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  • For the first in the "My Favourite London Scent Haunts" series we sat together with the two perfumers behind our latest Forage launch.

     

    Bertrand Duchaufour – Perfumer

    “I was really surprised by the huge number of parks, squares and other green spaces you can find in the capital and the different scents you can find there. I recently discovered the herb cow parsley. It grows everywhere in the city and could seem so insignificant, but as soon as you scratch the leaf, it releases a stunning odour – reminiscent of the citrusy floral effect of bergamot and the green spicy note of parsley, mixed with a green, earthy touch of galbanum. And there’s the Thames of course, with its dirty petrol-like notes and smoky, rubber accents, all mixed with an ineffable aqueous note.”

    Mathieu Nardin – Perfumer

    “Last March, I had an amazing experience foraging with Miller Harris CEO Sarah Rotherham in lovely place in London - Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, an abandoned cemetery. I was blown away by a plant called Sweet Woodruff, whose leaves emit an amazing aroma. It’s a bit like tonka - an ingredient we use often in perfumery: sweet, with vanilla and almond accents. It’s delicious and highly addictive.”


  • Nature is everywhere. Even in the unlikeliest of places. We just need to know where to look. We also have to trust our instincts. And it’s this sense of discovery – of going beyond the expected – that makes urban foraging so alluring.

    Image by Rakesprogress Magazine

    To celebrate our commitment to nature and our respect for those who constantly source the best ingredients, Miller Harris have launched a new range. Forage presents three perfumes inspired by the botanical treasures around us. These are Hidden, Lost and Wander. The brief to our perfumiers was to create fragrances using only ingredients which can be discovered wild in London.

    This did I feel, in London's vast domain

    The Spirit of Nature was upon me there

    William Wordsworth

    An Experience

    Rather fittingly, for a range inspired by London’s natural splendour, the fragrances were launched in sunshine on the rooftop of Brick Lane’s Truman Brewery. A unique venue for a unique approach to the perfumier’s art.

    Architects Al-Jawad Pike provided a multi-sensory journey of discovery which was enhanced by vibrant floral sculptures from Palais Flowers. Renowned sound artist Claudia Molitor debuted bespoke compositions to add to the ambience. Everything was about engaging the senses and sharing the experience of foraging.

    An Opportunity

    To continue to foster inspiration and connect people with the heart of foraging, we are launching a competition with the aim of finding the country’s best foraged bouquet. This could consist of wildflowers, berries, stems, fronds or leaves – the important thing is to be creative. Let nature be your guide and don’t be afraid to see where it takes you. The key criterion is beauty. And the prize is the set of the three Forage by Miller Harris perfumes.

    Post your photos between the 20th and 3rd June, using the hashtag #MHForagedBouquet and providing a description of what foraged findings were used in the bouquet. Good luck and we look forward to sharing the natural joy of your floral creations.

     

    TERMS AND CONDITIONS

    The #MHForagedBouquet competition terms and conditions

    1.The Promoter of this prize draw is Miller Harris of 116 Commercial Street, London, E1 6NF

    3.Entries can be submitted via Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook where entrants can use the hashtag #MHForagedBouquet and submit a short description of what they used in the bouquet.

    4.Multiple entries per person are permitted.

    5.Entrants warrant that the work they submit is original and that they are the sole owner of the copyright in it. By entering, you give the Promoter the permission to use your name and photos of receiving the price for any promotional material once the competition is closed.

    6.The opening date for entries is the 20th May 2018. The closing date for entries is 6pm 3rd June.  Entries received after this time will not be accepted.

    7.The winners will be selected by the promoter and notified by email on or before the 31st May 2018.

    8.Acknowledgement of the prize by the winners must be received by 6pm 7th June. Should the Promoter not receive confirmation from the winner by this time, the Promoter reserves the right to select another winner at random.

    9.The winners will receive: the 3 new perfumes ‘Lost’ ‘Hidden’ and ‘Wander’.

    10.The prize cannot be passed onto someone else. If the prize is not accepted, another winner will be selected at random. You can also not request a cash prize.

    11.The Promoter reserves the right to check validity and reject entries with reasonable cause.

    12.The Promoter is compliant with the data protection act. Our policy is such that we will not pass on your details to any third party without your prior consent.

    13.The Promoter reserves the right to replace the prize with an alternative prize of equal or higher value if circumstances beyond the Promoter’s control make it necessary to do so.

    14.The decision of the Promoter regarding any aspect of the competition is final and binding and no correspondence will be entered into about it.

    15.Participants are deemed to have accepted and agreed to be bound by these terms and conditions upon entry. The Promoter reserves the right to refuse entry or refuse to award the prize to anyone in breach of these terms and conditions.

    16.The Promoter reserves the right to hold void, cancel, suspend, or amend the promotion where it becomes necessary to do so.


  • Writer Viola Levy enlists her nature-loving dad to help her on her first foraging quest…

    On the surface, my dad and I don’t have heaps in common. I spend my days writing about beauty products – he’s spent his career working with mental health patients for the increasingly underfunded NHS. He’s grown up in the countryside, I’ve lived mostly in the city and rarely venture beyond the M25 if I can help it.

    Saying that, I’m not a complete “nature-phobe”. I find short walks in the park a great way to relieve stress (never having been a fan of meditation or any form of sitting still). But not having a good working knowledge of plants and trees, I’ve never taken much interest in green surroundings – aside from the perfume ingredients I write about as part of my job. But the idea of foraging caught my attention - allowing you to explore and engage with nature on a rather primitive level, and hopefully feeling “at one with Mother Earth” in the process. And I was relieved to discover I didn’t need to leave my beloved Zone 2 to do it.

    Reading about urban foraging made me realise that the city and countryside aren’t as binary as everyone thinks. In his book The Edible City – A Year Of Wild Food, John Rensten highlights many edible wild plants to be found in among the crowded concrete cityscape. In this spirit, I decide to head out on an urban forage myself, enlisting my long-suffering father for guidance and a way of reassuring him that his efforts to get me interested in nature weren’t completely in vain.

