The British Approach to Perfumery, Chapters 4 & 5 – Royal Warrants & The Fragrant Future
2023 . 10 . 26 |
Land of pomp and pageantry, of characters as diverse as James Bond and Mr Bean, of staunch tradition and punk rock, Great Britain is a study in contrasts and this carries over into the world of perfumery. Over the past two weeks we’ve explored the history and the characteristics that are defining the British approach to perfumery. This week we investigate the very unique practice of royal warrants and we close with a look at what lies ahead as seen by our panel of industry insiders and experts.
Chapter 4: By Appointment to His Majesty the King
For those of us who didn’t grow up under a monarchy, a Royal Warrant is a bit of a mystery. It’s a type of stamp of approval from the Royals that is granted to a person or a company for specific goods or services which can run the gamut from prestigious brands to every day products. It is earned and cannot be bought, so it’s far from a celebrity endorsement or sponsorship. Only the Monarch can decide who can bestow Royal Warrants. In the past, the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Price of Wales were grantors.
Edward Bodenham, Perfumery Director, Floris provided some basic information. “The Royal Family has grown up using our fragrances and products in their household, they do purchase from us and they do enjoy wearing our fragrances. The way it works is there is a Royal Warrants Holders Association who advises you on whether the Royal household is still ordering product on a regular basis, how you can display the Warrant, whether you are still entitled to use it, and so on. You must show that you are moving in the sustainability direction and that you are showing signs of improving. That was something that was always in place when King Charles was the Prince of Wales and it will become more strict as each application comes through now, which I think is great.”
Stephen Gray, former Managing Director at Clive Christian spoke from experience. “You can’t solicit for a Warrant by trying to send product to the Palace. There are very strict criteria: they have to buy the product, it can’t be gifted to obtain a Warrant. When you are granted the Warrant you can attach the seal to your logo, but you should not use it to brag about. The Royals could act like the ultimate Influencer, but they don’t: they buy the product, they’re not looking to get it for free and then plug it.” He also told me what you can’t do. “You can’t discuss them. The Warrant is given to someone personally – it is the one who is the supplier of the product or service, and it is the responsibility of that grantee to ensure the relevant Royal Arms are used correctly. It is personal, and Brands have had their Royal Warrants cancelled for breaching the rules of grant where perhaps the interests of the Brand are different from the integrity of the individual grantee.” So take note, if you’re purveying to the royal family, you are supposed to keep the product secret, and if you spill the beans, you could lose the privilege….and it will become a public source of shame.
What happens now with a new king on the throne? Lorna McKay, co-Founder, The Perfume Society, explained to me that, “When a grantor dies, any Royal Warrants they issued become void and the company has two years to stop using the Royal Arms.” Mr Gray noted that “A number of perfume companies had royal warrants from the former Queen or Duke of Edinburgh, even Prince Charles, but now the warrant has to be re-earned since the person is either deceased or has taken on a new role.” And how does that happen? According to Mr Bodenham, “There is a period of two or three years where we’ll have to refrain from using the Queen’s coat of arms on the packaging and then we will apply to His Majesty the King to see if we will be granted a royal warrant through him.” Consequently, this is a huge phasing process where packaging, merchandising and brand communication will have to change in the next two years. At present, only King Charles is a grantor, though it is suspected he will give the authority to Queen Camilla, and to William, the Prince of Wales.
What kind of value can be attributed to a Royal Warrant? Josh Carter, co-Founder Fiole UK felt it was subliminal for some. “Even just by being a Brit there is some subconscious association with higher quality because of the royal link. Although I suspect some Brits wouldn’t care.” Mr. Gray also shared his opinion with me. “Internally it’s enormously important and great for morale. It’s part of a tradition of what’s British. There’s an annual dinner which tends to attract the great and the good: you’re with the chairman of Bentley in a very private environment. Does it add value? As a market entry point when you are selling to other countries, it opens doors. And given this stamp of approval, it provides an opportunity to re-evaluate the pricing structures.”
