my way along the near-deserted London streets. A quick stop at Penhaligon’s had me admiring its smart and witty advisory graphics, aiming to ‘Keep you as fit as a fiddle” while you browsed. They were undoubtedly the best I saw all day, providing reassurance for any unsettled customers and also added a much needed touch of humour to the newly weird normality of shopping. Bravo Penhaligon’s and well done on the regal musky-mimosa launch, The Favourite.
Covent Garden, normally a bustling haven of fragrance testing opportunities, is an altogether more subdued place currently, with many still-to-reopen stores and few tourists – perhaps because the tube station had yet to reopen. But Floral Street, one of the most cheerful fragrance shops you’ll ever enter, was its usual colourful self. The staff were wearing covetable and very cute floral masks that coordinated with their heavily flower-printed aprons, both styles I think Floral Street should consider selling. [NB: we agree!]
I was here to try the newest scent, Arizona Bloom, a deliciously sunny, salted musk launched at the end of lockdown and inspired by ‘wilderness, neon skies and eternal sunshine,’ according to Natalia, my helpful Floralista. It riffs on the sense of grounded contemplation founder Michelle Feeney experienced on a recent trip to the Atacama Desert, and aims for a slower, more thoughtful vibe, one we can all relate to after the last few months.
Once again, the shopping experience here was almost better than normal, with Natalia happy to help me try as many fragrances as I wanted, as well as pointing out some excellent value deals the store was offering, such as the make up bag, a 10ml perfume of your choice and body cream for £30, while I sat and enjoyed the personalised sales treatment.
I luxuriated in being the only person in the store, and because I’d slowed down a touch, I noticed more, including the new refill service available, with 20% off if you take your bottle in for refilling, which is definitely strong motivation for visiting.
For customers who can’t come to Covent Garden, there is an innovative Virtual Florista experience available, where you book in for an online meet-up with one of the experienced in store Floralistas. One of its discovery boxes is sent to your door and you are then talked through the fragrances while inhaling at home, so do contact the store if this might appeal. How heartening to see a bit of scented innovation for those of us who have to self-shield more seriously.
My final stop – with my step count now well into five figures – was Bloom Perfumery, tucked away in Langley Court, where there’s always something interesting to sniff from its roster of hard-to-find brands. Careful hygiene and common sense prevails here, explained founder Oxana Polyakova, who told me “When you need to use your nose you can use it’, so masks can be discreetly dropped and potions inhaled with enthusiasm.
Customers are encouraged not to touch the bottles too much – there’s always someone around to help you spray- and the store does an excellent sampling service so you can take tiny bottles home to try. I inhaled Bee, the newish launch from Zoologist Perfumes, an extraordinary, honeyed smudge of waxy, powdery loveliness, featuring ginger syrup, Royal Jelly accord and a warmly mimosa-ish drydown, it was almost worth the trek across town just to inhale this.
So tired but happy, I finished my day with renewed enthusiasm for scent shopping.
If you are able to visit then stores are very pleased to see you and you may even find you prefer the quieter, more personalied service you receive. Remember that these new shopping rituals are new for everyone, and the slower pace will require patience from all of us.
If you are considering visiting any of the smaller independent stores I’d recommend a quick phone call beforehand to check the lay of the land, as some services – such as Jo Loves Tapas Bar and Les Senteurs Private Consultations [mentioned in Part One] – are restricted.
We hope that you will carefully and thoughtfully emerge back in to the wonderful world of fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ – and thank you, Amanda, for conducting such an encouraging report for us!
[Words & pictures by Amanda Carr, edited by Suzy Nightingale.]