    Since as long as I can remember, dad has been trying to instil in me a love of the great outdoors. My parents were separated, but every other weekend that I’d stay with him, Dad would take me on long walks in London’s Alexandra Park, encouraging me to identify different flora and fauna we found there, despite my many protestations that I’d rather be indoors watching Live and Kicking.

    I remember my mother’s horror on discovering that he’d taken 8-year-old me bathing in Hampstead Heath pond - and spent the ensuing months convinced that my swimming costume smelled of duck shit. And Dad’s one failed attempt at inviting me blackberry picking, resulted in my having a bout of nausea (after I was unwisely entrusted to keep the bowl of berries safe on my lap for the car journey home).

    Visiting my paternal grandmother in rural Winchester, walking was our main way of passing the time. To my mind, “going on a walk” should include an eventual destination otherwise what was the point? So sadly, while my granny was alive, she knew me as a predominantly sullen and uncooperative grandchild. Hopefully, with my newfound interest in foraging 25 years on, dad wouldn’t be left with the same impression.

    Before we head off, I phone up John for some final words of advice. He tells me he initially started foraging as a way to de-stress from his job as a commercial photographer. “It’s nice finding the city where you live is actually a lot more green than grey. In fact in terms of plant life, there’s more diversity in any London park than you have in any half of square mile of countryside.”

    “As London’s a micro-climate, everything has extended growing seasons, with lot of wild plants that aren’t bothered that it’s a city,” he continues. “It’s warmer here, that’s all they care about. You also have a lot more feral plants that have escaped people’s gardens. You throw all that together and London is actually 47% open and green spaces. We tend to think it’s a big blob of grey surrounded by green, but it’s more like inter-locking tendrils of green and grey.”

    In terms of location, we’ve earmarked Hampstead Heath and Kenwood, but John also recommends checking out places closer to home, such as Islington Nature Reserve. “The lemon balm there smells extraordinary.” He also recommends Clissold Park, a place where I grew up and still live nearby. “Behind the big house to the rear is a twisted, gnarly old mulberry tree – it’s even got a label on it. Around August it produces fruit looks like blackberries that are gobsmackingly delicious…”

    He also advises taking care when foraging for mushrooms, as obviously there are many poisonous varieties. And to avoid places like Victorian cemeteries, where the ground is likely to contain high amounts of lead and arsenic. In The Edible City he offers a few further safety tips which include no nibbling as you go along and always washing what you collect. However, as a side-note John is at pains to point out, “There is so much rubbish in the foods we eat, harmful oestrogens in more packaging, pollution in the air, and a huge culture of drink, drugs and general stress in our cities that I see no harm in eating a few plants from one’s local park.” I can see his point. However, he also suggests that it’s advisable for beginners to go foraging with someone experienced in the practise, or a good guidebook, but to not eat anything you find to start with. So for this first expedition, Dad and I have decided we’re looking and sniffing but not taking handfuls of freshly picked loot home to toss in a salad just yet.

    I meet dad in Kentish Town just after rush hour, struggling to find him among the throng of commuters, road workers and the odd punk rocker walking his dogs. Amid the din, I spot my father raring to go, armed with his A-Level Botany book from 1964 and printouts of various wild mushrooms we might encounter. Dad asks if I’ve done any homework myself (“preparation is 90% of success” he reminds me). I hastily get my phone out to look up the The Woodland Trust’s foraging guide (woodlandtrust.org.uk) as dad drives us up to the ‘Heath and we begin our foraging excursion.

    It’s incredibly peaceful walking through the forest, listening to birds chatter and inhaling smells of leaf litter, earth and bark. I’m reminded of the Japanese practise of Shinrin-yoku or "forest bathing" which champions the healing benefits of simply taking in the sights and sounds of the forest, which is apparently good for reducing stress and blood pressure.

    I’ve been walking through here before, but never interacted with my surroundings on such a close up level – which makes the walk all the more interesting. Rather than sticking to the footpaths as we normally would, dad and I peer into hedgerows, sift through long blades of grass and nose around fallen tree stumps, investigating the many plants and creatures that have set up home there.

    The notorious hurricane that struck The Heath in 1987 caused a lot of debris, which had a knock-on effect where wildlife was concerned. “The fallen trees allowed a lot more light to come in,” Dad explains, “which means more plant-life could thrive, while insects set up home in the nooks and crannies of these tree trunks and branches. And then the birds could snack on them.”

    It’s interesting to see which plants and fungi prefer which terrains. A patch of lusciously yellow marsh marigolds pop up from a boggy ditch, while a birch polypore mushroom appears happily snuggled to the trunk of a tree. We’re careful to avoid picking anything from the base of trees; a common spot for animals to relieve themselves, the plants there tend to thrive on the nitrogen levels in the urine. But John had advised me that anything high up (basically, beyond an animal’s peeing radius) should be more or less ok.

    We come across many common plants the Woodland Trust guide lists for April to look out for. Bramble leaves are a common one – its spicy leaves can be used for garnishing a salad, Dad explains that they can be also steamed in hot water and used for a sore throat.

    “Have a sniff at this!” he exclaims, clearly in his element, crushing a leaf of Wild Garlic (another common April plant) under my nose, which emits a wonderfully pungent aroma. The Woodland Trust advises these leaves taste great blended with lemon juice and toasted pine nuts as a pesto sauce. They have also long been treasured in folklore for their ability to ward off vampires and evil spirits. (Good to know.) We also share enthusiasm for the scent of horse parsley, which is slightly smoky and bitter – their stems are said to taste similar to actual parsley and can be sautéd and seasoned with black pepper to bring out the flavour.

