So, where do you go for your perfume shopping? Department store, independent boutiques, online or in person? Do you try to get samples before you purchase a full bottle?
I do a mix of everything but some shopping experiences are nicer than others. Therefore, I will describe mine here in a series of posts. I start with my favourite hunting ground for perfume in London: Liberty.
It's difficult not to like the outside of the shop with it's iconic timber framed front and the often quirky shop windows. It feels totally out of place amongst the hustle and bustle of Oxford Circus. But it's not a Disneyland imitation, it's still the right thing, very British, very stylish and very expensive. The scarf hall on the ground floor is a collection of wonderful silky things of nothingness that you can drape yourself in. And the shop assistants not only allow you to do so, they encourage you, knowing that the more you play the more you'll want to buy. So first go and find the perfect scarf and then imagine to spray it (carefully) with your most loved perfume...Yeah, I know, I can't afford them either, but one can dream.
So, away from the silks and to the perfume. Apart from the pop up stalls of various perfume houses, amongst them Byredo and Frederic Malle, there is the main perfume room at the back. Slightly dark with lots of shelves in all the nooks and crannies, it has an intimate feel to it. It doesn't try awfully hard to be hip or boudoir or extravagant and allows the perfumes be the heroes. And I like that. So you start to browse. And you will probably be asked if you need help, but that can take a while. And again, that's something I like. You can spend as much time as you need there. And you can spray and sniff. Whichever bottle you like. The collection is fantastic and much bigger in store than online, so keep that in mind when you plan your shopping. You will find most of the major niche brands, selected designer fragrances and some of the classics. It's great for people watching as well, the last time I went a woman who apparently visited from the Middle East bought three massive Liberty bags full of perfume. The staff must see a lot and are totally unfussed. When it comes to asking for samples, Liberty is a mixed bag. Some shop assistants are more generous than others. It helps if you have a bit of a chat. And also, be persistent in a charming way. Buying a perfume helps of course as well. You will have better luck at the pop up stalls, especially Byredo are usually very helpful. If you like your perfume browsing undisturbed and your collection more on the high end niche side then Liberty is the place in London I would recommend.
Image via Liberty.co.uk