With recent studies showing greater demand for more distinctive and customised scents, Papillon Perfumery seems well positioned to succeed.
Defining her perfumes as potions as “the ultimate personal luxury, one that can remove you from the ordinary and transport you to the extraordinary,” Liz Moores, owner of London-based perfumery, is confident about the future.
“The general public are intelligent with more and more consumers of perfumes looking for a finished product that is original and truly artisan, something that sets a product apart from the rest.”
She continued, “The industry right now has anything and everything. Never has the market been filled with so much choice. There is something for everyone. I think that this is fantastic and terrifying in equal measure. We have seen small niche brands being absorbed by the global giants and gently pushed into the mainstream where they cease to be niche. We have seen the rise of the indie brands which aren’t afraid to create bold and beautiful fragrances and push the limits with their new launches, offering their loyal customers a unique and different experience.”
Mother of five, Liz grew up in a sleepy and quintessentially British village and said she did not set out to become a perfumer. Her working background was primarily in remedial and therapeutic massage, working a lot with essential oils, which created in her a greater awareness and understanding about how certain natural materials could blend together harmoniously.
“My fascination with perfume and how it was created began over fifteen years ago but I knew that the more traditional roads to becoming a perfumer were closed to me as I don’t have a chemistry background, nor a particular aptitude for this subject,” she said.
After studying with the late perfumer Alec Lawless, author of ‘Being Led by the Nose,’ Liz worked for two years to create her first perfume, ‘Anubis.’ Inspired by the name of the Egyptian God of the afterlife and the sacred mysteries of ancient Egypt, it includes notes of jasmine, rich suede and an incense-laden base of frankincense, sandalwood, labdanum, immortelle, pink lotus and saffron.
“I made this perfume for myself, incorporating all the elements I love in a fragrance. Suddenly I discovered that other people had fallen for ‘Anubis.’ Complete strangers would ask me what I was wearing. People would ask if they could buy a bottle and very soon I was selling a lot. It was at this point I decided to take things to a more professional level and Papillon was born.”
Her collection now includes three more perfumes, ‘Tobacco Rose,’ ‘Angelique’ and ‘Salome.’ The former, for example, is an intelligent, memorable perfume, with notes of Bulgarian rose, rose de Mai, oak moss, beeswax, hay and ambergris. As one companion noted, “It captures a momentary image – a woman has just left a room where I was smoking a fine cigar, leaving behind a trace of her rose scent and an indefinable, palpable longing.”
“My inspiration for Salome was taken from an original 1920’s photograph of a beautiful erotic dancer,” says Liz describing ‘Salome.’ “My aim was to create a perfume as enigmatic and alluring as the siren in the photograph whilst drawing from a wealth of enchanting literature about the spellbinding Salome.” Some of the notes in this perfume are jasmine, rich feral musks, Turkish rose and carnation.
“When I make a perfume, a transformative process occurs which is a key part of the magic,” said Liz. “Materials that can smell linear or even somewhat offensive can be transformed into an end product that is stunningly beautiful. It’s this process that has always reminded me of the butterfly, how it starts life as a fairly ordinary creature with the ability to transcend this state and become an entirely different being. I see perfumery as being identical to the caterpillar as it goes through its metamorphosis to become a butterfly. Thus the name, Papillon.”
Someone who has been an inspiration to her in the industry is Luca Turin, co-author of ‘Perfumes, the A-Z Guide,’ a man known for speaking his mind no matter how famous the brand. Of ‘Salome,’ he said, “I’m glad perfumes like this exist.” And of ‘Anubis,’ “It makes me want to breathe it in. It’s a really good piece of work.”
Liz also said reading Turin and Tania Sanchez’s book ‘Perfumes: The Guide’ completely changed the way she looked at fragrance. “It was this book that inspired me to keep going when I was making ‘Anubis.’”
Liz’s next project is a perfume to be released next year, a project she has been working on for the last three years. “I constantly have ideas for new perfumes spinning around in my head and it can be hard to still the sometimes relentless noise. If I were to pick up my materials in the studio, with this buzz of ideas flying around I would find it very hard to work in a cohesive and structured way. Creativity needs some chaos in order to produce something incredible but I need to rein in the scrambled ideas and place them in a working context,” she said. “It’s been a tough perfume to work on and I know where it needs to go but keeping it on track has been pretty tough. Knowing when to let a perfume go, when it’s time to leave it alone, is hard. I’m my harshest critic and there is always a part of me that thinks I could have done better.”
As for the people wearing Papillon perfumes, Liz says, “My customers are extremely diverse but they all have an understanding and love of creativity and quality. They have an inner confidence and aren’t afraid to be a little bit different.”