    When we’re not foraging, we’re having fun exploring the park’s many historical artefacts. The pair of us peek through a musty window of an old locked bath house, and read with amusement an information plaque about The Dairy at Kenwood. The building was originally built in the 1700s as a pet project for The 2nd Earl’s wife Louisa, ‘hobby dairies’ and other pastoral activities being a fashionable way for Georgian aristocrats to pass the time (one might even draw parallels with today’s well-heeled “wellness gurus” of Instagram).

    Just when I’ve decided this father-daughter bonding experiment has been a success, there are are a few hiccups. Particularly when my lack of woodland knowledge becomes all too apparent. My main blunder is momentarily equating soil humus with the chickpea dip commonly enjoyed with carrot sticks (Dad is not amused).

    “Are these magnolia buds?” I tentatively ask inspecting a tree, about to rattle off a recipe for magnolia petal cocktails…

    “No!” comes the abrupt reply, as if the mere suggestion was an offense to humanity.

    But by and large it’s a successful afternoon and a nice chance for us to spend time together. I hate to admit to having adopted an attitude of being “very busy and important” when the prospect of hanging out with parents presents itself. But spending time with them is what’s important, especially when I think back to visiting my granny, wishing I could have appreciated those weekends with her a bit more.

    As enlightening these musing are, as the hours press on, I revert from enthusiastic nature-lover, back to being a grumpy 8 year old, getting dragged by her well-meaning father on never-ending walks. I collapse on a nearby bench in a huff, while dad is forging on ahead, inspecting foxgloves growing on a nearby wall and

    showing no signs of slowing down. “Tired already?” he asks, clearly the same not being true of himself.  “I take it this route leads us back to the car?” I enquire, in-between puffs of breath as I catch up to him. Clearly, I need to up my fitness levels for next time.


  • Mathieu Nardin started working at Miller Harris after Lynn Harris departed in 2014 to establish the Vermeeresque Perfumer H in Marylebone.  I love the creamy insouciance of Rose Silence he composed for Miller Harris; now one of the brand’s best-selling fragrances and his Vetiver Insolent is a perceptive and succulent interpretation of an often-overworked material.

    It is a daunting task to succeed a revered perfumer; ask Christine Nagel at Hermès or Fredrik Dalman at Maison Mona Di Orio. But Mathieu has created elegantly different work with a signature of his own, focusing less on the mutability of life and painted romances of the mind and more on the properties and personalities of the materials themselves.

    His perfumery credentials are impeccable, a Grasse native whose childhood is fragranced with the odour of jasmine and rose harvests. After a BA in chemistry at Nice University and directional immersion in olfaction at the ISIPCA in Paris he returned to Grasse to work at Robertet.  I like Mathieu’s work; it has that Robertet polish and soft glow and demonstrates a beautiful awareness of natural materials.

    Now with the launch of Scherzo a scent Mathieu has created for Miller Harris, alongside Tender by Bertrand Duchaufour I sense a bold artistic surge in his artistic direction, reflected in the vibrant snapped green vs. gentle gourmand dynamic interpretation of a literary brief.

    Both perfumes are inspired by a passage from Tender Is The Night by Jazz Age melancholic F. Scott Fitzgerald. The recently appointed CEO of Miller Harris Sarah Rotheram is a voracious reader and whilst on holiday in summer 2016 was struck by a particular passage and it’s potential to enthuse and inspire perfumers. I was delighted to be given this opportunity to speak to Mathieu in New York where he is based with Robertet USA and ask him some questions about his work on Scherzo and Miller Harris.

    Q: Hello Mathieu.. you are a perfumer for Robertet, a Grasse-based company, but you are now working in their creative centre in New York. Can you tell me a little bit about what a typical working day might be like for you at Robertet? 

    A: Hello Alex.. yes I moved to New York to work with Robertet five years ago but I spend time travelling back and forth to France and Grasse in the south.  I am always working on a number of different projects so a typical day for me would be coming in early morning and smelling the samples I have prepared the night before. It is important to bring a fresh perspective to the process, like clean air. The nose overnight to morning will smell things differently. Before I leave, at the end of the day I allow myself some personal time, like creative playtime if you like, to explore new ideas. It is a way exercising my brain and senses.

    Q: You have perfume running through your veins. What was it like growing up in Grasse, breathing the floral air in the acknowledged historical heart of French perfumery?

    A: My grandmother is a producer of rose and jasmine in Grasse and this I think had an influence on my interest in becoming a perfumer. I find natural ingredients always captivating and inspiring. Growing up in Grasse you live in harmony with the world of fragrance and of the rhythm of nature: the blooming of the flowers, their harvest, and their extraction. I became fascinated by the journey of a material: from harvest to bottle. Flower harvests are back breaking work; huge quantities of flowers are needed to produce the oils and concrètes. Take the jasmine, it is more than the flower itself, it is the story and the work of so many people and expertise.

    Q: You have a chemistry degree and further training at the ISIPCA in Paris. When you are working on briefs, how aware are you of balancing creativity with immaculate technical skills?

    A: It’s all about the creativity for sure. The technical side must be invisible. You must be able be to adjust the technical aspects to achieve artistic effects but at the beginning, the idea, the concept; this must be focussed on the creativity. It is like a being a writer, having a huge palette of words, a complex lexicography to work with, but knowing how to translate ideas you have with the right words. It must appear effortless and flow with the creative style.

    Q: As a rose obsessive I am a huge fan of Rose Silence that you made for Miller Harris. It smells so creamy and white, somehow abandoned, like a tribute, damp with rain. And Vetiver Insolent is one of most refreshingly different takes on the iconic rooty grass. How would you describe the perfumes you have created for Miller Harris?

    A: My idea for Rose Silence was to create a different kind of rose scent for the market. A modern rose perfume that was sort of artisanal and very contemporary. As far as Vetiver Insolent is concerned, I wanted to create a textured wood with plenty of facets and touches of spice.

