Purveyor of luxury fragrances Libertine Parfumerie have opened their flagship store in Sydney, crafted by local interior designer Tamsin Johnson to showcase a collection of the world’s most spectacular perfumes. And it’s more than just a shop, it’s an experience reminiscent of classic European pharmacies of yesteryear.
Located on Oxford Street in leafy Paddington, the boutique represents the realisation of a 15-year dream. Nick Smart, who owns and operates Libertine Parfumerie as the retail face of his wholesale business, Agence de Parfum, chose Tamsin to imagine the store’s interiors, tasking her to create a retail experience that honours the maturity of the brand and its luxurious portfolio of products in a quintessentially Sydney setting.
The flagship provides a bookend to a series of six concession-store openings in Myer department stores across the country and reflects the brand’s evolution from its debut bricks-and-mortar store in Brisbane, which opened in 2008.
“Establishing a flagship in Sydney is a momentous occasion for Libertine Parfumerie. Since opening our first boutique in Brisbane the brand has experienced significant market growth – especially through our online store – matched only in momentum by our portfolio of brands which has broadened to include some of the most revered names in fragrance,” he says.
“The Sydney flagship stands as a timestamp of our journey so far and Tamsin was the perfect design partner to ensure Libertine Parfumerie makes its mark among likeminded, luxurious labels in Paddington. We wanted to a create a space that hasn’t been seen in Australian beauty retail.”
Renowned for imbuing spaces with her signature collected style, Johnson has brought to the flagship swathes of new and vintage flourishes, balancing classic European influences with a relaxed antipodean aesthetic. Upon arrival, a look through the store’s glazed facade offers the first hint of her decorative style: two old French chiffoniers face Oxford Street and the 1800s sandstone walls of the Victoria Barracks, their hand-painted surfaces providing merchandising real estate for candles, room diffusers, homewares and fragrances.
Corralling collections from cornerstone brands, including Amouage, Creed and Trudon fragrances, the bespoke timber joinery throughout the space offers a nod to apothecaries from as early as the 14th century. “I set about researching a lot of classical European druggists and other stores and reflecting upon them as inspiration for this project,” Tamsin says. “One of my favourite things to do is explore classical pharmacies overseas, particularly those very old ones in Milan, Vienna and throughout France. They are so dignified and ornate. I wanted to recreate that feeling here.”
Crafted from stained European oak, the chocolate-tinged cabinets throughout the store exemplify her knack for conjuring impeccable custom detailing, with every piece catering to the display needs of each brand: from brushed metal railings and white marble plinths to glass-backed dispensary doors and elongated product baskets. Riffing off the vintage feel of the cabinetry is a collection of contemporary Italian glass pieces, mostly sourced by the designer from Murano, including two spectacular chandeliers, a series of jewel-like wall pendants and sculptural vases brimming with blooms.
“Nick had a vision for an elegant and richly decorated space with a continental feeling,” Tamsin says of the brief she was given. “Visitors to the store should feel transported yet at home. The intention was to take shoppers on a journey of discovery, where they can make their way through the space in a paced way. But it also has that feel where you want to pause and settle in.”
New to the Libertine Parfumerie lineup is homewares brand Fornasetti, the eponymous label of Italian artist and designer Piero Fornasetti, whose iconic table decor, candles, home fragrances and accessories sit among soap and body products by Compagnie de Provence. Surrounding these are home and body fragrance collections from the likes of Juliette Has a Gun, Floris London, BDK Parfums, La Perla, Matiere Premiere, Mizensir, Parfums de Marly, Xerjoff, Obvious, Maison Tahité, Carriere Freres and the UK’s Clive Christian – the resurrection brand of the circa-1872 Crown Perfumery.
Linked by an open-sky courtyard, traversed via large garden doors with baroque timber embellishments, the front and rear sections of the boutique are backdropped by an old world wall painting technique recreating the appearance of marble-clad walls, with Versailles-inspired parquetry flooring underfoot adding to the charming European ambience.
In the courtyard, a vintage bent-wire table and chair setting invites visitors to sit and soak it all in, surrounded by lush foliage-filled pots, collectively evoking the spirit of a shopping experience in Paris or Milan. Beyond the sunny courtyard, the secluded rear section of the boutique is reserved for rare and precious bottles from Libertine Parfumerie’s marquee perfume brands – including Creed, Roja Parfums and Astier de Villatte, each tucked away in wall-mounted curiosity cabinets – while the Oxford Street frontage contains the remainder of the portfolio’s captivating, unusual and most-loved products.
Among the front and rear sections of the store, Tamsin has placed large provincial timber tables with high-back brocade-upholstered seating where visitors can sit and consult with Libertine Parfumerie’s team of experts, each skilled in pairing fragrances and body products with the individual needs, tastes and personal styles of customers.
“These generously proportioned tables can also be used for intimate client dinners and soirees,” Tamsin adds, pointing to other tables in the store that adopt more decorative roles: a solid 1960s round Italian marble piece loaded with products and another custom-made metal example with hand-finished details.
Encouraging visitors to interact with hand and body products, such as fragrant soaps and lotions available to purchase, the designer has also introduced functional washstands between displays, adding a layer of intrigue given each basin’s intricate beauty. “The basins are antiques from France, which I sourced especially for the space on a recent buying trip and had restored in Sydney,” she explains. “They are 18th century, solid marble pieces with wonderful shapes that offset the visual weight of the timber joinery and the multitude of fragrances with all their captivating packaging and branding.”
Libertine Parfumerie, Shop 6/134-140 Oxford Street, Paddington, open, from 10am to 5.30pm, seven days a week.
–Photography by Anson Smart.