In anticipation of the upcoming 8th World Perfumery Congress in Cannes, France (June 6–9), P&Fnow is talking to industry experts presenting at the event. Here, P&Fnow chats with Lyn Harris, founder and perfumer for Miller Harris, who will speak at the WPC about being an independent perfumer in a global world.
P&Fnow: In your opinion, where does the fragrance industry stand in 2007?
Harris: This is a very exciting time because there are so many sectors within the industry. There is, of course, the luxury/niche sector that endeavors to retain traditions whilst bringing back the glamour and sense of chic to perfumery. Brands in this category are constantly evolving and seeking to reinvent traditional perfumery with a modern twist. Then there is the commercial sector, which today is very much dominated by celebrity fragrances. This trend is very much indicative of how society currently places great importance on the notion of celebrity. Such fragrances play an important role in the industry because they represent the needs of the customer. Ultimately, this is the most important thing—the industry has an obligation to answer and fulfill these needs.
P&Fnow: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the fragrance industry today?
Harris: When it comes to natural ingredients, I feel that we have come full circle. Naturals have become such an important trend again because they represent quality. Personally, I could not fulfill my work nor express my creativity without such materials.
On the subject of regulations concerning the naturals, it is, of course, very important to be thoroughly compliant (everything I do is approved by IFRA). However, being an independent perfumer enables me to have the freedom to make important decisions regarding raw materials without having to compromise on my own beliefs. On the other hand, some larger companies tend to avoid such issues altogether by opting not to work with the more contentious ingredients available in perfumery today.
In today’s market, there are no set rules or codes; all manner of creations are launched. This can only be for the better as it offers customers boundless opportunities to express themselves with scent.
P&Fnow: What will make your company successful moving forward?
Harris: Sticking to my beliefs. My company’s philosophy is rooted in the quality of our products, never compromising on ingredients, respecting tradition yet remaining at the cutting edge of creativity. I also firmly believe in remaining true to my roots as a young creator. In addition, I am always building on the bespoke element of the brand that I pioneered 15 years ago from my laboratory. It is the foundation stone of Miller Harris. It is a way in which I continue to evolve, to build the brand and also perfect my art. Working so closely with my customers, it allows me to constantly be challenged as a perfumer.
The Miller Harris fragrances are stories of a perfumer’s life and dream that I want to share with my customers. They can be as simple as sharing my love of a raw material (i.e., geranium Bourbon) or a story of a journey to a temple in Kyoto where I smelled the real smell of wood for the very first time, resulting in the creation of En Sens de Bois. Life is a journey and I have the added pleasure of being able to share mine through a brand to which I am dedicated.
P&Fnow: What do you like most about working in the fragrance industry?
Harris: I love the fact that it has the feel of a small industry, steeped in history, yet constantly evolving. For me, I love the romance of Grasse [France] and my fragrance house, Robertet, where on one level time has stood still for 150 years. It’s magical seeing every stage of the process from the crop being delivered to the end product in the lab.
I also enjoy the fact that perfumery is changing and evolving every day due to an ever-growing demand. Today, fragrance is an essential luxury.
In addition, it is a fascinating subject. The advancement in sourcing and technology, such as headspace, enables the perfumer to have access to more raw materials. This is essential for continued creativity and for the industry to move forward. That said, at the end of the day, I can’t get away from simple ingredients such as rose oil from Turkey, vanillin or coumarin. They were the first synthetics used in classic fragrances, such as Jicky (Guerlain), over 100 years ago. It is this balance of tradition and innovation that makes perfumery so interesting and enjoyable.