    Q: In an interview with the Perfume Society you said ‘…as a perfumer, when I read a book I can smell what I am reading – the sense of what the writer is describing.’ Now this is a very intriguing quote in light of your most recent work for Miller Harris, Scherzo, inspired by a specific passage from Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What did you think of being handed this passage as a perfume brief?

    A: This was very unique, this brief, the passage from Tender Is The Night. Normally I might be given images, words maybe some music etc. But this passage was very vividly described; the tulips, pink clouds of peonies, sugar flowers and mauve roses. I was already familiar with the book and it was very important to imprint on the fragrance the mood of the entire novel. Tender Is The Night is set in the south of France, on the French Riviera; there are incredible descriptions of the sea, sun and heat. In my mind I created my own colours and palette for this book and for its characters in order to fill in the background for Scherzo.

    Q: I must admit to a sweet tooth in scent, it’s a guilty pleasure, a throwback to my obsession with Mugler’s Angel when it first appeared.  Scherzo, for me has an odour of empty cake boxes with traces of sugar, shattered sugar roses, pollen and petals. How did you balance sweetness in Scherzo and still maintain a sense of floral bouquet and fresh greenery?

    A: Indeed, there is a gourmand aspect to Scherzo, which plays in contrast to the green floralcy of the composition.  Something to make it pop. Like a painter playing with colours, laying down contrasting tones side by side on a canvas.

    Q: I’m intrigued by your use of Pittosporum in Scherzo; it is not exactly a common perfumery material. Can you tell me a little bit more about it and why you chose to use it?

    A: Yes of course…it is a little unusual.  Pittosporum is a super-strong, spicy sweet bloom that can be found as hedges in the south of France. The scent as you pass by is hypnotic, an intoxicating mix of orange flower and jasmine.  In my reading of Tender Is The Night I could smell this in the air, in night scenes, dinner parties outside. It was very vivid for me.

    Q: As we are discussing a literary work, do you find time to read Mathieu amid your schedule?

    A: I like to read; I try to read a book a week if I can, even if finding time is sometimes difficult.  My favourite time for reading is actually in the morning; I like to wake up and read for an hour, this is a good quiet time before I start my day.

    Q: And connected to the above, is there a book you think you would be an amazing inspiration for a scent?

    A: Hmm. This is a difficult question. Perhaps À Rebours*, the book by Huysmans. It is full of decadent and sensual descriptive passages, including some on perfume.

     

    Mathieu, thank you so much for talking to me today, I really appreciate you taking time out from a busy day to sharing some inside perfume thoughts and inspirations on fragrance creation.

    Foxy.

     

    *Sometimes translated as Against Nature in English

    Miller Harris Interview Intro & Questions, February 2018


  • We sat down with Christopher Sharpe, Copywriter at Jones Knowles Ritchie and one of the creatives helping Miller Harris with the design of our two new perfumes Scherzo and Tender.

    Q: What do you do and what does a typical day look like?
    A: I’m a writer in the Brand Voice department at Jones Knowles Ritchie. Which basically means I think about and then write for brands.

    Q: What inspired you to join the creative industry?
    A: Inspired might be romanticising my abilities a tad. Like all the best things in life, I stumbled into it. I’d dipped my toe into journalism, publishing and radio but hadn’t yet found the thing thatscratched every creative itch. Discovering a design agency would be the answer to that kind of blew my mind. One day you’re exploring an “un-get-at-able” island off the coast of Scotland, the
    next you’re designing an app, and, if you’re really lucky, one day you might get to bring the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald to life. I might have stumbled in, but the eclectic nature of the job is what’s bolted the door behind me.

    Q: What do you most love about your job?
    A: I love that the nature of the work forces me to become a mini-expert in whatever I’m writing about that day. It keeps me curious. Getting to solve that smorgasbord of challenges in collaboration with a bunch of similarly curious, but cleverer and more creative people is the cherry-on-top.


    Q: Talk us through the creative process for Tender and Scherzo - how did you take inspiration from the fragrance and book to approach the copy?
    A: Sarah came to us like a force of nature, full of infectious enthusiasm for Tender Is The Night, the ‘Scherzo’ passage, and the potential it held for fragrance. Straight out of that meeting, I nicked our copy of the book and set to work, reading it cover-to-cover. Since Fitzgerald had already done all the writing for me, I saw my job as being an interpreter for the design team, pulling out the various themes, motifs and resonant fragments of language and translating them into fuel for the visual world they needed to create.

    Q: What do you like most about the Tender & Scherzo branding?
    A: When you start to slide open the box and it feels as though you’re smearing the paint. I love it, because it captures one of the key themes of the book – our inability to hold onto our picture perfect idea of the past. For the characters in the novel that beautiful veneer fades, distorts and melts away, so to bring something that abstract to life in a piece of packaging is pretty special.

    Q: Why do you like working on Miller Harris?
    A: The team behind Miller Harris are fearless. So each brief feels less like a checklist of requirements and more like a collaborative art project, an approach which frees us to let our imaginations run wild.

    A lot of brands talk the talk when it comes to being storytellers. Miller Harris is actually following through. Its fragrances have always been rich with inspiration and memories - now it’s creating experiences around them that aspire to be even richer.
    Q: Do you wear fragrance?
    A: Fragrance for me is less a daily ritual and more a rare treat. Which means when I’ve got the time – and the opportunity – to indulge, it feels really special, like a heightened version of myself. It’s what I imagine wearing ceremonial dress - or putting on a suit of armour - must feel like.
    Q: What does fragrance mean to you? Does it unlock any memories?
    A: I couldn’t put my finger on a specific fragrance that unlocks a memory for me. But conveniently enough, the smell I love most is the smell of books. Fresh as newly cut grass, borrowed from a friend or a stranger with notes in the margins or weird stains, or covered in dust in some old study or bookshop. They’re magic.

    Q: This fragrance was inspired by the book Tender is the Night, do you have a favourite book?
    A: Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion.

