There's a science to fragrance -- expert noses can tell you things that I can't even begin to understand. But what I do understand -- what we all can relate to -- is the magical power of fragrance. How a certain scent can transport you to distant places and times, can conjure people near and far, perhaps long gone from your life. And, even more, how fragrances can become intertwined with your very identity!
Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. -Diane Ackerman from A Natural History of the Senses
I've always loved the idea of a signature scent, something that embodied me and became a personal statement. Fragrance reacts differently on different people, so how your signature scent smells on you and to you is different than how it smells in the bottle. That means that even a very popular fragrance can become highly personalized -- it won't smell the same on you as it does on other people (which is why you should always try scent on your skin and let it develop before making a decision!).
In my twenties, I always wore Estee Lauder Pleasures. It's a fresh, floral scent, very sheer and romantic and when I smell it, it reminds me of happy optimism, but also youthfulness. That scent is like a time capsule; it embodies a certain idea I had about myself at that time. But ultimately, I grew out of that perfume and that image of myself.
I've always found when I shift into a new phase, I want a new fragrance. It's like a talisman, a token of who I am right now. When some people want to signify a personal change, they change their hair style or wardrobe, but fragrance is so intimate. When I want to redefine who I am in my own eyes, changing my perfume has always been the perfect catalyst.
In my late twenties I wore Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey. It was (and still is) a popular fragrance, a light and clean pure floral with musky and woody tones. It epitomized those cleaner, gender-neutral and restrained fragrances that took over as a perfect antidote to the popular heavier scents of the previous decade (remember Opium and Poison?!).
I can look at my own style evolution and relate it to my fragrance choices too. I gradually got darker... moving then to the musky and sensual Narcisco Rodriguez, then to the velvety Bvlgari Jasmine Noir and more recently to the sleek and sensuous Patchouli from Tom Ford. Sometimes, a spray of perfume is like pulling on a favourite sweater on a cold day... it envelops and comforts you, makes you feel secure. And, of course, fragrance can also be the accessory that completes an outfit, that makes that new dress feel like part of you.
These days, I love Costes, the signature scent of famous Hotel Costes in Paris -- a dark, sultry, warm and mysterious fragrance. I wear Costes as a perfume but also use it to fragrance my home (in candle and soap form). It's really that idea of creating a cocoon for myself, a place to retreat. After all, my home is an extension of myself, a place I feel is very much me. That it "wears" my signature scent makes it feel even more like my home!
But this scent is also connected to the first time I encountered it. I discovered it on a trip to Paris that changed me in many ways forever and this scent keeps me close to that time and place. And that's the thing about scent: it's just like a special person -- how, where and when you meet is what forms that meaningful connection. And it's those scents that take you back to a happy place and time that you're likely to be drawn to.
Someone close to me wore Clinique Happy and sometimes when I'm wandering through the beauty department at Holts, I'll stop and take a little sniff. Sure enough it brings back the memories. Similarly, my favourite flower is the peony and every time I smell one I'm transported to spring and all those feelings of happy energy that we associate with that season!
Whether it's the smell of fresh-baked bread or candy floss (another favourite!) or the perfume fragrance that you spritz on yourself every morning, there's no doubt that scent is such a powerful force. No wonder then it's a multi-billion dollar industry and an age-old gift for loved ones! But for me, it's really that more personal connection that makes scent meaningful. The fragrance I wear is one I love, identify and grow with, that it conjures special people and places and -- most of all -- that it's an ineffable expression of my own true self!