The Angela Flanders perfumery on Columbia Road first opened its doors in 1985. Once a ‘best kept secret’, the perfumery has since become a destination for perfume lovers in the know. Angela’s fascination with the history of perfume and the beauty of natural ingredients are woven into the very fabric of the store which is now run by her daughter Kate (very sadly Angela passed away in April 2016). The perfumery is a temple of loveliness, filled with beautiful artefacts as well as Angela’s collection of luxury handmade fragrances. It is a place to linger, chat to the knowledgeable and welcoming staff and indulge yourself in a special treat before you leave. There is an enviable air of calm about the place, a welcome respite from the madness of Colombia Road on a Sunday (the day I visited!) when the streets are crammed with tourists, drawn here by the world famous flower market.
Interestingly Angela did not set out to be a perfumer (she started her career as a costume designer), in fact when she first arrived in Columbia Road she was working as a decorative painter and opened the shop intending to sell small antiques and furnishings. In order to decorate the store Angela decided to make some pot pourri & dried flowers and in her own words, “The flowers and fragrances took off in a remarkable way and soon I gave up painting to concentrate on the flowers”. Angela continued to experiment with drying various different flowers that she bought at Spitalfields and later Covent Garden market and it quickly became clear that she was destined for a rather more scented path in life! She studied the work of nineteenth century perfumer Septimus Piesse and became fascinated by the history of fragrance. In the early 90’s Angela wrote a book entitled Aromatics and inspired by her research, she began to work with fine personal fragrance, creating scents from her imagination and translating her ideas into perfumes. Entirely self taught, Angela and her fragrances quickly gained a following, with customers seeking out her store to purchase her unique creations.
By remaining small and independent Angela was able to explore, experiment and have fun with her business, trying things because she wanted to and not because she was working to a commercial brief. Over her thirty year career as a perfumer Angela created a huge number of fragrances. Today her scents have been brought together in a series of collections as follows:
The Signature Collection – this wide range of different perfumes explores the various olfactory families, from crisp, dry Citrus and Chypre to Florals and Orientals. I was particularly drawn to the rich and honeyed Moroccan Rose which has extraordinary longevity and leaves a delicious musky rosiness on the skin that draws comment whenever I wear it. I also loved Millefleurs with its bouquet of roses, violets and lavender and Josephine created to honour the Empress Josephine who adored the scent of violets
The Collection Floral – as the name suggests this is a collection of single note flower perfumes and bouquets. This is a stunning collection and it was hard to choose a favourite but if I had to pick just one then it would be Mimosa – quite literally Spring in a bottle!
The Collection Noire – these fragrances offer something quite different. Rich and dark, they are characterised by fruity, woody, spicy notes. There is a sensuality to these scents that suggests they should be worn after dark…Ambre Noir would work on both women and men and is deliciously enticing and exotic, I was sold!
The Artillery Collection – this collection was inspired by the historic location of the second Angela Flanders Shop close to the site of the Artillery Ground, which was used during the reign of Henry VIII! Created with men in mind, the six eaux de toilette are Angela’s interpretation of classic fragrances. All wonderfully evocative and with a thread of history running through them, I was particularly taken with Hungary Water. This fabulously restorative fragrance was first created for Queen Elizabeth I of Hungary in 1370! Its an invigorating blend of rosemary, Melissa, lemon peel, mint and rose – heavenly!
The fragrance Precious One stands a little outside the collections. It was created by Angela for her daughter Kate’s boutique, Precious, in Spitalfields. It quickly gained a league of followers with its rich and exotic notes of tuberose and jasmine floating on a base of the softest green chypre. Precious One was awarded Best New Independent Fragrance at the 2012 Fragrance Foundation FiFi Awards – a well deserved accolade for this most evocative of scents.
It’s really hard to communicate the beauty of Angela Flanders fragrances in words (the website describes each bottle as a ‘golden flask of joy’ which is just lovely) but really the best way to discover these unique scents is to visit the perfumery and try them! Just make sure you leave yourself plenty of time……….
Angela Flanders Spitalfields, 4 Artillery Passage, Spitalfields, London E1 7LJ
Angela Flanders, Shoreditch, 94 Columbia Road, Shoreditch, London E2 7QB
Visit Angela Flanders website