Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Forties Flick

The walk down Kantstrasse seemed endless, especially in light of the funny Berlin street-numbering system. But we were on a mission: to find a little-known perfumery purported to stock family formulas unchanged by the winds of fragrance marketing. Not long after an unforeseen pastry stop, we spotted the Fifties-era BRD signage and breathed a collective sigh. Despite the display of bottles in the window, the shop resembled that of a neighborhood florist: bright blooms, retro "greens," and a selection that looked more suited to the high-school-prom-corsage set than the stylishly spritzed. Enter the proprietor in a grey suit and tie. After a formal yet friendly exchange of Guten Tags and Bittes, I turned to behold an entire wall lined with giant apothecary bottles labeled with names like Lindenblüte, Fougère, Chypre, Veilchen, Rose Jacques, Valeria and so on. As Herr Lehmann (grandson of the founder) lifted the heavy crystal stoppers and waved them in front of my nose, I was transported by the scent-profile of an earlier time. These were old-fashioned scents but great unmistakeable scents with not a few imitators ... families of imitators even. However, there was something new and novel in their being hidden away on this unassuming Charlottenburg block. Indeed, the shop was a repository of novelty. The type of novelty that brings a smile to your face when you knot the tie and apply the scent. Lehmann informed me that his brother was trying to re-brand the shop, essentially unchanged since sometime in the mid-1930s. I must have shocked his own sense of propriety when I gently grabbed his grey sleeve and told him that it would be better to smash the front window and burn his treasures than change the packaging and presentation. The scents are rather linear in style for things created so long ago, but this may be precisely why they are so reassuring and worth seeking out. They don't surprise as much as transport, and leave the strangers on the train wondering what miraculous shampoo you've been using. Harry Lehmann, Parfum nach Gewicht: Kantstraße 106, 10627 Berlin


Blogger Solander said...

Hello, I just found my way to your lovely blog from Perfume Posse! I've been to Harry Lehmann too, in fact I stayed at a hotel just a couple of blocks away (sort of red light district around there...) I bought a number of small bottles, but I haven't used them much, I'm more impressed by the shop and its history than with the scents themselves.

December 10, 2007 at 4:16 PM  

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