Islington and Spitalfields are at the forefront of London’s niche perfumery scene, where more than just fragrances are being bottled. Angela Flanders Perfumer and Gorilla Perfumes are giving people a new way to discover scents, leading the way when it comes to 21st century perfume. Rather than loud, futuristic style perfumes, the fragrance scene is seeing a return to more earthy tones this year
Words: Rachel Mantock
Bored and disappointed with the fragrances mainstream retailers have to offer, all so similar smelling with an ever present synthetic, slightly medicine like undertone, those in search of more specialised, bespoke scents are turning to niche perfumeries, which are on the rise in London. With Islington and Spitalfields having been at the forefront of the perfumery business in the city half a century or so ago, we spoke to two of the best expert perfume boutiques in the area today to find out why people are still coming to them in search of unusual perfumes with an edge…
Much like wine, where the grapes aren’t the same every year, producing a slightly different flavour even though it’s the same brand of wine, the tantalising fragrances from Angela Flanders work in the same way. Director and daughter of the founder of Angela Flanders perfumery, Kate Evans, says: ‘We don’t mass produce when you are dealing with natural ingredients, it is never an exact science and you can’t reproduce that organically on a mass scale. Crops develop differently every year, so variations always come into play. Obviously we hold stock and aim for consistency, but the slight variations give our perfumes individuality.’
Sourcing their exotic ingredients from all over the globe, many of which are native to the Middle East, the Mediterranean, the south of France and India, such as sandalwood, patchouli, citrus blends and jasmine, the team at Angela Flanders have an extensive knowledge of historic and futuristic perfume trends from every corner of the world, using that expertise to produce fragrances that are living – growing, expanding and shrinking on a person’s skin throughout the day and into the evening, the scent blend shifting and morphing as the hours pass.
Every time we have tried to discontinue a scent, customers come in and are really disappointed, so we actually haven’t ever discontinued any. Every perfume we make has a following
Evans’ mother (Angela Flanders herself) founded the store just over 30 years ago in Columbia Road, inspired by the famous flower market. One of the first perfumes she made was a Christmas inspired scent, a combination of woody cinnamon tones dotted with citrus bursts that they still sell today. Evans explains: ‘Every time we have tried to discontinue a scent, customers come in and are really disappointed, so we actually haven’t ever discontinued any. Every perfume we make has a following.’
The dark, mystical, shape shifter scents at Angela Flanders perfumery each have a story to tell, like the Mr Severs scented candle, produced specifically for the Dennis Severs House that is preserved in 18th century glory inside and out, just down the road from the perfumery’s Spitalfields branch. This scent was a Flanders’ original, produced back when each blend came from the wonderful flowers of Columbia Road Market.
Their perfume of the moment and best seller, Precious One, was made for Evans by Flanders with intriguing earthy and mossy oak notes. It won the Best Independent Fragrance award from the Fragrance Foundation in 2012. ‘There is a lot of vetiver in the blend, which gives it that mossy, earthy green note, along with some tuberose and white, waxy floral notes,’ Evans explains. ‘It’s a very unusual and distinctive fragrance.’
We have seen a move towards woody scents such as ouhd that originates from the Middle East with a leathery, smokey essence
Of the move towards more deep, earthy aromas within fragrance, Dimitri Mouton, who heads their Spitalfields store, says: ‘I think people are becoming more daring and want to explore things that are a bit more complex. We have seen a move towards woody scents such as ouhd that originates from the Middle East with a leathery, smokey essence. Precious just has a complexity and depth about it that people have come to appreciate.’
The entire black label at Angela Flanders focuses on deep fruity, spicy tones, fused with wood and moss notes, making them leaders in the movement towards more bold, yet subtle fragrance blends. Ouhd is produced when agar wood is infested with a special beetle, causing decay. It is the resin from that decay that produces the ouhd scent. It’s been used in the Middle East for centuries, yet is a fairly new perfume concept here in the West.
With a honeyed whisky scent that was inspired by the fermenting process at Johnnie Walker Whisky in Scotland, with a cult like following and their most recent fragrance, Columbia Rose, which celebrates their foundations in Columbia Road, Angela Flanders Perfumery bottles memories and pinnacle moments in time in the form of scents. Master storytellers and scent connoisseurs, they are the jewel in the rose crown of Columbia Road and a founding mother of the niche perfumery scene in London, set to lead the way into the fragrance future.
Angela Flanders Perfumery is located at 96 Columbia Road E2 7QB and at 4 Artillery Lane E1 7LJ: angelaflanders-perfumer.com
A spin off from Lush Cosmetics, Gorilla Perfumes, headed by father and son perfumer duo Mark and Simon Constantine, take inspiration from art, music, poetry, landscapes and personal experiences when producing their bold, quirky fragrances. For them, perfume making is an art form and a means to truly express themselves.
They have a strong policy of only sourcing their eclectic ingredients ethically without ever testing their perfumes on animals. All of their resources are poured into mastering the scents they create, rather than fancy bottles, labelling and packaging. Thriving off delving into the full range of human emotion, they even produced a scent named Death, Decay and Renewal inspired by the feeling of grief. Mark and Simon want those who buy their fragrances to ‘find their own stories within them’.
Incorporating more than one of the senses, the Gorilla Perfumes store in Camden Passage has a listening booth where you can pick a record and relax while taking in different notes and tones. Every month they hold ‘Scented Songs’, a live gig where musicians involved pick the fragrance that most ‘smells like their song’.
The vintage aesthetic of the store places it perfectly among the antique offerings of Camden Passage where they love the community feel and connecting with locals. Gorilla Perfumes is a niche boutique and high street perfumery hybrid, taking the best of both and throwing them together to produce a new way of making, buying and experiencing fragrance.
The next ‘Scented Songs’ takes place on 22 September at 7pm at Gorilla Perfumes, 3 Islington High Street N1 8EA; lush.com