Perfume Anorak catches up with co-founder of The Perfume Society
This month we caught up with Lorna McKay, co-founder of The Perfume Society. We talked to her about the inspiration behind The Perfume Society, her love of fragrance (which first emerged when she was just six years old!) and the similarities between perfume creation and wine production.
Since its launch in May 2014, The Perfume Society has swiftly developed a reputation as one of the most authoritative voices in the fragrance world. The brainchild of industry expert Lorna McKay and award winning fragrance writer and entrepreneur Josephine Fairley, The Perfume Society is the ultimate go-to resource for anyone who loves fragrance. The comprehensive website, VIP subscription service, dedicated magazine (The Scented Letter) as well as events, meet the expert opportunities and so much more make The Perfume Society absolutely invaluable to fragrance lovers everywhere. This month we managed to catch up with Lorna McKay to find out a little bit more behind the inspiration for The Perfume Society, as well as her personal thoughts on fragrance and the industry.
PA: Lorna, we know you as the co-founder of The Perfume Society but please tell us a little bit about what led you to this point?
LM: Education has always been in my family and although I am a qualified teacher, I had had a summer job in Harrods and decided I would complete my teaching degree before joining Harrods as an executive trainee.I just loved the whole customer angle and the psychology of buying and selling, coupled with the sales analysis, made this the perfect job for me.After working as a buyer and creating the Harrods own label & Harrods International departments I was offered the Beauty Department, which I instantly loved. Again my focus was on what makes people buy and as I tried to understand the perfume world it occurred to me there was no ‘help’ for consumers. Seeing a geneology chart was the beginning of a very interesting journey in perfume and in fact was the inspiration for the point of difference I added when I created the Liberty Perfumery way back in 1990. It became the first perfumery in the UK to offer ‘self selection with service!’
PA: How did you and Jo come up with the idea for The Perfume Society?
LM: Our paths had crossed many times as Buyer and Journalist and Jo often used me for quotes and ‘expert comment’ after I had set up Liberty. On an event with You Magazine a throwaway comment of “I am surprised there is no Perfume Society“ was the spark we needed to ignite our mission to help the world engage more with fragrance and smell better.
PA: We understand that FR.eD is an idea you came up with some time ago? What was the inspiration for this idea?
LM: I have already mentioned the geneology chart and it was this that helped me to understand why, if I liked a floral aldehydic, I might like other fragrances in the same family. It became the basis of FR.eD, which launched in Liberty in 1990 (FR.eD stands for Fragrance Education or Fragrance Edit). As well as helping you to find other fragrances that you might love, FR.eD can also suggest replacements for discontinued scents and help you find gifts for friends and relatives.
PA: The Perfume Society is fast becoming one of the most respected voices in the fragrance world – have you been surprised by this success.
LM: Surprised and delighted, however great ideas are often only successful because of timing and the timing is absolutely right. With so many launches and fragrances available, people want to know more. As price points soar for some fragrances the customer wants to know why. With so much information on the internet the customers also want independent accurate information.We satisfy on all of these areas.
PA: What was it like to be the recipients of The Judges Special Recognition Award at this year’s Jasmine Awards?
LM: We were overwhelmingly grateful to be recognized by our peers after such a short time. … What a delightful shock!
PA: What plans do you have for the future development of The Perfume Society?
LM: We will be launching Men’s next year and we want to make sure we increase events around the country for our VIP-Subscribers. Hopefully as we grow we just get bigger and better at providing what our customers are enjoying so far.
PA: On a more personal level we know that you live in France and that you produce your own wine. Do you see similarities between the world of wine and the world of fragrance?
LM: The vocabulary is often similar and the whole smelling experience of wine is the same as perfume – fortunately I have not mixed them up yet I am happy to say! Even the ‘terroir’ element of understanding the ingredients is so similar – better quality ingredients = better quality of wine/ perfume – even with synthetics! There are 3 elements to the success of a great wine –excellent ingredients, excellent viticulturist and excellent marketing. There are 3 elements necessary for the success of a great perfume – excellent ingredients, excellent perfumer and excellent marketing. Very similar!
PA: As the fragrance landscape becomes ever more competitive and crowded with every passing year, what do you think a fragrance has to do to really stand out?
LM: Simple answer – smell fabulous and engage with the customer.
PA: What is the first fragrance you ever remember wearing?
LM: My own creation from the carnations in the garden in Scotland – not my biggest success! Next was Soir de Paris, which I stole from my Grandmother’s drawer age 6 (I still have the bottle).
PA: People use fragrance in so many different ways – to enhance their mood, to make them feel fully ‘dressed’, to seduce or to give confidence. Could you sum up in a few words what fragrance means to you?
LM: Fragrance for me is the finishing touch or the ‘icing on the cake’ when applied and becomes the ultimate ‘feel good factor’ when I am wearing it. I love it!
To find out more about The Perfume Society visit www.perfumesociety.org