Established in 1870 by a Cornish barber, British brand Penhaligon’s doesn’t just create complex and elegant fragrances, but also tells timeless and intriguing stories.
William H. Penhaligon’s first fragrance, Hamman, created in 1872 and inspired by the Turkish Baths where he was resident barber, paved the way for the brand’s ground-breaking approach.
From royal recognition to global stardom, more than a century later, the perfumer is still a symbol of British excellence and effortless savoir-faire.
We talked to Lance Patterson, who joined Penhaligon’s & L’Artisan Parfumeur in May 2014 as CEO, about the brand’s heritage, present and future.
What does it mean for Penhaligon’s to be a British heritage brand?
Penhaligon’s is one of the traditional British perfumers with a rich heritage. However, the fact that we are still here 150 years later is a testament of us always looking into the future. We are proud of our heritage and the brand’s important milestones overs the last 150 years but we always adapt and try new things to delight our customers. Be this in the creation of fragrances that are innovative and captivating to the way we talk to our customers in the digital era.
How do you blend heritage and contemporaneity in your creations?
We are inspired by our British heritage first and foremost, by all these evocative stories and places. For example our iconic Blenheim Bouquet fragrance was created as a private commission for the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1902 – which beautifully captured the era of the beginning of the 20th century in one of the most impressive palaces in Britain, Blenheim, where the Duke and his family lived and that you can still visit today.
What are the secrets behind Penhaligon’s success over the years?
For us it is not whether you make a purchase or not, it is that when you leave the store you leave with a good felling, that you had a connection with the brand, the team, the product, the story or all of them. We are proud to have been so agile during this disruptive time and discovered new opportunities for the brand which comes down to a super team of people, thinking always of the customer first.
Why do brands like Penhaligon’s appeal to Millennials and Gen-Z?
Penhaligon’s offers something for everyone, and for younger generations, the Portraits collection has been a huge hit. The humorous stories of the characters and their relationships with each other is definitely what attracts a younger customer who is looking for fun interaction when it comes to fragrance. Each character has a very distinctive personality, so it is easier to relate to than just purely talking about ingredients from Millennial’s’ point of view.
What’s in store for the future?
Our ultimate goal is to educate customers on fragrance, always with the priority of helping them find what they like not what their newest product is or the best sellers. We want you to become an “expert” on fragrance, and this is very empowering for the customer. We have many exciting tools to enable this learning, such as Air Parfumtm – a device that allows you to browse our entire collection of fragrances and by pressing a button smell the fragrant air without the alcohol, so that your nose does not get tired of smelling multiple perfumes. The most recent project that launched in our stores is called Penhaligon’s Magic Monocletm, by using a smartphone’s camera, customers can scan fragrances in the store and get a list of notes they contain without even smelling them. And we have our Digital Profiling, which is incredibly accurate in marrying the incredible knowledge of our Fragrance Sommeliers with the olfactive notes of each fragrance and your likes and dislikes, all done virtually.
When did you join Penhaligon’s and what’s your vision for the company?
I joined Penhaligon’s in May 2014 and my vision has always been to think of customer as being at the heart of everything we do and that means understanding them at present but also anticipating how they will behave in the future. This allows Penhaligon’s to remain relevant and grow the brand in new territories. Honestly, everything we do we try to do based on what we think our customers will want. Data plays a role in our project planning, feedback from our teams in the stores every day and, of course, a dash of gut instinct all help us build the brand for the future.
How do you integrate innovation and preservation in a brand like Penhaligon’s?
The brand has evolved since the very first creation of Hammam Bouquet and we are proud to say that we are not stuck in the past. The past is an important part of our DNA. We do refer to our heritage in all our new creations – for example the upcoming launch of Mr Penhaligon is an ode to our founder, William Penhaligon told through a very contemporary fragrance with vetiver at the base of it. We play with storytelling and the British love of humour which can be felt in our playful descriptions of the fragrances.
Has social media changed the company a lot?
Social media enables us to be closer to our customers, talk to them in real time and really connect with them through our immersive storytelling. It has been a great tool for us to tap into the younger generation and get them to fall in love with the brand. It has been crucial for the past year during the pandemic when stores have been closed and social media remained one of the only channels to talk to our customers through. We are excited for what the upcoming year will bring in terms of the social media landscape and the many exciting opportunities for our brand.