I make my sartorial choices based upon the weather, my schedule, my required state of ‘put together-ness’, [which, in Manchester climes dictates a uniform of black skinny jeans and a reliance upon outerwear], but the only decision criterion for my fragrance choice is my mood. On a cold overcast day, I can’t wear espadrilles and a sundress, but I can reach for Acqua di Parma’s Blu Mediterraneo Ginepro di Sardegna, a hot blend of juniper and pepper which gives me hope for summer on even the darkest winter mornings. Like colour, perfume appeals directly to our senses, and has the power of reinvention - in one sniff you can change your attitude faster than you can change your coat.
Perfume has the transportive ability to build a brighter state of mind with every spritz, it’s a favourite trick of us beauty writers, who are afforded the luxury of a fragrance wardrobe, from which to pick and choose depending on mood, instead of relying upon a one-size-fits-all bottle. It doesn’t help that marketing continually pushes us to make a single perfume our signature scent. Granted, it’s an appealing concept, the idea of finding ‘the one’ and being able to make a lasting impression on family and friends’ association with us. But the beauty of fragrance is its lasting connection with memory.
Each fragrance tells a story, which becomes a chapter in a plot that can be revisited for the ultimate nostalgic stimulation. Here’s mine.
First there was Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, which my mum bought me as a teenager. I wore it in attempt to stand out from the cloud of Impulse and Charlie Red, which even now evokes memories of my high school changing rooms. I was sold from the advertising campaign - it transformed a shy, awkward schoolgirl into a carefree Keira Knightley dancing around her dressing room against a pastel-hued Parisian skyline. Whilst I no longer wear the scent [it reminds me too much of a time when my routine comprised assemblies and netball matches], I occasionally smell it for the nostalgia kick and smile fondly. It’s like the old friend you catch up with once a year and reminisce about childhood with.
Of course, there is Chanel No5, a scent which has a strong association for me as my mum has worn since before I was born. My dad buys her a new bottle every Christmas and as a child I hoarded the empty ones, lining them up on my bookcase against a backdrop of Vogue cutouts, a shrine to my escape from small-town life. I always harboured ambitions of making it my own, until realising that as it so intrinsically reminds me of my mother, I simply cannot steal it. Now it is the olfactory comfort blanket which I spritz on in department store beauty halls when I miss her, or at duty free as a lucky charm whenever I fly.
For many years I was a creature of habit and Penhaligons' Juniper Sling was my favourite scent - it was one of the first perfumes I was gifted by a brand, and the bottle design appealed to my love of history and vintage beauty products. Just looking at it on my dressing table made me feel fancy, expensive, and as if I had my life together. Even now I can smell someone wearing it from a mile away. It basically smells like a gin and tonic, and when I close my eyes it transports me to a sun soaked rooftop bar. I wore it too much, but again I occasionally spray it on when I’m feeling nostalgic.
As soon as the temperature reaches 20 degrees I reach for the afore mentioned Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Ginepro di Sardegna, which is the most addictive perfume imaginable and prepares me for summer by transporting me to Mediterranean groves with its nostalgic notes of juniper and bergamot. It’s less a fragrance and more an atmosphere of heat and sun that reminds me of the first time I wore it, a summer weekend spent on Lake Como with an ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend is long gone, but the scent and the memories of waking up to sun warmed skin and the sound of Como’s lapping shores linger on.
Tom Ford’s Velvet Orchid makes the biggest entrance at every party I go to. It’s sexy in the overt, tantalising way that only an oud and musk-based scent can be - dark, decadent, and opulent. Every time I smell it I want to wear something with a plunging neckline, go dancing, and drink champagne. Like false eyelashes and Agent Provocateur lingerie, this only comes out to play after nightfall.
Byredo’s Gypsy Water was the first truly ‘niche’ fragrance I wore, and the first fragrance that made me think, ‘Yes, this is me’. It’s sensual, earthy, and mysterious - you can’t quite place the scent because it’s like nothing else, which is real perfume magic. This is one of those perfumes that I could bathe in, layer with matching body lotion, spritz my sheets with - I love it that much. It smells like campfires and summer evenings and sex - a far cry from the clean, crowd-pleasers I sold in my first job on the fragrance counter at Boots and grew to hate - it’s everything that CK One and Estee Lauder Modern Muse are not.
My go-to scent when I need to feel strong, confident, and all-round amazing - because that’s the power fragrances have - is Baccarat Rouge 540 from Francis Kurkdjian’s eponymous line. It’s sweet and evocative and smells like the world’s most expensive candyfloss, but it’s also the sexiest fragrance in the world - I get stopped on the street every time I wear it by intrigued wannabe owners. It’s one of the most potent formulas I’ve used, lingering on my skin for days on end, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been complimented when wearing it, especially by guys. They don’t notice perfectly blended eyeshadow or a flawless eyeliner match, but they do notice when you smell good, and they tell you.
Byredo Super Cedar made me realise that I like scents that are a bit more masculine - it’s like when you wear your boyfriend’s shirt and it still smells like him. I’m a sucker for woody perfumes and this smells like a combination of old books and a cedar forest bathed in sunshine. To me, this is waking up on a Sunday morning and lazing with your lover in the sun-spot that hits your bed at exactly 10:17am.