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Selfridge Embraces Modern World Downton Disdained

Selfridge invents the modern perfume campaign.
Selfridge invents the modern perfume campaign.

While the denizens of Downton were brought kicking and fuming into the 20th century, the employees of Mr. Selfridge’s store were pushed into it head first and weren’t permitted to look back. In episode 2 of the Masterpiece drama, the visionary head of the store introduces more ideas that ruffle people’s feathers. The most revolutionary?: moving perfume from the pharmacy to the front of the store on display for all customers to see, smell and try on for themselves. What a shock!

Selfridge also “invents” the modern perfume ad campaign. Technically speaking his go to spokesmodel and lover, the showgirl Ellen Love and Creative Director Henri Leclair do that first. They are tapped to create an ad for Selfridge’s department store perfume - an idea itself that upsets the staff too. (The new scent is meant to be more affordable and accessible than the pricey french perfumes they currently sell.)

During their photo shoot, Leclair and Love take a conservative approach to the ads at first. But they feel something is missing. Love is allowed to come up with her own poses and she does, kissing, cooing and flirting with the perfume bottle.

The images would be fitting for any Dior or Chanel ad of today. But they are too racy for Mr. Selfridge, who says he runs a family store. LeClere recommends more conservative dainty ads, flowers juxtaposed against a female profile in turn of the century wear. This Selfridge likes and it becomes the basis of the store window ad too.

Displayed perfume is in, displayed make-up is out. Lipstick and rouge are still associated with ladies of the evening, showgirls and blatant sexuality. They vote to keep them behind the counters.

"Modern Romances" Flourish

Office romance, flirtations and flings continue. As Mr. Selfridge seems to wind down his affair with Ms. Love, his knowing wife Rose dapples with the affections of an interested painter.

It will be interesting to see what other modern conventions and intrigues Selfridge introduces next episode.

Miss the episode? Watch it right here.

Watch Mr. Selfridge, Episode 2 on PBS. See more from Masterpiece.