Meet the Brand Creating Fragrances Inspired by Icons of Literature

Courtesy Timothy Han / Edition

Edition is a perfume brand, but not as you know it. On the eve of a new launch, its founder Timothy Han tells us more

  1. Who is it? Edition, a London-based fragrance brand creating scents inspired by great works of literature
  2. Why do I want it? Idiosyncratic and unforgettable fragrances which evolve throughout the day, as you do
  3. Where can I buy it? At Browns, and through the Edition website

Who is it? It’s not often that fragrance and literature have the opportunity to intersect – but when they do, the sensory impact is breathtaking. Edition, founded by Timothy Han, came about almost by accident, Han explains; he came from a background in the fashion industry (spending a long stint assisting John Galliano) and had been creating candles for some time when a good friend suggested he turn his hand to wearable fragrance. “He said, ‘when you think about it it’s actually quite simple,’” Han remembers. “What’s a cocktail? It’s alcohol and flavour. What’s a perfume? Alcohol and fragrance. Fragrance and flavour are essentially the same thing – I think you should try and make one.” Han soon did, and when friends and strangers alike stopped him in the street to ask him what it was, he wondered if there might be a market for his idiosyncratic approach. Before he knew it, it was stocked in Browns and Edition was born. 

The brand is named for its affinity with literature – a focus which sets it far apart from competitors. While Han circumvented a traditional approach to perfume (it is an industry notoriously difficult to penetrate for outsiders), he had an unusual way in: “I like scent, and I like the stories that you can tell with scent,” he explains. He decided to create fragrances inspired by novels, which would transform with the wearer over the course of a day. “From a marketing perspective there is this idea of a two-second rule,” he explains, “where a customer smells a perfume, and decides there and then whether or not they will buy it.” The result of this approach is a deeply dissatisfied customer base who, upon wearing their newly purchased scent for a day or longer, realise they don’t like it after all. “What I wanted to do was to build on those changes, and even create more changes intentionally within the perfumes,” he says. “Like the book they are based on, they tell stories on the skin over an hour, two hours – over the course of the day.”

Why do I want it? The first scent, entitled She Came to Stay, was inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s 1943 existential novel of the same name. A unisex fragrance (as they all are), it is centred around the evolving sense of self – with top notes of geranium, basil and lemon, a heart of Indonesian clove and nutmeg, and base notes of patchouli, vetiver, labdanum, oak moss and cedarwood. It makes for an intoxicating mix, and was an instant hit. It was soon followed by On the Road – a Kerouac-inspired olfactory equivalent of a road trip across 1950s America – and The Decay of the Angel, based on Yukio Mishima’s 1971 novel, channelling the “final longings of a descending angel”. In short, this is perfume, certainly, but not as you know it – wearers must wear the scents, or be worn by them, Han warns. 

The same goes for the newest – due to launch soon. “My next fragrance is called Against Nature, based on a novel by a French writer called Joris-Karl Huysmans,” he explains. The fin-de-siècle novel’s protagonist, Des Esseintes, is a decadent aristocrat whose hunger for luxury and sensual experiences eventually causes his downfall. The fragrance follows suit. “It’s completely different from everything we’ve done both in terms of scent,” Han continues. “It’s a very lush, green, foliage kind of smell but it’s underlaid with metal, lacquer and blood.”

And what might perfume with a beginning, middle and end look like when transposed onto a space? Edition is currently mid-way through a two month-long pop-up at Browns East, where one can find out. Visitors can experience a one-of-a-kind installation which teams moving image and sound with scent to create a truly immersive experience – and one that won’t be quickly forgotten. But Edition is nothing if not memorable – and when it comes to perfume, what could be better than that?

Where can I buy it? At Browns, and through the Edition website.

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