Signature Scent : Article by Marian Bendeth

Chanel5_4

Marian Bendeth, the founder of Sixth Scents, is a fragrance expert and consultant based in Toronto, Canada. Before I met Marian, I had read plenty of articles in which she is described as a magician of scent, as someone who is able to nail a person’s personality based on their favorite fragrances. When Marian and I spoke on the phone for the first time and she described me down to my idiosyncrasies based on a selection of my beloved perfumes, I was speechless. Marian’s extensive experience fuels her research on the relationship between fragrance preferences and personality, the emotional effects of perfume and the influence of body chemistry, thus allowing her to offer fascinating insights on all aspects of fragrance. She has also worked with some of the most renowned perfumers and perfume industry professionals on countless perfume projects and has written for a variety of Canadian and online publications. It is a great pleasure to welcome Marian’s contribution to Bois de Jasmin, in which she explores the pros and cons of the signature scent concept.

“It’s my signature scent!!”
By Marian Bendeth …

Back in the 1980’s when you could land a Concorde jet on one of Joan Collins’ shoulder pads, signature scents were all the rage. In fact, two signature scents arose from the hit TV show, Dynasty – Crystal and Carrington. Fragrance and television addicts spritzed their necks with these scents hoping that others might assume that they possessed good breeding, wealth and possibly a gold Stetson hat and Rolls Royce to boot.

The thrust of fragrance marketing hype during that time revolved around the concept of wearing only one fragrance as your personal trademark. It was hoped that this association could serve as a personal red carpet to repeated and recognizable adulation and acknowledgment. Although this sounds wonderful in theory, there is a downside to this thinking as well.

I recall in my former life working with a dominant boss whose signature Oscar de la Renta left a major impact. Her rapid fire perfume sprays in our ladies restroom first thing in the morning left no doubt that she had clocked in early. The scent snaked its way down the hall and throughout the offices like a predatory beast marking its territory. Unfortunately, it became the smell of fear to many. One whiff could spur us to work like java addicts, our hearts to near-fibrillation as the scent drew nearer. Its full impact could be inhaled during a dressing-down of our work during boardroom meetings and reviews. Unfortunately, some grew to hate the scent because of the association and can’t smell it even today without getting upset.

Years later, at another place of employment, I recall working for a young male executive who was a fragrance virgin until his girlfriend bought him a bottle of Drakkar Noir for his birthday. We were all surprised and delighted to finally smell a delicious scent and complimented him for his great taste. What we didn’t anticipate was a copious daily dose from then on that escalated with a multi top up after each compliment. Once more, a wonderful scent translated into something negative and eventually irritated co-workers enough to call his phone extension instead of making a personal visit.

Even the verbal feedback that I have received from some customers over the years sounds like a predictable tape loop. When I reach for a particular fragrance tester, I have often heard these words verbatim! “Oh no!!!!! My ex, mother-in-law, boss, friend, co-worker wore this all the time and I never want to smell it again!” Well, as extreme as those remarks may be, I would never persuade anyone to drop their favorite scent. Just include it in a well-rounded fragrance wardrobe.

Here we are, twenty years later and yet scores of fragrance lovers still cling to their exclusive brands like a cherished talisman. Wearing the same clothes everyday can be a downer to the psyche. Fashion and scent should be about self-expression; they reveal slices of our inspirational/aspirational selves.

Purchasing a new fragrance is like meeting a new love. You don’t want to reveal all within the first few days of the relationship. Flogging a new scent reminds me of a false sense of intimacy which can burn itself out very quickly. The same can be said of a signature scent. Olfactory fatigue can also be a costly luxury. One can hear the “cha ching” with each spray in order to just get back to that initial ahhh….! Have you ever heard people complain that they can’t smell themselves anymore? Enter the top-up. Maybe you can’t smell it but others can. Liken the pumpa pumpa action to turning up your olfactory volume to woofer blastoff.

After you have purchased your new fragrance, you are mesmerized by the newness of its blend, captivated by the way it sits on your skin. You literally cannot stop sniffing your wrist, like a junkie craving another hit. Allow yourself the luxury of wearing it for one day or night and smell the wrist every two hours. Bask in the compliments that come your way but force yourself to put it aside for at least two more days. At this point, we are so enchanted, we are dying to smell and wear it again but restrain yourself. (Use a lock box if you get desperate!) Re-experience another favorite in the meantime. When a few days have passed, spray and savor the moment once more and you will experience all the wonderful nuances that drew you to the fragrance in the first place.

Building a fragrance wardrobe reveals the multi-faceted, extraordinary people that we are! Why not let our scents talk for us. One scent may reflect a particular mood, fashion taste or environment. The predictability of one scent that is worn day in and out reveals only one dimension of our personalities. Variety is the spice of life and you don’t use just one spice for all your cooking, do you? The same thought applies to your fragrance choices too.

It’s time to jump into the 21st century. Signature scents were great in their time. Have some fun and create your own fragrance dynasty. Tease us with your great taste and keep us coming back for more and more and more…

Please see Marian’s interview as well as her articles Scentimental France and The Magnifiscent Proboscis on Basenotes.

