Perfume Anorak meets with the owner of Roullier White
This month’s exclusive interview is with Lawrence Roullier White, owner of luxury lifestyle boutique Roullier White. Based in leafy East Dulwich, Roullier White is home to many of our niche brands and is the perfect destination for the discerning perfumista.
PA: Roullier White is located in South London, are you a Londoner yourself Lawrence?
LRW: I am one of those rare Londoners who, apart from short spells, has never wandered far from home. I can trace my mother’s family, the Roulliers, back to the 1780’s when my ancestor, the enviably named Jean Alphonsus Ferdinandus Roullier, settled in the Peckham countryside having moved from his native Paris to paint. The queen has one of his paintings in her collection. Shop keeping must be in my blood as he also owned a bookshop in Soho!
PA: When did you set up the shop and how did you choose the location?
LRW: We are in our tenth year. I chose the area because I wanted to sell things I was passionate about in an area I loved. I also really wanted to be able to walk to work!
PA: Roullier White is a real destination for niche fragrance – has fragrance always been a passion of yours?
LRW: I have been interested in fragrance since I was a child, I remember creeping into my parent’s room and smelling their various bottles. I could never understand how these strange scents could be trapped in those gorgeous glass bottles. As I grew up my real passion became the provenance of a product and the packaging. I suppose that was really what fired me; the history of all the great perfume houses and the incredibly creative marketing. Carven parachuting samples of Ma Griffe over Paris -ingenuity like that is very compelling.
PA: How many niche brands do you now stock and how do you choose them?
LRW: We carry about 60 brands at any one time and it is a difficult task selecting them; space is limited so we have to be sure each new line is bringing something new to the party. Hopefully I think that by now I almost instinctively feel if something is right and will resonate with our customers. We have a reputation for finding the unusual and that is what I really enjoy and is an important factor in the selection process.
PA: As well as your niche fragrances you have the Mrs White’s range of homecare products – I know that there is a great story behind your formulas, can you tell us a little bit about this?
LRW: My great grandmother was in service, she started as a maid at the age of 14 and by the time she left to marry my great grandfather she was the household’s cook. I never thought I would be selling homecare products but I was intrigued by the horrible smells of commercially produced cleaning products and when I started to research what went into them I was horrified. My mother had some recipes and notes that were handed down and amongst them was my great grandmother’s recipe for laundry soap, which was made using beef dripping! Swapping the dripping for olive oil we created our first natural laundry product. The Mrs White’s range is an amazing way to scent your home, I can’t wait to do the washing up!
PA: Being surrounded by so many amazing fragrances every day, how do you decide what you will wear?
LRW: I like to wear a scent that we sell and so usually I wait until I get to work and see what grabs me. I don’t believe in a signature scent, we are all multi facetted and I spray a little of whatever I am feeling that day, or how I would like to feel. A spritz of citrus picks you up, a little vanilla is comforting and calming. If I am considering a new line, I will see how that works and what the comments are.
PA: There is a growing interest in niche fragrance, why do you think that is?
LRW: There is a general trend towards authenticity; the fantastic rise of the designer-maker over the past few years, craft beers, specialist coffee, artisan bakers, single estate chocolate – in a world that has become so homogenised and dominated by the global brands people are looking for the human touch, something tangible with which to connect.
PA: You write very engagingly about fragrance, is writing a particular interest of yours?
LRW: That is kind of you to say. I have the brilliant Jack Batchelor to help me now with the more concise copy for the website, I am a bit of a perfectionist so I would lay awake at night mentally re-writing one sentence over and over. I write a monthly column about niche fragrances for Absolutely Magazine, which I really enjoy as this is an area that interests so much. I also write for our wonderful local SE Magazines about local independent businesses, a huge, huge passion of mine.
Roullier White, 125 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8HU. 020 8693 5150 http://www.roullierwhite.com