Take a look at this gal. She’s standing in what looks like a futuristic laboratory — next to a smiling scientist/guide of some sort — and surrounded by craggy contrast walls, mounds of white sand and jutting copper fixtures. And smelling… bubbles? Iridescent marbles? This isn’t a deleted scene from Inception or a screen capture from a sequel to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is what it looks like to go perfume shopping at the Fragrance Lab.
Temporarily installed now through the end of June at London’s flagship Selfridges department store, the Fragrance Lab is a next-level way to shop that tailors the product you purchase — in this case, perfume — to exactly suit your personality. That’s done by sending each customer on an immersive, multi-sensory experience through the pop-up shop that rivals a tour through Willy Wonka’s candy factory. This experimental retail approach strips down your senses and takes outside influences completely out of the picture — no posters of Keira Knightley staring into your musky soul, no loops of Charlize Theron blazing down a gilded runway that leads to designer bottles — so that the experience alone guides you to choose the scent that’s most uniquely you. As a Fashionista profile puts it, a true “Eau de Moi.”
The olfactory journey begins familiarly enough with a personality quiz about your shopping habits, style and behaviors. Then get ready for a 15-minute walkabout of non-stop stimulation. A virtual guide weaves you in and out of rooms full of eye- and nose-catching displays — ohhh, a room full of scented, gem-filled apothecary jars! Whoa, the floor is covered in dry ice fog! — and in the end, you’re met by a lab assistant who assesses your reactions throughout the expedition. Those results are then used to peg your personality + shape your signature scent: a one-of-a-kind perfume created by leading perfumers Givaudan, the minds behind the iconic scent J’Adore by Dior, which is bottled up and presented to you as your pretty “prescription.”
The collaboration between Selfridges and trend forecaster The Future Laboratory may seem unconventional, even bonkers now, but it could be a glimpse at what the future of retail might look (and feel) like. All-immersive shopping experiences wouldn’t just turn traditional retail models on their heads, they would also completely alter our role as consumers. Trends wouldn’t spur us to “buy now” and endorsements wouldn’t sway us toward certain brands as we continue to discover the link between what we buy and who we really are. If you’ll be in London between now and June 28, you can DIY the experience for roughly $110, which includes a full-sized bottle of your custom scent.
So are you hopping the pond to experience the Fragrance Lab? Do you think it could represent the future of retail? Tell us in the comments below.