I'm reliably informed that mere hours before its official opening, a few sections of Harrods' Salon De Parfums didn't even have a floor yet. Well, someone must have worked their socks off right through the night, because the newly-created space at the very top of the store looked nothing short of stunning when I popped in for a wander a few days after it commenced trading. In the UK, nowhere does bling quite like Harrods, so even though the Salon's marble floors and crystal chandeliers would probably seem penny-pinchingly restrained in Dubai, here in London, they scream extravagance.
Much like Shoe Heaven on the 5th floor, the Salon is based on a 'shops-within-a-shop' concept: it essentially consists of a single, long corridor, with several mini-boutiques coming off one side. Rather than insisting on a uniform aesthetic, The Powers That Be at the Green Palace permitted the various enclosures to look completely different from each other, so as to allow each brand's identity to come through. Guerlain's is an Aladdin's cave of bee bottles. Dior's is festooned with thousands of paper flowers (although I'm told this is may be a temporary arrangement). And Chanel's is a characteristically elegant (but overly safe?) tri-chromatic affair, awash with whites, beiges and golds.
Equally worthy of mention - as far as design goes - is the space devoted to Henry Jacques, a French brand making its worldwide retail debut (until now, it has operated solely on private commissions). At first glance, its boutique appears to be composed of nothing more than wood panels, à la dour Victorian pub. But engage the Sales Assistant in a conversation, and you'll soon discover that behind each seemingly solid wall is an array of shelves, cabinets and drawers which slide up, down and sideways to reveal all manner of jewel-encrusted bottles. Suddenly, the pub has turned into a TARDIS. Whilst you're there, take the time to sniff the Oudh Imperial oil. At £890 for 15 ml, it isn't exactly a stocking-filler, but at least it serves as a useful reminder of what proper agar wood oil is supposed to smell like.
Those of you who feared for the continued existence of the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie needn't have worried: it takes pride of place right by the entrance to the Salon, reassuringly familiar with its piano black counters, polished mirrors and Lalique figurines. Of course, the HP now devotes even more space to Dove's own Roja Parfums range and it no longer stocks the brands which have their own boutiques in the Salon (eg Tom Ford, Clive Christian, Xerjoff) but it continues to sell the likes of Grossmith, Puredistance, Profumum Roma and MDCI, so it remains a must-see destination.
Visual aesthetics aside, there are some who will justifiably complain that the Salon represents not what's best about modern perfumery, but what's most expensive. I have considerable sympathy with this view. Personally, I wouldn't have minded one jot if whoever had curated the place had decided not to showcase Clive Christian, Creed, Bond No 9 or Kilian. Although I remain open-minded about their future output, at the moment, I have little time for these brands' insistence on pushing a hollow, 'style over substance' agenda. However, they do have their fans, and if their presence is the price we have to pay for the inclusion of the other perfume houses, then so be it. Besides, they're very easy to avoid as you saunter across from one boutique to the next.
Reservations aside, I'm happy to declare the Salon De Parfums a success. It's opulent without being intimidating. Its size is manageable. And it seems to be populated with friendly, characterful Sales Assistants. So even though many of us may not end up shopping there on a regular basis, it is a beautiful place in which to kill some time and it's certainly a welcome addition to London's perfume shopping map.
[The Salon De Parfums is on the 6th floor of Harrods. The easiest way to access it is to use the escalators by door number 3. At the time of writing, the following brands have their own boutiques at the Salon (in alphabetical order): Bond No 9, Chanel, Clive Christian, Creed, Dior, Guerlain, Henry Jacques, Kilian, Roja Parfums, Tom Ford, Xerjoff. In addition to these boutiques, the Salon stocks 'exclusive' and/or special edition perfumes from a very large number of other brands, including Cartier, Bottega Veneta, Givenchy, Lalique, Liquides Imaginaires, Lancome and Dolce & Gabbana, amongst others.]
PS Don't do what I did at Tom Ford. The lidless gold boxes lined up in front of the bottles (see below) contain several millilitres of perfume. If, as I did, you think they're safe to handle and you bring them to your nose for a quick sniff, you may end up covering your hand with enough Neroli Portofino to attract a swarm of fruit flies. Whilst clearing up the spillage, the SA informed me that the containers are "dipping boxes" for blotters. I have a feeling that if Tom Ford don't put a little sign in front of the boxes, the SA is going to be doing a lot more clearing up in the weeks to come...
|A set of Henry Jacques feminines: 15 bottles of 15 ml each. Price: £6,050|