The Fragrance Lab
I had one of the best beauty experiences to date this week and I am going to tell you all about it. I keep thinking back to earlier this week when I was sat in a white room, on a white chair, surrounded by perfume professionals in white lab coats, with a pair of white leather head phones crowning my head, feeling the most excited and stimulated I have been by beauty for a while. As the ethereal voice prompted me to walk up the flight of white steps at the Selfridges Fragrance Lab I felt like I was ascending into the unknown. Only to be greeted on the other side by a stranger who knew me better than I knew myself…
The Fragrance lab is a new concept to Selfridges Wonder Room. It challenges us to look at fragrance differently, offering its customers a chance to fully immerse themselves in the beautiful and evocative world that is perfume. There is a pleasant mood that hangs in the air at this stark white, but truly chic lab space. Is it satisfaction? It’s definitely not smugness, but the lab-people are kind and clearly quite excited about what I am about to experience. They look at me with knowing gazes, their kind, happiness is contagious.
My journey begins by answering a series of psychometric questions on a, you guessed it, white iPad. This 20 minute exercise will profile everything from my likes, dislikes, way of thinking, actions and reactions. I choose from several pictures tending to go with my snap instinct for the most accurate results. After being setup with my headphones, I am guided through a series of 5 unique spaces; some cramped, some light and airy some dark and melancholy.
The voice guide challenges me with scents that evoke memories and the choice of over 100 objects to choose from. It is no surprise I am drawn to the Tom Ford lipstick. After this sensory and stimulating journey I am greeted by young Barnaby who is smiling openly. By this point I felt like I have accidentally died and walked into heaven and Barnaby was my god. The room was a wash of smoke wisps and copper piping that ended in semispheres filled with odd, white objects. Barnaby begins to tell me who I am, how I think and react to things and that he has 2 fragrances that he thinks will “fit”.
I am taken to a further antechamber and presented with my “prescription”. I am rather enjoying how seriously everyone takes this exercise, including myself. What baffles me is they already have the prescription printed before they meet me and I have finished my journey!? Barnaby tells me that the fragrance I am to be given is the scent of my truest self. He goes on to say that many people initially don’t like what they smell, many people don’t like themselves and want to be someone different, “so we always offer a close alternative”. I concur, where would the beauty industry be today if it couldn’t sell consumers an aspirational dream of becoming someone better, greater, prettier, sexier…
I am taken to Check In and am presented a pink bottle with a spherical perspex lid. For me, perfume has always been a very nostalgic and comforting thing however, my results show that I am much more forward and futurist thinking that I believed. It is this dominating streak in my personality which prompted them to present me with the scent marked 169. It is like no other I have smelt. It is the antithesis of commercial, floral or sweet. It has movement, it is zingy and complex with oriental notes but there is a true musk smell that is dirty, raw and dare I say it, bad. It almost feels like it is cloying out for activities, meetings, kisses and adventures that have yet to come. A little like my futuristic self then.
Harry Gordon Selfridge, the store founder, was the first to introduce beauty and fragrance halls to the ground floor of a department store, providing customers with a new way to experience beauty products and scent, enthralling them in the process. The Fragrance Lab is 2014’s answer to this. I am sure Harry would have been very pleased.
This is experience is now open to the public and would make a wonderful gift for yourself or a loved one. £65.