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Why Miller Harris is not just another clean perfume brand

Clean perfume brands are nothing new these days, but Sarah Rotherham, CEO of Miller Harris, is adamant that the brand is different from its peers
 

Thanks to the recent clean beauty trend, perfumes made from sustainable and organic ingredients have become increasingly common. But this trend also means that it has become increasingly difficult for clean perfume brands to stand out from the crowd on the basis of being “clean”. That’s not a problem for Sarah Rotherham, CEO of perfume brand Miller Harris, however.

According to Rotherham, British fragrance house Miller Harris prides itself on creating olfactory stories. Being a clean beauty brand is just a given to her. After all, we still have to inhabit the earth for ages to come; taking care of the planet should be second nature to us.

Recently, I had the chance to sit down and speak with Sarah Rotherham, in order to find out what makes the brand so different from its peers.

“Miller Harris tells modern stories and dreams, through perfumes, for the modern bohemian,” said Rotherham. “We do that by creating really beautiful, niche perfumery. Our founder, Lyn (Harris), who launched the brand 20 years ago, has always used very high quality natural ingredients. It has always been our signature.”

“The best way to identify what sets [Miller Harris] apart is to smell our fragrances. Your nose interprets natural ingredients differently from synthetic ingredients. Also, we only do eau de parfums,” Sarah Rotherham explains.

Because of this, Miller Harris uses a mix of natural and synthetic ingredients. They do rely on natural materials as much as possible, unless the latter is preferable.

Sometimes, synthetic ingredients can actually be better for the environment. “Lily of the Valley is a very small flower that requires a lot of resources to grow,” said Rotherham. Instead of wasting resources, perfumers create Lily-of-the-valley scents in the lab, lessening the impact on the environment.

Then, there’s the matter of alcohol. Spurred on by recent reports of denatured alcohol being toxic to the body, I had to ask Sarah Rotherham if that was true, and if I had to give up regular perfumes, cold turkey. She was quick to reassure me otherwise.

“There are many ways to denature alcohol. The key is to make the alcohol undrinkable. We use Bitrex.”

Bitrex, one of the most bitter compounds in the world, is also used in nail polish designed to deter people from nail biting.

Sarah also emphasised that Miller Harris, as well as other perfume brands on the market, all have to adhere to industry guidelines, which means that it’s highly impossible for toxic ingredients to slip in.

Besides using sustainable, natural ingredients, Miller Harris also does its part for the environment by using recyclable packaging. In fact, the brand actually had to add carbon to its perfume bottle caps, in order to be detectable by recycling plants. Rotherham revealed that the company actually pays a lot of attention to the issue of sustainability, through little tweaks like this. However, these tweaks aren’t necessarily news-worthy, which is why it can seem like the brand isn’t embracing sustainability efforts.

Sarah Rotherham recounted Miller Harris’ efforts to use a biodegradable sugarcane-based material in their packaging, only to belatedly find out that most recycling plants do not recycle it. This hiccup set back their product launch by months. “If we went ahead [with the material], it’s just because it looks good, and not actually have an impact on the planet,” Rotherham asserts. “Instead, we’ve gone ahead with packaging that uses 50% curbside plastic, with aims to go up to 100% recycled plastic by November.”

Miller Harris may not be a buzz-y, trendy brand that constantly hogs the headlines, but you get a sense that it’s honest, tries to do good where possible, and above everything else, smells sublime. And that is what makes Miller Harris special.

To get your hands on Miller Harris fragrances, visit AMARIS, 90 Orchard Road #03-11 Paragon Shopping Centre, Singapore 238859. Key fragrances include L’Air de Rien, an airy scent created for and by Jane Birkin, and Tea Tonique, a deep, yet refreshing worldly tea scent. $139.40 for 50ml, $195.50 for 100ml. 

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