In the year 1790, Europe was ablaze with revolutionary fervour. In Paris, the revolutionaries, having overthrown the old order, were launching a brave new world of liberté, égalité, fraternité. In London, two cousins, Henry Harris, a surgeon, and Daniel Rotely Harris, a pharmacist, set up shop on the corner of St James’s Street and King Street. They dispensed medicines and blended toilet waters, English flower extracts and colognes for the gentry of St James’s, products whose matchless scents far outlived the rhetoric, fire and brimstone of the French Revolution.
D.R. Harris may have been on St James’s Street in London for over 225 years but it is always looking to the wider world and the future for inspiration.
Of late, the company has been focussing on the sustainability of its products; accordingly, the desire to minimise the company’s impact on the environment has been at the heart of many recent developments.
Starting in 2018, D.R. Harris has partnered Eden Projects, an American charity, planting a tree for every purchase made in store, online or through the wholesale business. Eden Projects works with local communities in areas which have suffered particularly badly from deforestation, including Madagascar, Nepal, Indonesia and Haiti. Donations pay not only for the trees but provide work for the local teams who plant the saplings and nurture them into trees. After just five months, D.R. Harris’s donations have contributed over 13,000 trees and more than 130 days’ employment for local people.
D.R. Harris is continuing to find that its rich history and distinctly British aesthetic has increasing cachet overseas. In 2018 half of the company’s wholesale business was in export markets: exciting new stockists and partnerships are developing in the United States, China, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The commitment to producing more than 400 products by traditional methods in Britain has lasting appeal. One of the charms of the Harris range is how modern some of the oldest lines still feel. Cucumber and Roses, first introduced in the early 19th century, perfectly embodies this and is testament to the refined taste and acumen of the early Harrises. The range may retain its traditional, old-fashioned feel but the products themselves are constantly brought up to date. For example, none of the formulas contain any parabens.
A visit to the St James’s Street shop is like stepping back in time: the Latin names inscribed on the Victorian apothecary’s jars and bank of drawers evoke an age when the exotic herbs and spices within were first becoming known to the people of London.
The company is particularly well known for the quality of its shaving creams and soaps. When writing of his fondness for D.R. Harris shaving soaps the late AA Gill declared that ‘Luxury should be a commonplace, not a once-a-year treat. My daily luxury is a wet shave.’ The staff at D.R. Harris are on hand to help reinvigorate this most mundane of tasks with a splash of quintessentially British charm.
D.R. HARRIS 29 ST JAMES’S ST, ST. JAMES’S, LONDON, SW1A 1HD
020 7930 3915