We are going to slightly OD on perfume in the next couple of posts…..mostly because we've just been walked through The Perfume Diaries exhibition at Harrods with the curator, Roja Dove. If you are a keen perfume fan as I am, this is something not to be missed. In fact Mr Dove rather grandly told us all that it was probably 'The most important exhibition on perfume EVER', but then I guess he would say that.
Whatever, it's terrific, tracking the evolution of perfume chronologically, explaining the socio economic references along the way, such as how the hedonistic 1920s saw exotic heavy scents such as Shalimar evolve as everyone was influenced the the East and how the bottle shapes of the 1930s reflected the new strides forward in flying planes and smart cruise liners.
I loved the ledger from Floris, one of the world's oldest perfume houses, which has handwritten entries on what The King and The Queen bought and there's an original letter from Florence Nightingale detailing her needs and orders from Winston Churchill. Mr Dove likened reading the entries as '"stalking around other people's bathroom cabinets".
There's the original Dior dress (a fierce madame was dispatched from Paris with it to put it on the mannequin, only she was allowed anywhere near it, senior perfume buyer Emma Hockley told us) which inspired the original design of the Miss Dior bottle, which for fashion groupies, is worth the trip on its own.
When we were chatting, Emma said everyone always say's the same thing to her when they smell the small vials of perfume scattered for sniffing throughout the exhibition, "Oh! I remember that on my mum/granny/first boyfriend/girlfriend!", scent is a very strong memory jogger and inhaling those memories here makes for an additional layer of enjoyment.
My only criticism is that it is tucked away on the fourth floor behind shoes, It should be right down next to the perfume floor, but of course that would mean giving up valuable selling space.
The Perfume Diaries is on at Harrods in Knightsbridge from now until the 2nd October 2010. There are a number of events with perfumers planned, so check the website for details