    Q: Is there a book they would love to bring to life via design?
    A: Something epic – Moby Dick maybe, or The Waste Land, if a poem isn’t cheating.


  • We sat down with Connor Davey, Senior Designer at Jones Knowles Ritchie and one of the creatives helping Miller Harris with the design of our two new perfumes Scherzo and Tender.

    Q: What do you do and what does a typical day look like?
    A: I’m a graphic designer at Jones Knowles Ritchie. We specialise in unlocking the charisma within a brand. My typical day could involve working on anything from a fragrance to a food brand.

    Q: What inspired you to join the creative industry?
    A: In school I was always the ‘arty’ kid. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. In school I’d sketch in the back of my science book during lessons and skip gym classes to paint. It was pretty inevitable that I’d end up in the creative industry.

    Q: What do you most love about your job?
    A:At Jones Knowles Ritchie I get to work on a varied range of projects that constantly push my creativity across big, medium and small sized brands. It’s a great thing when you get paid to do what you love.

    Q: Talk us through the creative process for Tender and Scherzo - how did you takeinspiration from the fragrance and book to approach the design?
    A: Working alongside our copywriter to dissect the book, there were reoccurring themes and tensions that really resonated with us. Love and loss. Vibrancy and darkness. Beauty and violence. Pairing these themes with some killer quotes from the book inspired a range of designs. The chosen design captures that breaking point between the past and the future that’s both beautifully kaleidoscopic and painfully fragile with a vibrant rose, bursting into life and
    melting away all at once.

    Q: What do you like most about the Tender & Scherzo branding?
    A: It was interesting to see how the same extract was interpreted by a perfumer, a designer, an animator and a florist, and then all brought together as part of the multi-sensorial launch event.

    Q: Why do you like working on Miller Harris?
    A: The design for Scherzo & Tender disrupts everything you might expect from a luxury fragrance brand. It’s beautifully archaic. That’s what makes working with the Miller Harris team so refreshing. We can tell compelling stories with more than just the pack, it’s the whole experience, where our creativity as designers can be let loose.

    Q: Do you wear fragrance?
    A: I tend to wear different fragrances depending on my mood or the occasion. My preference is usually for something Oudy.

    Q: What does fragrance mean to you? Does it unlock any memories?
    A: Specific fragrances for me bring back vivid memories of a certain moment or location. I can smell a fragrance and be instantly transported back to an exotic holiday or a childhood day out. That’s what makes fragrance so personal to each person.

    Q: This fragrance was inspired by the book Tender is the Night, do you have a favourite book?
    A: I’m more a visual book kind of person. Fashion books, artists collections, that kind of thing.

    Q: Is there a book they would love to bring to life via design?
    A: Perhaps something decadent. Gatsby-esque. That would be great.


  • The Fox has been a huge admirer of Bertrand Duchaufour for many years; I have reviewed a number of his perfumes I consider to be truly exceptional; Séville À L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur, the carnal scent of liaison and sin that Bertrand created in collaboration with Denyse Beaulieu, author of The Perfume Lover.  And Vanille Absolument, a narcissus-soaked vanilla like no other and my signature scent for many years, each batch different, dependent on tonka bean and vanilla harvests. I have fifteen empty bottles in my study, half a bottle on the go and two full back ups.

    Cuir de Nacre he created for Parisian jeweller Ann Gérard is a masterpiece of sueded iris, rooty and cold, but spellbinding in its delicacy and hush. Rose Cut, also for Ann, is Bertand’s boozy exploded rose, petals dripping in raspberry and rum, thorns and red wine rolling in a cut crystal glass.  Or de Sérail for Naomi Goodsir, boozy 1697 for Frapin gardenia and tomato leaf in Gardez-Moi by Jovoy, weird water and incense weirdness in Copal Azur for Aedes de Venustas…all exceptional.

    In my Foxy opinion Ostara was the best fragrance produced by British heritage house Penhaligon’s in recent years, an outstanding narcissus scent Bertrand created to portray the life cycle of the daffodil from bulb to bloom.  It was while Bertrand was creating the majority of L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrances out of this Paris lab that he met Sarah Rotheram who was CEO of Penhaligon’s at the time and then later on of L’Artisan Parfumeur as well. A firm friendship was formed, based on mutual respect, olfaction and instinctive interpretation of ideas.  As she says, ‘He just gets me.’

    2017. Sarah is now CEO at Miller Harris and looking to re-invent the reputation of the brand since the departure of founder Lynn Harris, to bring the catalogue of existing scents into a more creative and intriguing environment. Alongside this will of course be new perfumes, different in style and olfactive emotion. I wasn’t really surprised when Sarah decided to use Bertrand as one of the perfumers for her debut perfumes. It made sense, both artistically for Miller Harris and for her personally. I knew she was bursting with ideas for perfumes and at one point I thought seriously she might launch her own line. Sarah has also learnt an enormous amount from Bertrand about the technicalities of perfume, how to decode mods, provide feedback etc. She is also self-taught, working hard to be at point where she is now where she can commission work from master perfumers like Bertrand Duchaufour and have a professional and artistic dialogue that results in extraordinary work.

    On holiday in 2016 while reading Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sarah came across a passage she knew could be a great inspiration for a perfume.  So this passage, a piece about the hypnotic power of flowers coalescing into a scherzo of intense hue, was sent as a brief to a selection of perfumers. There would be two eventually, Tender and Scherzo. The brief produced an array of responses that Sarah and the Miller Harris team whittled down to Bertrand’s cunningly imagined ink-black tulip in Tender and the green-gourmand roses of Scherzo by Mathieu Nardin.

    I met Bertrand many years ago when he made the journey to Edinburgh to help launch some fragrances.  He was a resolutely kind and generous man with his time; sharing his knowledge in careful precisely measured ways. We had dinner at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society and beforehand he was nosing some of the barrel-aged whiskies exclusive to the Society. He didn’t drink, just nosed, fascinated by the vapours and mysteries of Scottish terroir distilled in the aromas. It is this ability to be unexpected that makes me such a Duchaufour devotee, so I am very happy to be able to interview him and ask some Foxy questions. He kindly agreed to Facetime me from Paris.

