It’s not every day that you get the
opportunity to speak to speak to someone like Sarah Rotherham. Someone with a
proven track record in all things scent and the current CEO of luxury fragrance
brand, Miller Harris. Not just that, but Sarah has also played vital roles at
Molton Brown, Penhaligon’s and spent time as the chief executive of Cradle, the holding company for
Penhaligon’s as well as L’Artisan Perfumer and the Erno Laszlo skincare
brand.What’s even more is that the successes she’s seen while working for all
of these brands has been integral in their current standing. For example, under
her watch, Penhaligon’s grew to 18 UK stores with 25 overseas, and their sales
rose from £9m to £35m worldwide. A common story on all of the brands she worked
Now happily at
Miller Harris, I was given the opportunity to interview Sarah – which was a
real pinch-me moment. As a strong business woman she’s everything I admire and
want to see more of in the business realms. The opportunity to interview
Sarah on all things Miller Harris was given to me by my wonderful friends
at World Duty Free, who are celebrating the new Travel Exclusive Miller Harris
scents: Peau Santal and Powdered Veil. Both of which are absolutely gorgeous
and available in World Duty Free stores across the country and via the Reserve
& Collect facility. (Which means if you’re short on time then you can
reserve yours and collect on your way through the airport.)
|(Picture Source: The Independent)|
With that said,
here’s my interview with Sarah as she shares her fragrance insight with me:
With so much experience in the scent industry across brands like Molton
Brown and Penhaligon’s, you’ll have a vast knowledge about all things
fragrance. What would you say are the top three most important things you’ve
learned about women’s fragrance?
1. Start with a
story, a feeling or a moment and work from there. Fragrance is about how you
feel, so it’s important there is an emotional connection; whether that be a
fragrance which reminds you of the infinite possibilities of adulthood as you
sit at your mothers dressing table or a memory of a favourite holiday, a book
or piece of music.
2. Don’t follow
trends. Luxury brands should have the courage of their convictions and always
deliver the best product they can, regardless of what is hot this season.
3. Fragrance is
personal. Every person will react to things differently, or has feelings
stirred by a perfume which are unique to them. Recognising this, and
acknowledging there’s no “right or wrong” is empowering both in terms of the
product and our relationship with customers.
During your career you’ve worked with some
amazing brands – do you have any ‘pinch-me’ moments you can share with me and
Several years ago, whilst CEO for Penhaligons , we created a
fragrance for the Maharaja of Jodhpur. During the exploratory phase of getting
to know Jodhpur, the family and their history, myself and the perfumer stayed
in many of the Private Royal Residences. One evening in particular, we stayed
in the Mehrangarh Fort. The Fort rose up above the blue city and is normally
teeming with tourists. We had a magical evening where the fort was empty (save
for the Bats flying around the many rooms!) In the Indian night we stood and
listened to the many sounds of the city floating up to greet us. I would never
had had such an amazing experience if my very work hadn’t taken me to that
moment. I made some very special memories during my frequent visit to Rajastan.
More recently, I had a pinch me moment, when we launched the
FORAGE collection, which is a collection inspired by foraging in London and
seeing the beauty of what lies beneath us every day. One of the Beauty Editors
confessed she would never see the city in the same way again after one of our
foraging trips. When a conceptual idea becomes reality and a beautiful reality,
I have to pinch myself how lucky my team and I are to have the freedom to
you think there is such a thing as a ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’ scent? If
so, what’s the difference?
I think the answer to that really depends on how you measure
success. Obviously, there’s the bold commercial reality of selling more juice,
which is a quantitative measure everyone has to apply to remain in business.
However, there are other ways that I measure success. If a scent sells well,
that’s great! But if a scent stays around for a long time, carving its place in
Perfume History and reaches across ages or sexes to appeal to lots of different
people, then I feel like that’s a real success. There have been times that
hasn’t worked, and the fragrance, despite being a marvellous work of art, hasn’t
resonated with people. We work hard to find a balance.
Harris like to give all of their fragrances a story, where do you come up with
the inspiration for these?
I’m open to any inspiration. Classic themes of glamour and beauty
are all great, but what about the beauty in the ordinary, the daisy growing
through the pavement, the way a book can ignite a sense of place? My team and I
have our eyes open all the time, and weave stories from the most random of
inspirations. Inspiration is everywhere if you take the time to look.
was recently in your Covent Garden store, can you tell me a little bit about
the inspiration behind that store and the way it works?
All our stores have unique personalities, we’re a brand built on
individuality and celebration of uniqueness. Each store reflects both its
geography, and a unique “muse”; The Poet, The Artist etc. Every store should
tell its own story.
However, there are some themes which run throughout all the
stores. Covent garden is built to be a blank canvas where we can add drama with
evolving installations, therefore changing how the store feels. Our
installations are designed to form a story and allow customers to participate
in the story telling. Like World Duty Free this is a window onto the World for
us, with a broad tourist footfall.
you had to be a Miller Harris fragrance, which would it be and why?
Although it isn’t my favourite, I think I’d be Tuberosa. This
fragrance is a celebration of one bloom, Tuberose, which has a heady, luxurious
and floral scent. The flower only blooms at night (I have had my moments!) and
is rare and a great prize for perfumers.
just launched Powdered Veil and Peau Santal exclusively with World Duty Free
until September. Could you tell us a little bit about each of the scents and
what makes them different to other Miller Harris fragrances?
Unlike many of the previous fragrances in our Editions range,
which take their inspiration from the natural World, these fragrances are Inspired
by skin, softness and sensuality. However, in classic Miller Harris style, the
fragrances pay homage to some of the noblest materials in perfumery.
as silk caressing a cheek, or the back of a hand feels magically cool and warm
at the same time, so these perfumes feel both natural and dramatic, intimate
made you pick World Duty Free as the launch pad for the new scents?
We wanted to try something new in terms of forming stronger
relationships with our retail partners and WDF have been incredibly supportive
and taken on this project with drive and determination; a real collaboration.
Secondly, as a brand with significant plans for international
growth, being in World Duty Free gives us an opportunity to speak to new
customers from all over the world, giving them a scent of what may be to come!
I couldn’t interview you without asking – what is your signature scent?!
I have many! For a summer day I love one of our recent Forage
fragrances; Hidden on the Rooftops, which illustrates Urban Beehives through
scent. As the evening advances, Scherzo is a beautiful interpretation of moving
from light into shade fresh with florals but richly glamorous. For when the
evening really gets going, Tender is a glamourous realisation of the
Peau Santal and Powdered Veil are
now available exclusively at World Duty Free until September. A huge thank you to Sarah and Miller Harris for talking to me, and to WDF for giving me the opportunity to talk to one of fragrances biggest female influences!