Coco Chanel once said that “a woman without perfume is a woman with no future”. We think that’s a little harsh, but just in case, we set out to meet Emma Leah at Fleurage Perfume Atelier.
Leah’s always had a well-developed sense of smell, starting with her fascination with the kitchen’s spice pots (especially cloves), the herb garden and roses. But it’s high-end, French-style perfumery that floats her boat these days – luxury and intimacy. In addition to this custom fragrance-making experience, Leah offer more intensive repeat “fittings” to clients looking for the ultimate bespoke experience. She also sells her own range, and runs a beginner and advanced perfumery school.
She reminds us that smell is very primal: it's our olfactory sense that attracts or repels us from people or things. The modern obsession with hygiene makes this trickier, along with mass-produced perfumes. “If we all smell the same, how can we know who we like?” she asks. “How can we know who we want to be nearer to if we all smell like Britney Spears?” This, in part, explains the rising demand for bespoke fragrance: not only do people want to smell unique, they want to smell like themselves, but better.
Leah's South Melbourne Art Deco scent temple is warm and soothing, as opposed to the brightly lit onslaught of the ordinary perfume counter. She guides us through of 80 botanical and synthetic fragrances, which we divvy up into likes, maybes and dislikes. We're surprised that, while scents we'd expected to love don't appeal (like moss and coconut), the smoke-and-moss ‘chypre’ family smells heavenly. We pick a lot, but Leah carefully selects how much of each fragrance is going into the mix and then lets us drop them into an elegant little bottle. It’s like making a potion (indeed, Leah describes the process as “magic and science”), and we pause at several stages – base notes, heart notes and top notes – to take stock of how the perfume’s evolving. Soon, the bottle is full, and we’re happier with the final product than any commercial perfume we’ve ever bought. At least as far as Chanel’s concerned, our future’s smelling good and looking bright.
Check the website for further info and call with enquiries. The shop is open by appointment.