We are all very different in our fragrant habits. Some of us are incredibly loyal to one or two signature scents and find it hard to imagine how we might smell without our familiar notes on our skin.
Other people are more fickle, tarty (or indecisive if you want to be more polite…), swapping from one scent to another, searching for a hit, something that will catch them, give them an olfactory buzz. Some people know what notes they prefer, what suits their skin and temperament: vetiver, amber, vanilla, tonka bean, ylang, grapefruit, fig, sandalwood for example. Others favour the Fragrance Wardrobe, assembling a collection of perfumes that can be perfused and worn with, clothes, weather and moods in mind.
It is actually a wonderful idea and could be a compact cupboard or vast walk-in closet depending on your level of fragrance obsession. Many of us are familiar with the idea of fragrances for day and night, or summer and winter, but it’s interesting to develop this further by thinking about how you are feeling, the occasion, the person or people you are going to be with, down to the very fibres of the clothes you are wearing.
If you think carefully about the scents you own, they can probably be categorised into different families or styles of fragrances. Our skin and moods are affected by the weather, seasons, illness, medication, trends and sometimes just sheer bloody-mindedness. Thermal motion, ie: the heat of the skin evaporating the essential oil molecules off the skin is the essence of scent. But perfumes take on a different kind of life, a buried, more abstract one when interacted with the fabric of scarves, collars, gloves and coats. Scented glove-making is one of the oldest associated perfumery trades, soaking high quality leather in essential oil, creating exquisite objects .
We all recognise the nostalgic power of taking something from a drawer or closet to find it impregnated with the remainder of a fragrance, our own or someone else’s. Cashmere, silk, merino, velvet…. These things soak up, store scent and exude memories. Just as smoke from bonfires, roast beef dinners, late night cigar smoke and diesel can wrap themselves around fibres and trigger days and nights, people and places; carefully chosen fragrances can evoke the most poignant or joyful of memories.
Elixir, created by Olivia Giacobetti in 2008 is based around a note of incense, not the hippy-trippy joss sticks of student digs but the haunting ecclesiastical notes more common to churches and religious ceremonies. This scent of the cold cathedral stone the morning after mass, is winter, walking through cold bitter streets, collar turned up, face buried in the scent of church and smoke as you hurry home.
The comforting feel of vanilla is well known. It connects to kitchens, to mothers and food. Artemisia is a supersoft vanilla scent, layered with musks, tea, apple blossom and amber. This is a private scent, for night-time, for snuggling and one to one. Perfect for quiet days.
Sartorial is an incredible scent, a robust mix of sweet wax, honey and masculine spices, leather and woods. Elements of metal, dust, chalk and steam make the scent feel animalic and softly savage. It is autumnal in its elegance, a scent for golden evenings, damp air and streets rolling in bronze skeletal leaves. It holds in cloth particularly well making scarves and coat collars into olfactory reference points.
Eau sans Pareil is bursting with fizzy fruits, rose, woods and amber. The lollipop, Sofia Coppola thrill makes it instantly nostalgic and modern at the same time. This is lazy summer days, lying in the grass with friends, talking, laughing, loving a little. It lingers in the mind like the titles of a sad teen movie you watched over and over when you were younger. Wear it to be kissed, or flirt a little, it makes the world around you smile.
Juniper Sling is mysterious and cool. Skin loves it. For the style hound, the minimalist. It exudes an aromatic compulsive charm. You have to be close to pick up the nuances, but they are worth it. It is a scent of confidence, pace and enough gin-based enigma to seduce even the strongest of constitutions.
These are a few ideas, but sometimes it’s fun to mix things up. Heavy florals and oriental scents in the summer, imbuing the skin with the nodding narcotic tone of ylang, gardenia, jasmine and tuberose. Play with spices, ginger, cumin, pepper on rafts of amber and balsamic, ramp up the vanilla with hot summer skin and dense tropical floral tones. Lavender is a wonderful autumnal scent mixed with citrus notes, memories of summer. Fougères and aromatics are wonderful served up on feminine skins, dressed up in silk, counterpointing the drape of evening-wear. Likewise, sweet, rich vanilla scents, dusted in powder can smell deeply weird and fabulous on men.
At the end of the day, like the way we dress, fragrance is intensely personal. But it should reflect who we are and how we feel. With a little thought, a fragrance wardrobe can be assembled and then worn with effect and creative application.