Although a self-confessed tomboy as a child, perfumer Lyn Harris traces the origins of her current profession back to those days.
The power of fragrance
Lyn Harris, a perfumer for Miller Harris, on the smells that make her smile. Growing up I was definitely a tomboy. My father secretly wished I was a boy. I didn't wear pretty dresses even though I had them. I was more comfortable in trousers and trainers. I was always running around, and I loved being outside. I always wanted to be in the garden. My mother was an artist, but she suppressed that side of herself to focus on looking after us. A lot of my creativity comes from my grandparents. I used to go and stay with them in Scotland, where they lived self-sufficiently. Not a day goes by when I don't think of how they lived. They grew absolutely everything, and got their meat from the farmer next door. They seemed to grow every vegetable and fruit imaginable. I distinctly remember lying in bed at their house, breathing in the smell of the fire, the homemade bread and the homemade jam. My grandmother never stopped.
My grandfather was a carpenter, and I used to go into his workshop and smell the wood too - I just loved it. It was like a little paradise for me and my sister. Every part of the house had a beautiful, natural smell. My grandmother also grew flowers and herbs in the garden by the river, and there were horses next door that we used to ride on. I remember the summers being really hot. Perhaps that is just nostalgia making the wilds of Scotland so perfect that every day was filled with sunshine, but it can't have been. It just can't have been!
My parents used to go to France a lot. They are complete Francophiles and they have a house there. They would always go to Paris and come back with beautiful fragrances; my mum just loved perfume, especially Chanel No 5 which smelt so amazing on her. The first perfume I loved was Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, and I loved my father's Vetiver, the original Guerlain. I never used to wear it, I just loved smelling it on him.
I am often wearing something I have newly created or am perfecting, but I do still wear Eau Sauvage. I also like Jicky by Guerlain because it's a really interesting and original fragrance. I also really like Chanel No 19. It is a very French thing to spray perfume on the back of the knees. Behind the ears as well, then when you lean in to greet someone, the first thing they notice about you is your fragrance. Spending time in France educated me to no end, and taught me such a lot about style.
English people are more quirky and a little more adventurous than the French. French style is more classic and precise. I remember when I first met my partner, he thought I was so quirky. He would be quite shocked, but now he knows what I am like. When I was studying in Paris I used to sit in cafes and watch the world go by - watching French people was always such fun. I will never forget sitting in a cafe once when a man took his coat off. His suit was bespoke and he looked so slick. He took off his coat and this beautiful smell just came from nowhere, and it completely got me. He had obviously sprayed the lining of his coat, which is a really nice, subtle thing for a man to do.
It was very important to me that when I went to study in Paris I was taught by a female perfumer. There is something very beautiful in a man creating a fragrance, in the same way that Yves Saint Laurent knows how to dress a woman, but there is something extraordinary about how a woman understands. In northern Europe, they are beginning to appreciate the fragrances of the Middle East because they are very sensual and evocative. The Arabs were the first to really understand perfume, because a lot of the raw materials, the flowers, myrrh, oud, and cedar, come from this region. These make for confident fragrances, which is so important. Fragrances are so important.
Miller Harris products are available from Harvey Nichols or at www.millerharris.com.