WRITING

Scent and Individuality

Cherry blossoms in Seattle

Warmth. Sandalwood. Herbs. Pickles. Cat pee? I wasn’t sure what was going on when I applied one of the most popular scents from a trendy perfume house one cloudy spring afternoon. Perhaps perfume companies have hit on the fact that you only need two ingredients to sell to Americans: a French name (style) and marketing to uniqueness (individuality). 

Excuse me, miss, I know it’s not funny but your perfume smells like your Daddy’s got money (Hamilton, “The Schuyler Sisters”)

How to Sell a Billion-Dollar Myth Like a French Girl

But do you really want to smell like someone else? Tangled in sheets in the afterglow of a fun romp, what could be worse than being just a number, a memory of an ex, a statistic from a successful marketing campaign. On the other hand, like a song of the moment, a perfume of the moment can link huge swaths of people to a time and place in their memory.  I asked a friend before leaving on a trip to Paris last spring - so what’s the deal with Paris and fashion. “It’s casual. But chic. You’ll see.” But not like Seattle, I replied. “It’s casual here but not chic. You must be dressed as if you might go on a hike at any moment!” So if flannel and coffee and minecraft-shaped houses define the aesthetic of Seattle at the moment, what should I smell like?

Isn’t the point of fragrance to establish a scent identifier, something that smells like home, like you? We take design notes from Instagram, find inspiration from Pinterest, but hopefully there is still at least one element of style that we use to distinguish ourselves?

Will Le Labo’s Santal 33 Ever Die? It’s everywhere. Your best friend’s clothes are covered in it and your favorite retail stores burn it in candle form…

I suppose it boils down to the fact that it’s nice if I smell good to others, but I really wear perfume for myself. I don’t wear much. Just a spritz, enough to catch a whiff when sitting by myself on the laptop or putting on a sweater when I get a chill.  I don’t remember a moment, but I do remember a season. A time in my life where I’m a certain age and talking to specific people. I remember blossoms and my kids as toddlers, or when I worked at the food co-op and had lovely banter with two fabulous ladies and a cool dad. Or I have no association yet, knowing that I’ll form them from the tuberose or jasmine or whatever other molecules have been tucked into the glass bottle. I spritz, breathe in, remember, put the bottle away, and go on with my day.