Despite the best laid plans of mice and men I wasn’t able to post for the past few days (and by wasn’t able I mean I spent too much of my time reading blogs/cutting my own hair/studying for my upcoming tests for which I need to identify over 200 raw materials and some equally outrageous number of fine fragrances by scent). But I’m in France and I can recognize aldehyde chains of 7, 8, 9, and 10 carbons (by smelling, not counting) so really who’s not to say that I’m living my best life?
Maybe the fact that it’s a rainy week and I have no adequately waterproof shoes. But pretty close to my best life.
Switching gears now away from flawed footwear and toward the actual meat of this post which, I apologize, is not in a list form. More just something i’ve been thinking about.
I remember reading an article sometime between 1 and 7 years ago about the desire for a signature fragrance. One that really signifies you, reminds you and reassures you of your stable identity in distressing situations and, perhaps most importantly, that other people (significant others, friends, children) will associate with you.
I’m trying to find the article online but am being deluged with all of these guides on how to find your signature scent (I feel like the answer is pretty obvious: smell stuff).
But the article was more than about just desiring a signature fragrance. It was also about the conflict between wanting that one personal element and wanting to appreciate and express yourself with different/multiple fragrances.
Which is why I have kind of thought of signature fragrances for a long time as a perfumista pipe dream/something for the uninitiated and not very into fragrance. It’s like the person who has one pair of earrings. Maybe they have reached accessory nirvana but it’s more likely they’re just not that into earrings.
The last time I had a signature scent was early high school and it was some variation of Chanel Chance. I think Eau Tendre, but I also believe I wore the original before after a long and obsessive internal debate over the pros and cons of the original and the Eau Fraiche. Some things (and by some things I mean me) never change.
And then I realized how wide and amazing the world of perfume is, how varied and multifaceted and worth exploring. The idea of a fragrance kind of went out the window, which I felt a bit regretful about, but also very excited given the way my horizons were expanding. Discovering a new world and removing limitations I had placed on myself. Deciding to discover more facets of my ‘fragrance personality’- all of the things I loved, appreciated, was fascinated by, and with which I resonated- made more sense than hunting for The One Fragrance that would encapsulate everything that I wanted in a perfume (which would obviously be futile, especially as I became more exposed to all of the things perfume could be and all of the feelings it could give me).
Jump cut to now, maybe seven years later. I don’t have a signature scent and I don’t have a very well-defined numbers of perfumes that I own (given a low number of full bottles but a pretty impressive number of small decants and samples that I would like to stay in possession of and wear semi-regularly). The closest I have to a signature scent is Miller Harris’ L’Air de Rien (which I’ve mentioned before, ad infinitum), one of my rare full bottles and the first scent I bought as a perfume enthusiast, following reading reviews and the usage of a sample (the perfumista way (or at least my perfumista way)). It smells like dust and horses and sweat and leather and cuddle musk and hay and vanilla and patchouli and soft spice.
But I still figured a signature scent was lost to me. It’s true that in my years of testing literally thousands of fragrances I had reached a hazy understanding of what generally appealed to me and what would not, what I was excited to try and what I could pass on without a second thought. My buying practices, sampling practices, and ‘wishlist’ practices have reached a kind of contented plateau. There are a few things I want to own (most of which have been chilling on a want list for years) and want to test, but I feel pretty well sated. There’s not much new under the sun, as they say.
And I had the feeling until quite recently that my preferences were all over the map. And I tried not to read that as a sign of mental breakdown/multiple personalities/a not fully integrated personhood.
That’s one of the (relatively minor) things that being in this program has made me reevaluate. Wannabe-perfumer conversation is obviously a bit different than the conversation of any other group of people. You could say that about any group with a shared and strong passion. We play games where we pick a raw material to encompass a classmate’s personality. We talk about our favorite scents. Things that we would like to mix. We analyze one another’s personal scents. Victor smells like frankincense and weed (which would have made for a really different but potentially more interesting nativity scene, when you think about it). We read into each other in some kind of eerie but often quite eye-opening ways.
And so basically when I was told that I’m a vanilla-amber-patchouli-animalic girl it was kind of self-revelatory. I’ve joked before about the disproportionate real estate amber perfumes hold in my fragrance library. And I’ve personally avowed before that all I really want is to smell like small furry animals.
When Luis smells Musc Ravageur by Frederic Malle (amber, musk, patchouli, clovey-spice) and tells me it reminds him of me, I smile and say “Yeah, I love that and I wear Meharees by L’Erbolario, which is pretty similar”.
So I guess that takeaway here is that having a signature fragrance doesn’t necessarily have to mean one scent from one brand that you stick to for all the years of your life. Maybe it can be something a bit more fluid- shared patterns, shared notes, shared architecture in the fragrance construction. Maybe some brands do better for you than others. Maybe some perfumers are your go to guys/girls.
Maybe your perfume collection can be more like a tapestry woven by the shared threads of your favorites.
The animal-musky-vanillic-amber family is really best suited to the colder months and climes. I may need a reevaluation come summer.