    Q: Morning Bertrand! It is really great to see you. I have known you and reviewed your work for my blog since it started. It is your intricate and artistic evocation of place and condition that I admire so much. Your perfumes for L’Artisan Parfumeur and Parisian jeweller Ann Gerard are among some of my favourite scents I return to over and over again. As a successful independent perfumer what makes you to work with a particular brand or director?

    A: Hello Alex. It is really good to see you too. You know, when I start to work with people I have to have a good connection with them; Anne Gerard was a friend and I learned to really appreciate what Sarah* was doing first at L’Artisan Parfumeur, then at Penhaligon’s. Any idea has to be original, it has to chime with me. It is important to me that the people I work with share a similar aesthetic sense in order for me to have a clear full dialogue with them.

    Q: What do you enjoy about the collaborative process?

    A: You know, for me it is about the appreciation of things on the same level, talking a similar aesthetic language, a shared expression of art and design. There must be an exciting consideration of one name, one shape, one idea, one design. Everyone working towards the same goal. This is what I find interesting.

    Q: When your nose is your livelihood, how do you maintain a dedicated and consistent interest in scent?

    A: Every time it is about … I want to do something new. It is this want that keeps me motivated.  What can I do that has not been done before? It is easy to say but harder to do. I like to evolve my ideas independently of the market; Alex.. you know a lot about what is happening, the names, launches. I prefer a little distance. It allows me to connect to my own ideas untroubled by what is going on, that way I am less distracted. I always have several streams I am working with, perhaps 15-20 fragrances. In order for them to evolve, whether they are eventually interesting or not, I need to work like this.

    Q: You are well known for your love of art; particularly African tribal art. I obviously have my own opinions about perfumery as art, but I was wondering what your thoughts were? Can we truthfully elevate the creation of scent to that of says painting or sculpture? Or is it similar to the haute craft of couture?

    A: Listen, I think perfume can be amazingly sophisticated and this is mostly due to the level of natural ingredients they contain; these increase the complexity of the formula, but a fragrance must also be able to breathe and vibrate, be voluminous and well balanced. But consumers now, they still cannot really recognise how sophisticated or indeed basic a fragrance is. Perfume is still a cryptic world and I think personally we still need a long time before perfumes can be considered as art in the same way as painting, sculpture or photography.

    Q: Now, I am loving Tender, the new perfume you have created and one half of a beautiful new duo of perfumes from Miller Harris, inspired by Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Can you tell us how you responded to the literary brief and was it different from how you normally work?

    A: Sarah talked to me early on about this idea she had for a fragrance for Miller Harris and I received from her the text from the book, some images of flowers etc. A simple interpretation in some ways but very interesting. And I had this idea of the black tulip as a main theme straight away. This is how I like to work with everything.

     Q: In the passage that Sarah used as a perfume brief from Tender is the Night black tulips are mentioned and now listed as an accord in the Miller Harris fragrance notes for Tender. I’m quite obsessed with this effect you have achieved. It smells very original to me.  If you don’t mind sharing perfume secrets, how did you achieve this?

    A: With Tender, I knew right away I wanted this black tulip note. As soon as Sarah got in touch with the brief and I read the words I knew this is what I wanted to do.  It was in my head for over a year. As I said earlier, I like to do something innovative. In Tender I was crossing a floral green tulip note into black to give this black tulip from the passage. It is a mix of south of France fresh green floral effects and suggesting the black ink of the book type.

    Q: Now…this is a question you might not want to answer but people are always interested. Do you have favourites among the perfumes you have created?

    A: Yes. I do actually. Because it was a challenge and for personal reasons…Nuit de Tubéreuse that I made for L’Artisan Parfumeur. Because it I wanted to do something interesting and different with tuberose, focus on the green part, not the white fleshy flowers that everyone else usually looks at.  It is not perfect, but it is unique and still now young perfumers come to me and ask how I did this fragrance.  The other one is Eau D’Italie, the original fragrance I made for the Hotel Sirenuse**. This is very unique, with a clay accord that in fact I gave to Jean-Claude Ellena to use in his Terre D’Hermès. The clay is the foundation of the island and the other parts represented by classic citrus notes and aromatics like basil. There is a solar accord in there as well. It was an alien perfume, ahead of its time.  Now it would be accepted, but I guess not so different.

    Q: Why do you think people are so fascinated by perfume?

    A: It is emotionally charged, an instinctual thing, directly linked to the paleo-cortex; completely impactful on our emotions.

    Q: What is your favourite material to work with?

    A: Oooft. This is a hard question, there are so many. (Foxy… ‘okay… give me three then..). Ok. Iris of course. And vetiver, I love the complexity of this material. Davana. Oh and patchouli. I LOVE patchouli. Four then….

    Q: So much is written about the different styles of individual perfumers; how would you describe the Duchaufour signature?

    A: A signature? All about sophistication and as I said earlier, this comes from the use of natural materials.  I like to think of my work like books, the layers of scent like pages turning.

    Q: As this is perhaps a more literary themed interview, do you have a favourite author or novel Bertrand?

    A: I love the writing of Julio Cortàzor, his work is something very special to read. In fact I love Latin American authors, Allende, Marquez, these themes of magic realism, full of beautiful words and huge imagination.

    Q: And connected to the above, is there a book you think you would be amazing inspiration for a scent?

    A: I would choose two books. Rouge Brésil by Jean-Christophe Ruffin, an amazing book about the discovery of Brazil and the first colonisations by the Portuguese and French in the sixteenth century. It is an ode to all the senses, some unique olfactive descriptions of a very new world. The other one is Corrag by Susan Fletcher. Corrag is a young wandering herbalist and healer in Scotland but considered a witch by the ignorant English like her mother who was burned at the stake when Corrag was a child. The book is a dialogue between her and an Irish Jacobite whilst she awaits trail and probable death after being captured  helping the sick in the aftermath of the Glencoe Massacre. An incredible book.