Chanel No 5 (a signature fragrance to many women!) ad from Parfum de Pub.

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18 Comments

  • March: Great article! “Sniffing your wrist, like a junkie craving another hit” — ouch, those words hit close to home. I neglect some of my most favorites because I’m always looking for something new; I haven’t worn Mitsouko OR Jicky in weeks. Shame on me. I haven’t put anything on yet … which will it be? November 30, 2006 at 7:59am Reply

  • Elle: Brilliant article! I can think of several people I’d love to have read this in hopes they might ween themselves off of signature scents they can no longer smell completely any longer. I’m afraid nobody will ever be able to associate me w/ just one scent (or even several) since I’m so constantly changing them. DH is relatively anosmic and doesn’t care, but my canine child is always sniffing my wrist to try to fix mom’s smell for the day (well, half of the day since I usually switch off in the afternoon to something else). November 30, 2006 at 8:38am Reply

  • Judith: Wonderful article!! Like March (and many others we know), I probably have the opposite problem–craving new scents so much that I often neglect my old favorites (which frequently turn out to be the best, after all:) November 30, 2006 at 9:56am Reply

  • Madelyn E: Dear Victoria,
    Thank you for introducing me to such a fragrance expert /psychologist !
    She took me on a captivating and memorable virtual tour of Paris -perfume landmarks ! I recall my own magical strolls down Parisien (or any French town for that matter ) hoping to uncover yet another cached treasure. It was at 31 Rue Cambon – where I bypassed all the gorgeous Chanel clothes and bags in favor of fawning over the cosmetics – fragrance counter. ( I did buy Bois Des Iles ). Patou, Guerlain, the houses of yesteryear and today’s Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens …and many more!1 Oh. I get goosebumps just thinking about it !!
    I love and cherish scent ! Marian’s studied analyses and thoughtful intuition have certainly played into mine 1 I will look to read more of her perfume articles and musings!
    Madelyn E November 30, 2006 at 11:35am Reply

  • violetnoir: I had the pleasure of communicating with Marian this summer.

    This is a great contibution to boisdejasmin, V. Hugs to both of you! November 30, 2006 at 11:56am Reply

  • Cynthia K: “Back in the 1980’s when you could land a Concorde jet on one of Joan Collins’ shoulder pads, signature scents were all the rage.” This hooked me from the beginning. What a great article! I just read the other two articles Marian wrote and I loved them too. I missed them since I never read the front page of Basenotes. I second violetnoir, it is a great contribution to your fab blog, V! November 30, 2006 at 2:07pm Reply

  • Cynthia K: V, this is just a thought I had. Would Marian be interested in writing an article about her research on perfume and personality? I would love to know more about it. November 30, 2006 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Patty: Great article! So you’re saying we should step away from the new perfume bottle? What?!?! 🙂 November 30, 2006 at 3:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, yes, I have the same problem; however, I have been better lately. I try to make sure that I wear all of my favourites. After all, they need to be loved, rather than stored in the closet. November 30, 2006 at 7:37pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Elle, I have introduced fragrances to people who have never worn perfume before, and now I have a problem that Marian describes and the one that you can relate to. 🙂 I am definitely not bound to be associated with one perfume only. November 30, 2006 at 7:40pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, whenever I revisit some of my favourites (Cuir de Russie, No 19, Mitsouko, Chamade, many Lutens, Malle), I realize that all of my current quests do not hold a candle to them. November 30, 2006 at 7:41pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Madelyn, I also skipped the bags and clothes at Rue de Cambon and went straight to the perfume counter. I think that I ended up buying No 22 parfum the last time I was there. I am very glad to hear that you liked the article. I am sure that Marian will be pleased to hear your kind words. November 30, 2006 at 7:43pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you very much! I am sure that you know then how fascinating of a person Marian is. November 30, 2006 at 7:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, that was a great opening sentence. I very much enjoy Marian’s wit and wonderful sense of humour. November 30, 2006 at 7:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cynthia, I will be sure to ask Marian about it. That is a very interesting idea. November 30, 2006 at 7:45pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Patty, I think that it is the issue of savouring vs. indulging. 🙂 I know that I have been guilty of indulging to the point of growing tired of some perfumes. November 30, 2006 at 7:46pm Reply

  • Marian Bendeth: Thank you all, I am so glad you enjoyed the piece.

    I have wanted to write this for sometime now, I find myself explaining this concept to customers too many times.

    Thank you for the story recommendations. I will explore the relationship between psychology and scents in future articles.

    Marian December 8, 2006 at 7:10pm Reply

  • Joyti: I love your observations in this article. I have always been trying to “search” for a signature scent. I think your wonderful words and astute observations have opened up my eyes! I shall search instead for scentS I enjoy, plural instead of singular. Thank you. I will remember your words: “You literally cannot stop sniffing your wrist, like a junkie craving another hit”…which is exactly what I do with a new scent! December 26, 2006 at 4:05pm Reply

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