What makes one a perfume lover? Having a collection that puts the Saks Fifth Avenue fragrance counter to shame? Knowing the minute details of Serge Lutens’s biography? Speaking of fragrance ingredients with an obsession rivaling that of a Michelin starred chef? Wearing nothing but the most exclusive and expensive brands? No, no, and no. A perfume lover, or a perfumista, is someone who loves scents. Period.
Like all hobbies, fragrance can be treated in as esoteric and passionate a manner as you wish, but what I have always found special about this pursuit is its endless variety. Our olfactory palettes are shaped by numerous factors, including early childhood memories, idiosyncratic preferences and particularities of our noses. It’s a fact that we all experience scents slightly differently, based on a combination of individual sensitivities and anosmias. Even perfume industry professionals, whose noses are well-honed to distinguish different ingredients, can’t avoid olfactory quirks, whether it means not being able to smell some types of musk or woody ambers. The wealth of individual interpretations of common smells is what gives perfumery its richness and beauty.
When you start out exploring scents, the amount of information–and choice–can seen overwhelming, and with everyone talking Mitsouko and Serge Lutens, when all you’ve tried is a selection from your local department store, you may feel the need to catch up. Every now and then, I spot comments in which newbie perfume lovers apologize for liking certain department store fragrances or not enjoying classics, and my response is the same, “So what!”
Please don’t apologize for your perfume tastes. They’re intricately shaped by your personal experiences, and they’re unique. Keep your mind open to trying different things, because this will make your perfume quests more exciting and rewarding, but have confidence to wear what you love with panache. The idea that the choice of perfume indicates the level of one’s sophistication or intelligence seems ridiculous to me. Liking Chanel No 19 means that you like green, mossy scents. Appreciating the popular Lancôme La Vie est Belle only means that you have a caramel craving.
“There’s no set formula, no certain things you ‘have’ to like, it’s your journey after all,” wrote my reader Sofie recently. “And it’s your wallet too, so you might as well spend the money on things you really enjoy.” These are wise words and a good reminder that price and brand don’t determine anything. Niche brands offer plenty of interesting lines with distinctive visions and exceptional blends, but a large portion of the so-called artisanal perfumery is dull and overpriced, with the distribution venue, rather than the juice, determining the number of zeros on the label. Being an equal opportunity perfume lover not only exposes you to more brands, it helps you discover hidden gems and have more fun.
Finally, at the end of the day, it’s just a perfume. It’s about pleasure and beauty. Let your nose–and not the noses or opinions of others–be the ultimate guide in your scented adventures.
Painting: Woman with straw hat on flowery background (Femme au chapeau de paille sur fond fleuri), Pablo Picasso, 1938. Via wiki-images, some rights reserved.