One of the reasons I love my job so much, is that I get to discover fascinating new things every day. Today’s style 101 is about fragrance, which also happens to be my favorite one-stop-shop for Holiday gifts.
Most of you might already know that scent is the strongest form of memory. More than sight, sound, touch or taste, the whiff of something distinctive takes us right back to a moment, or a feeling. I remember with such clarity, watching my Mom get ready in her bedroom, sitting at her vanity table, combing her hair, applying her blush and three spritzes of fragrance from a beautiful glass bottle. There was something magical and glamorous about the process. Like a fairytale world I wasn’t old enough to join yet, but I couldn’t wait. Earrings, hair and makeup was one thing, but she wasn’t truly ready until the scent had been applied. She still wears the same scent now, and when I walk into her bedroom back home, those happy childhood feelings come flooding back.
It was a few years later that I realized finding the right, signature perfume for yourself not only has a positive effect on your mood, but it can alter the way others perceive you, too.
What you may not know about fragrance, (and here’s the science bit), is that no scent smells the same, on different people. The ‘notes’ of a scent react completely uniquely to our skin, our body temperature and our pheromones, creating a completely custom blend. Scent also alters the longer you wear it, as top notes start to evaporate and reveal lower notes (the layers that make up a scent). If you’re buying perfume for yourself, it’s important to spritz it onto your skin, let it sit for 10-15 minutes, and then take a long inhale, for the full effect. If you’re buying for someone else, however, spraying onto the little piece of card, works fine.
I love buying fragrance for friends and family at this time of year: not only are the boxes easy and neat to wrap, but the different shaped bottles look gorgeous on people’s vanities, like a chic fashion accessory. And that’s before we even get to the point that buying somebody a new scent is a really thoughtful, personal, gift. But getting it right is key. Fragrance isn’t one size fits all, so how to choose?
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely and eloquent Honorine Blanc, French-born perfumer for Elizabeth Arden. Honorine walked me through the scent trends taking over the industry right now, and how to match up the right bottle for the right person.
First up, it’s important to think about the friend you’re buying for. Is she outdoorsy, always going for long walks with the dog through the dewy fields? Does she have a sweet tooth, with a penchant for soft spices like cinnamon apple pie or amaretto on the rocks? Is he a traditional gentleman? Does he read old leather-bound books and take great pride in his pressed suits and shirts? Note down some ideas about your friend’s character and favorite things, before you hit the department store.
Take a little bag of coffee beans to the counter with you. These cleanse the palette between sniffs, so your nose doesn’t get overloaded and confused!
It’s also important, advises Honorine, to detach yourself from the gift when you’re trying out the scents. It’s not about what you like, but rather – can you imagine them wearing it?
The Artisan: ‘There has been a shift towards the artisan in fragrance,” says Honorine. “There are a lot of natural elements in scents being favored right now. Those of very high quality, of something bespoke, and rare for the customer.” Try: J by Jennifer Aniston.
Gentleman: For the strong, noble gentlemen in your life, look for fragrances incorporating leather, tobacco, patchouli, cedarwood, sandalwood. These are strong but warm scents, to signify confidence and assuredness. Try: John Varvatos OUD.
Romantic: For the romantic, dreamy women among you, there’s a big trend towards the gourmand. Decadent, sweet, gourmet foods and florals. Honorine explained this signifies a kind of new sensuality in the fragrance industry. Flavors like rum, cognac and vanilla signify a richness, optimism, femininity. Try: Juicy Couture’s Viva La Juicy So Intense.
Bohemian: The bohemian man or woman is all about the outdoors. Look for fragrances incorporating nature, and that includes everything from mosses to fruits: mandarin, cucumber, lemongrass, pine and thyme. These scents are not sweet, but rather dewy. Try: You & I by One Direction.
Minimalist: Now for my favorite category: minimalist. For the chic chick who wears a white blazer with skinny blue jeans and flat, loafers (we all know one, we all want to be her – she’s basically Parisienne), ask for a bottle containing musk, spices, possibly with notes of coffee, hazelnut or leather. These smells are strong, they verge on the masculine, and come fashion week, the front row is going to be awash with these types of fragrances. As Honorine told me, these scents are daring, sophisticated, avant garde, but in their own way, simple. A lot of them evolve from food this season too. Try: Elizabeth Arden Untold Absolu.
See, you had no idea how much fun festive shopping was going to be!
The liquid you and your loved ones spray on every morning has way more effect than you might think. Honorine expressed it beautifully, when she said, “Fragrance is very intimate. It is a sense closely linked to emotion. Wearing it reveals something about you. It’s the first contact you have with people when you walk into a room, it makes even more of a first impression than your clothes. If you’re not sure, sometimes you just have to be bold and wear a new scent, before you’re able to fully understand it. And there should be no rules where you wear it on the body – or spray it on your clothes if you prefer.”
My final tips?
Apply With Care: Spritz scent onto your body before adding your jewelry, to protect the metal or stones. Don’t rub your wrists together either, as this can crush and alter the notes.
Karma Chameleon: Switch up your scent according to the season, your outfit or even your mood! There’s no reason why a girl (or boy) can’t have a candy store of fragrances, just like a closet!
Scent of a Woman If you’re on a first date, borrow his sweater or jacket, ‘accidentally’ take it home, and spray a little perfume onto it. He’ll be taken right back to a moment with you every time he wears it. I tried that one once, and it worked!