    Q: Finally, what keeps you motivated, going forward?

    A: Innovation. Wanting to do something new each time. This is what keeps me so enthusiastic. We have access to over 5000 chemicals, naturals, a more limited selection perhaps 200; really you can do anything your imagination can support.

     

    This has been such a pleasure, thank you Bertrand for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend time with me, answering my questions. I look forward to seeing you again soon.

    Foxy.

     

    *Sarah Rotheram, current CEO of Miller Harris, was previously CEO of L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s.

    *The Hotel Sirenuse is on the Amalfi coast and owned privately by the Sersale family. The daughter Marina created a skincare and fragrance line called Eau D’Italie, reflective of the local terroir, collaborating with Bertrand on the perfumes.


  • Over the past few months here at Miller Harris we have had the pleasure to collaborate with some extremely talented partners. One of these partners was the extraordinary Claire Gourlay from Honeysuckle & Hilda. We sat down with Claire to find out more about herself and our partnership.

    Q: Hi Claire, please can you introduce yourself and Honeysuckle & Hilda?

    A: I would describe myself as an environmentally aware floral designer with a spontaneous and asymmetrical style. I have a strong focus on wild, natural flowers with lots of textures, and try to ensure my work reflects the outdoors at its untamed best. Hilda, my sidekick, is a tiny brown Schnauzer who enjoys foraging in hedgerows, playing in the cutting garden and modelling next to the finished arrangements when I”m photographing them. It’s the perfect partnership, though she’s definitely in charge! We recently moved from London to a tiny village in the Chilterns and we’re loving the fresh air and open space, though we can still get back to London quite quickly for work, so it’s been a great move, and we’re loving exploring Oxford too.

    Q: Have you always been a florist?

    A: I didn’t grow up surrounded my flowers or nature and only recently became a florist, though I had dreamt of being one since the early 2000s, when I moved to East London just to be closer to the flower markets and practice at the weekends. It wasn’t until mid 2016 that I finally took the plunge and decided to invest all my redundancy money in travelling to some of the world’s most admired designers to study with them and helping out on other florists’ weddings to get a better feel for how it all worked. Last year I began teaching, styling and doing my own weddings and I haven’t stopped flowering since.

    Q: Where did your passion for floristry and nature come from?

    A: I’ve always loved flowers, but I think I really started to appreciate nature properly when Hilda came into our lives four years ago. Long walks through woods, across heaths, along canals and beside hedgerows really drew my attention to all the flowers and foliage we encountered. On one of these walks, a chance encounter with a passionate environmentalist led to a spirited campaign and a trip to Parliament to argue the case against the herbicides that are destroying our bee population and putting human health at risk. From there, discussions on nature, daily foraging and incessant flowery chat - plus the wonderful teaching of many and various florists and designers- led to the creation of Honeysuckle and Hilda.

    Q: You create beautiful floral photography. Is there anything that sparked this passion for the visual arts?

    A: That’s so kind, thank you. I studied History of Art as a postgraduate and my attention was captured by an exhibition of Dutch Flower Painting in Dulwich in the late 1990s. At the time no one was really talking about them and they were considered deeply unfashionable but I was enthralled. Of course, the world has come to its senses since then and now all we florists draw so much inspiration from them. I’ve also spent many hours in the Wallace Collection admiring the Rococo works of Fragonard and Boucher and then later French artists including one of my very favourites, Odilon Redon.  These days one doesn’t have to go to a gallery for inspiration as there are so many resources on social media - Pinterest and Instagram have been real game changers in that respect - although I still like to whenever I can.

    Q: We have had the pleasure here at Miller Harris to collaborate with you on multiple occasions. Why do you feel Honeysuckle & Hilda and Miller Harris are such great partners?

    A: I’ve obviously really enjoyed the creative side of producing images from Miller Harris - at a very basic level we both work with flowers and so the floral crossover is a great starting point. You are also a brand I’ve known and enjoyed using for many years, so to have been asked by you to collaborate on these objects has been a real honour. However, I think the thing that for me makes us ideal partners is the shared ideals in respect of how our products are sourced and created. I’ve had to give up using many brands over the years when I have discovered that they have been testing on animals - the fact that Miller Harris doesn’t and that you use natural, vegan ingredients is a really big plus point for me, both as a consumer and a collaborator.

    Q: Our brands are both very strongly focused on the environment. Is this an important quality of any partners you work with?

    A: Yes, there is a strong environmental ethic in what I’m trying to do. Floristry is, by its very nature, to some extent wasteful, but, even as a passionate consumer of flowers, I want to try and leave as small a footprint as possible. Just as I am trying to reflect nature in the fluid, organic shapes that I produce, I also want to respect it in the processes that I use. The fact that Miller Harris’s ideals align so strongly with mine is an important reason for me to want to work with you.

    Q: Most recently you have created floral interpretations of our two latest perfumes Scherzo & Tender. What do you think of these new scents?

    A: I really love both Scherzo and Tender and think they’re very different to what Miller Harris have been doing before. Whilst I also love the original ones which state clearly the key floral note/ main ingredients - your Noix de Tubeureuse was the first Miller Harris scent I ever used and I still adore it to this day - these two new perfumes seem to me have a greater complexity to them and I love that you have asked two well known perfume “authors” to interpret a passage from a book rather than setting a more traditional brief. Of course, I’m a florist not a perfumer, so I could be talking utter nonsense, but that’s how it seems to me.

    Q: Which one is your favourite? Scherzo or Tender?

