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Liberty’s new Fragrance Lounge is reframing the in-store shopping experience

liberty fragrance lounge
Inside Liberty’s fragrance revolutionHearst Owned

Technology has been transforming the way we shop for decades now, but it’s only in recent years that innovation has come for the beauty arena. Now, there is A.I. software to determine your most flattering make-up look, V.R. to facilitate lipstick try-ons, and algorithms to prescribe your perfect night cream.

But for all the digital bells and whistles now available online and in stores, marrying fragrance with the tech world doesn’t quite work: and nobody knows this better than Liberty. The fabled department store has been selling scent for decades, loved for the old-fashioned approach to service that awaits customers in its oak-walled beauty hall.

Now, the department store is doubling down on its human-first strategy with the launch of the Fragrance Lounge: its biggest beauty development in years. Hidden beneath the main beauty hall, this conceptual, interactive space is a shrine to the fine art of perfumery, where visitors are encouraged to settle in, take a seat, and discover their own signature scent.

EXPLORE THE FRAGRANCE CONCIERGE MENU

True to Liberty form, the Fragrance Lounge is friendly, inclusive, and refreshingly tech-free. You cannot order your new scent via a robot, nor can you allow artificial intelligence to prescribe you a perfume. There are no gadgets, gimmicks, or even screens in this analogue haven – and it makes perfect sense.

bibbi parfum at the liberty fragrance lounge
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While there is a place for tech in today's beauty industry, fragrance is best experienced in real life, with nothing but your nose (and perhaps a friendly expert) to guide you.

“The decision to keep the Fragrance Lounge tech-free was very deliberate,” Rhea Cartwright, head of beauty buying at Liberty, tells Bazaar. “We believe in the power of experiential retail, where customers can fully engage with the products in a tactile and immersive way. Fragrance, in particular, is deeply personal and sensory, and we wanted to create an environment where customers could connect with the scents on a more intimate level.”

The aim here was really to keep things simple, removing the barriers between the customer and the products, encouraging exploration without intimidation or distraction. “In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, there's often a reliance on digital interfaces that can detract from the physical experience. We want our customers to feel empowered to pick up the fragrances, touch the bottles and smell the scents directly on their skin, fostering a deeper connection and understanding of each scent.”

Of course, experiencing a fragrance first-hand is the only way to fully appreciate the artistry behind it – and there is artistry aplenty in this new scented space. Liberty’s beauty team hand-selected each brand, and the result is a wide-reaching edit of names, from the niche – including D.S & Durga, Ex Nihilo and Lyn Harris’ Perfumer H – to blockbuster brands such as Creed and Chloé. There are a few impressive exclusives in-store too, including the only dedicated space in the country for Gucci’s premium Alchemist’s Garden line. (“Their counter features the biggest piece of tech down here,” says Cartwright, referring to a small tablet.)

ds durga at the liberty fragrance lounge
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With so many scents to discover, it’s likely you won’t know where to start: and this is where that legendary Liberty service comes in. Sat at the centre of the room, the Fragrance Concierge is where you’ll start your scent discovery. Guided by one of the brand’s new concierge staff (Mindy, Lucy and Michael, who were deliberately hired from outside the beauty industry to ensure a fresh, non-'salesy' approach), you’ll be taken on a tour of the lounge’s best scents in your preferred olfactory category.

“We have dismantled the typical approach of shopping by brand in our Fragrance Concierge edit,” says Natalie Guselli, head of commercial at Liberty. “The customer journey is determined by scent family – fresh, floral, fruity or woody – as a customer-friendly way to find what you are looking for. The Fragrance Concierge team will talk to you about how your fragrance will work for you; what occasion is it for, how do you want it to make you feel rather than ingredients and top notes. They even have some fun profiling tools to help hone down what it is you're really looking for.”

liberty fragrance lounge
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Indeed, the experience here is unlike anything you will likely find in a hectic department store. Take a seat in one of the plush private suites, refreshments in hand, and your concierge expert will bring a tray of personally selected options for you to spritz your way through – and keep spritzing until you find The One. There’s no obligation to buy, no nudge towards the checkout and crucially, no fragrance jargon.

There is, however, more than a light misting of that signature Liberty eclecticism, perhaps best summed up by the wall of ceramic noses by sculptor Tasha Marks. Some of them are scented: but you’ll have to be physically in the room to experience that.

Liberty Fragrance Concierge appointments start at £35, and are bookable online.


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