We take a look behind the scenes, and behind the scents, at one of the UK’s most important perfume stores.
The world of perfume is a high-pressured, global market, with numerous brands vying for space on our dressing tables. This is no different in niche and artisan perfumery, which is infiltrating the beauty world to a greater extent as savvy consumers step away from mass market fragrances and start to look for products they can claim as their own special find.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that in this creative environment those with the real power to shape what we wear would be the founders of the perfume houses, those who commission the famous ‘noses’ to create the next niche hit. The reality is far from that, the real influence lies in a much more attainable space…
Oxana Polyakova founded Bloom Perfumery, London, seven years ago. She started selling niche and artisan scents from a small shop in Spitalfields, East London. Bloom quickly outgrew the shop and in 2015 moved to a fabulous location, Langley Court, in Covent Garden. Just off the main thoroughfare, stepping into Bloom is like stepping into a completely different world.
The first thing you notice as you approach the shop is the sign: No ordinary perfume. And the slogan really sums up Bloom’s approach to fragrance. Nothing is ordinary here. Passing through the doorway and you immediately notice is how peaceful it is. You’re not assaulted by blaring music and overpowering decor, instead this little shop offers the mental space to really consider what it is you are looking for.
Then there is the perfume itself. A vast array of gorgeous, jewel-like bottles line glass shelves and cabinets all at different heights. Browsing them is a bit like hunting for treasure, it feels like there is serendipity at work guiding your hand to pick up this bottle or that one, and any could be the next thing that you fall in love with. But of course it isn’t serendipity, it’s Oxana’s team of carefully selected and highly trained staff who are on hand to guide you towards that perfect signature scent.
“There’s a lack of curated shops even in London.” Oxana explains, “Everywhere you go, you see the same fragrance shops selling the same mass market scents. I wanted to do something different.” Given that Bloom is one of only a scant handful of perfume stores in the UK selling niche fragrances, she certainly has been successful in her singularity.
The range available at Bloom is vast, many of the lines being stocked by them exclusively. They even hold brands which are difficult, nigh on impossible to get elsewhere, even via the internet – for example the enigmatic but thrifty Russian brand Brocard. If you’re looking for Naomi Goodsir, Zoologist, UNUM, Talismans, Voronoi, Arquiste, Aqualis, Pierre Guillaume, Bon Parfumeur, Nikkos Oskol, Jardin d’Ecrivains and many, many more, Bloom should be your first stop.
“For us to stock a brand there has to be that combination of the right price tag for the consumer, the right level of availability and also the right level of creativity.”
And indeed, one of the beautiful things about Bloom is the welcome you will get regardless of what price point you can shop at. It is an excellent place to explore if you are just getting into niche perfumery and aren’t yet ready to splurge a ton of cash on an epic and esoteric perfumery masterpiece, but you are ready to start experimenting away from the mass market brands. Bloom’s savvy enhancements like the ability to purchase samples (why don’t all perfume shops do this?), their Nose Club, and the sample packs they offer if you want to investigate a theme, allow you to play and explore scent in a way which you are comfortable with and at your own pace.
“People often come in with a perception of what they like,” Oxana tells us with a smile, “and they go out with something totally different. I enjoy watching people’s reaction when I show them something and they say it smells of the strangest things: bisons, warm computers, pickles and everything smoky smells of salmon!”
“People’s sense of smell has been spoiled by mass market brands who have convinced them that a particular ingredient smells a certain way, but we can show them a range of scents with that note, all smelling different depending on the concentrations, the extractions and the compositions, and they go out with a new perspective.”
Despite the vast experience Oxana has amassed over the years, and the time she spent at perfume school studying materials, she is still passionate about her role in the perfume industry and hasn’t become complacent.
“I got into niche perfume in my 20s when a friend introduced me to her collection, and right from then I was hooked. My ability to judge perfume is still improving every day,” she says. “I’m still excited about finding new scents and learning more about the neuroscience of perfumery. It’s a vast world and we all have a long way to go, even those who call themselves experts.”
With the future in mind, we asked both Oxana and her dedicated team of staff what they thought the coming trends for the scent market in the UK were.
“The no-perfume-perfume is going to be big in the next 12 months, as well as laundry-type smells and clean musks. In uncertain times, people are playing it safe with their scents, but more people are dipping their toes into the pool of niche, especially in the UK. The mass market brands are running out of ideas and North America and Russia in particular are really waking up to the possibilities that niche offers.”
The awakening of the UK to the endless possibilities for self-expression, self-branding, and the exploration of one of the most under-appreciated art forms – perfumery – is something we, like Bloom, will heartily embrace.
Bloom is located at 4 Langley Court, London, WC2E 9JY. You can also shop with them, including to buy samples, at their web boutique.
Bloom haven’t paid us to write this article, and it is published with Oxana’s permission. The Sniff accepts no liability for any dispute customers may have arising from purchases made through Bloom either online or in store. All information correct at time of publishing. We’re happy to plug them though as we think they’re really good and have always received excellent service there ourselves.