    A: I think both of them are wonderful and haven’t been swayed by comments from friends that I don’t need to keep both now that I’ve finished photographing my images! However, at a push I’d go for Tender. It has a slightly spicier smell to it, which I really love, especially in this colder weather. But then again, on a warmer day am I more likely to go for Scherzo….? Lucky for me that I have both.

    Q: Finally, how is little Hilda doing? Here at Miller Harris we absolutely adore her!

    A: Hilda is very well, thank you, and is tucked up beside me at the moment, trying to avoid a walk in this stormy weather. When I first heard from Miller Harris, I was at the very early stages of my career and was surprised and flattered to have been asked, until I was told that your CEO was a big fan of my little brown dog on Instagram… and then it made sense. Seriously, though, she has had a wonderful time modelling next to your perfumes and having rose petals thrown at her in the name of fashion. Being the focus of so much attention in a professional studio when shooting for your Christmas Hats campaign was the perfect day out for her. She says thank you very much to Sarah for the treats.

    To read more about Honeysuckle & Hilda and see all her amazing work visit her website here.


  • For the launch event of our two new perfumes Scherzo & Tender back in September of 2017 we had to pleasure to work with Michael Isted from The Herball who worked on a culinary interpretation of our new scents. We sat down with Michael to find out more about The Herball and about this partnership.

    Q: Firstly, would you be able to introduce yourself and The Herball? What is your background and what drew you to botanicals?

    A: I’m Michael Isted, I started The Herball in 2013, I wanted to create a platform in which I could show people how to connect and integrate the nature that surrounds them into their lives in quite contemporary and exciting ways. I’ve worked in food & beverage pretty much my whole life and was always interested in the healing power of plants, I gave up the day job and studied nutrition, then did a BsC in Herbal Medicine and set up The Herball whilst I was studying.

    Q: For the launch of Scherzo and Tender you created two bespoke cocktails inspired by the perfumes. Could you talk us through the process of creating these?

    A: So we worked through the individual scents / perfumes used for each perfume and looked at flavours / plants that would compliment these fragrances, we make fragrances too the art of creating a serve is very much like constructing a perfume.  We also read Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald, its beautifully poetic about the plants and gardens and was a huge inspiration for the scent and the the accompaneing serves.

    Q: You also created canapés for our launch. Did you follow the same process for these?

    A: Our friend & colleague Justin Horne created the canapés, it was similar process yes but with more direct link to the drinks.

    Q: Mixology and perfumery, in a way, are very similar – Would you agree?

    A: As mentioned above yes there is a very similar skill, although I wish more bartenders and perfume makers would spend a little more time understanding their ingredients a little better in their natural environment.

    Q: You seem to be very passionate about working with local herbs and products. Why do you have this passion?

    A: I love working with local products but I’m also a big fan of the more exotic spices, resins, flowers and herbs, nature and perfume is a form of time travel, these plants can take you to some very interesting places, past, present, future, parallell….The local herbs are a great way of understanding your local environment on a deeper level, its also a great form of grounding in a particular environment, time or place.

    Q: Do you just focus on British botanicals and herbs or do you also go exploring for new materials when you travel?

    A: Always exploring and working with new & older materials, got a thing for palms right now, I’m educating myself around the edible and non edible palms of the world...

    Q: You talk about finding elements for your creations in urban spaces. Is this urban aspect important for your work?

    A: Sure is, its key for health and happiness that even in your urban environments you have access to nature, wherever you are you will have access even if it is only small tree or park. Nature is dynamic, strong, adaptable and exists in the most hostile environments. Nature acts as a portal, the plants can open up more expansive environments even in our cities, get out there you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    Q: What inspires you when creating your products?

    A: Nature itself, the plants teach me so much and then studying the effect these plants have on people is also super interesting and what plants people are attracted too and vice versa. Like scent its so interesting which perfumes / fragrances attract who and why….

    Q: You have worked with a number of really interesting brands. Is the identity of these brands important to you?

    A: Yes it is and also the creative people and the people who represent these brands, its about building a community, grass roots, a mycelial network or friends from all identities, so we work with tiny brands, individuals, large corporates, everyone, we all share the common interest of wanting to be closer or to work with nature in some way.

    Q: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Is there any “love potions” you would recommend?

    A: Yes I have a few recipes, which can be found in my book, which comes out in February. Find the book on Amazon.


  • Twelve years ago, Jane Birkin collaborated with Miller Harris to create a fragrance that evokes her eternally cool spirit. Jane Birkin's other brand collaboration with Hermès, produced the iconic Birkin bag, the value of which has increased at a faster rate than gold.

    Jane Birkin spent years searching for a scent to match her distinct and nonchalant style and conscious of our sense of smell's powerful link to memory, Jane wanted to blend a perfume reminiscent of a past affair, one that conjured an aura of familiarity, so she could feel her great love near her always.

    In an article titled "How to smell like Jane Birkin" in British Vogue, Jane explained that "A fragrance should be something suggestive, a memory ... A smell that is not the one of many women overpowering the lift! That is what I love about L'Air de Rien", she told us "My favourite smells are [her brother] Andrew's smell, bookcases, Turkish spice markets… Too much musk and too much ambergris. Memories."

    Tunisian neroli, amber, Indonesian vanilla, oak moss and a musk make for a light fragrance, worn like a thin veil over the skin, that lends an air of mysterious sensuality to its wearer. The English translation of L’Air de Rien is nonchalantly – this fragrance reflects its cool creator’s spirit perfectly.

    Our customers love L'Air de Rien.  Here are a couple of reviews we've recently received:

    "Daring, sensuous, standing out fragrance, encouraging you to step outside of your comfort zone. Perfect for a rainy day to give you a punch" Irene, Derby

    "Since finding this fragrance a few years ago I wear nothing else, it's captivating, unusual and unique. Please never discontinue it! I'm on my third bottle of the fragrance and have bought numerous candles too, would recommend" Laura, Swansea

    12 years on we are still as excited to be working together with such an iconic collaborator.

    Discover L'Air de Rien here.

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