And now we move on to our final chapter to draw conclusions on what lies ahead.
Chapter 5: The Fragrant Future
Clearly British perfumery encompasses a cohabitation of traditional and contemporary fragrances. Brands run the gamut from Floris to Gallivant, from Grossmith to Molton Brown, from Clive Christian to Lush, from Penhaligon’s to Floral Street, from Trumper to 4160 Tuesdays, just to name a few. There is an over-arching spirit of acceptance and openness that is much less prevalent on the Continent. As Lorna McKay sees it, “People in the UK are very open-minded and accept things that are different. As a nation we are merchants and entrepreneurs because we’ve had to be. Because we didn’t have certain things. It also links back to education because you’re encouraged to think, not just memorize. That’s why people think the British are eccentric -because we’re allowed to be! We are daring, take risks but also have traditions that are respected and valued.”
Could it also be in part due to geographics? Stephen Gray thinks it’s part of the equation. “Being on an island, there is a need to be willing to try things and experiment, to test different ways since everything that is needed is not necessarily available in the home country. And people are open-minded to doing things differently. The first Mr Floris was from another country but established himself in the UK – and this is still happening today.”
Speaking of Mr. Floris, another unique aspect of British perfumery came up during my chat with Edward Bodenham – the sense of community that exists within the sector, even dating back to the 18th century. “From the letters in our archives, I think we were learning a lot from the Farinas about Eau de Colognes. I get the impression that everyone was very friendly, welcoming and helpful, that they enjoyed sharing their knowledge and talking about fragrance with our perfumers. The idea of building a fragrance community dates back to these days and it’s still like this today. “
Nick Steward, Founder Gallivant Perfumes, shares this opinion. “What I’ve really found is a wonderful community of perfume makers here. There’s not many of us, we tend to know each other. We are a really collaborative and helpful community. We share. This is quite unique and it’s wonderful.”
Many of my sources also referred to a new-found pride in being British and an increased consumer awareness of products Made in Britain which are seen to have a great value and practicality. Mr. Steward explains, “We have a history of a being a manufacturing country, there’s still manufacturing in the UK and we need to support it. People say Brexit forced British brands to onshore more of their manufacturing. Now I’m not sure if that’s really true, but it seems logical to me due to the expense and complications of importing. So maybe in the long term it will force a boost to manufacturing here.”
It certainly opens the door to new opportunities which Ms McKay is enthusiastic about. “The innovation, excitement and fabulousness of the British perfume industry at the moment is mind blowing. If you’re hard working and you try something new, people support you, they’re encouraging. These are exciting times”. Exciting indeed. To think that it all started with gentlemen’s grooming and the shaving ritual which is back in vogue today.
For the moment, our story ends here, but there is so much more to tell! We’ve just seen takeovers by Multi-nationals and Venture Capital groups which may affect the future direction of British Perfumery. We also recognize that there is a dynamism and energy coming from young brands who are really looking to push the boundaries with fresh and interesting concepts. So clearly, the story continues. Watch this space for future installments and don’t hesitate to contact Essencional to tell us what other chapters you would like to read.
Many thanks to the following individuals who contributed their expertise to this article.
Edward Bodenham, Perfumery Director, Ninth generation, Floris
The Brooke Family of Grossmith: Simon, Amanda and Kate, fifth and sixth generation
Josh Carter and Samuel Gearing, Founders, Fiole UK
Stephen Gray, Managing Director Franck Muller Perfume
Tabitha Gray, Brand Manager Franck Muller Perfume
Lorna McKay, Co-Founder, The Perfume Society
Persolaise, Writer and Perfume Critic
Nick Steward, Founder, Gallivant Perfumes
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Here are links to Essencional’s original content on related topics.
Experimental Perfume Club
Maya Njie Perfumes
Roullier & White
OTHER BRANDS – Not Interviewed
Electimuss (see link to article)
Experimental Perfume Club (see link to article)
Maya Njie Perfumes (see link to article)
Ormonde Jayne (see link to article)
…..and so many more !