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Mar 9, 2020

Right Under your Nose

Beauty Brand Consultant, Copywriter and Product Developer

Do you remember your first fragrance memory?

For me, it was my Mum going out for the night, her silhouette in the doorway as she twirled her skirt, then kissed me goodnight, bringing a cloud of warm fragrance that immediately committed that moment to memory.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what fragrance it was specifically. But that special scent made her more than just Mum for the first time. A lifelong love affair with beauty and scent began.

Chances are, you will have particular scents that trigger this nostalgic response, maybe it is freshly mown grass, freshly washed towels blown by spring breeze…transporting you to carefree moments.

It’s powerful you see, smell; finding the right scents to surround yourself with can change your mood and confidence in a moment.

But why is fragrance so evocative?

Biology. It is really that simple and complex.

I spoke with Perfumer Angela Stavrevska from CPL Aromas Limited, a leading global fragrance house; she explained:

“The olfactive bulb, the part of the nose that picks up odour molecules, has a direct link to the brain’s limbic system. This system supports a variety of functions including emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory and, of course, olfaction. So our sense of smell is intrinsically linked with our emotions and memories, which is why being objective about a smell is so difficult. Even perfumers struggle!”

So, fragrance preferences are utterly instinctual. We can evolve our palette of taste, but our reaction will always be about how that scent makes us feel.

The Modern Icons

Fragrance is an exciting market and one that has continued to evolve. Trends tend to move slower allowing these more investment purchases that have such personal connections, to remain accessible.

The last 20 years in the perfumery world has seen the emergence of some complete revelations. Angela takes us through the game changers:

Angel, Thierry Mugler – became a global best seller simply by word of mouth, which is in itself pretty incredible and heralded a generation of gourmande (food inspired) fragrances.

One Million for Men, Paco Robanne – took that strong, modern dry amber note mainstream, which is now copied everywhere.

One Million for Men, Paco Robanne

Coco Mademoiselle, CHANEL – completely modernised the chypre category and essentially changed the way in chypres fragrance is created (more prominent patchouli notes as opposed to traditional moss notes).

Terre d’Hermes Men, Hermes – a moment when richly aromatic male fragrances toppled the traditional, safe, fresh fougère trend off the top spot.

What is the future?

Fragrance is an ancient art form. Some of the most favoured style fragrances, those warm, musky, ‘nuzzle’ scents have evolved from a history of questionable origins!

What possessed early perfumers to use secretions from musk deer, civet and sperm whale in creating extraordinary lingering scents…is somewhat incomprehensible! But they did.

Nowadays, these can be synthetically recreated.

How do they do that?

Perfume houses use headspace technology to create a vacuum around the ingredient, which creates a molecular profile that can be analysed and crafted to synthetically recreate a rare ingredient that would otherwise be threatened by over-harvest.

Doesn’t sound sexy does it? But, these synthetics can be infinitely recreated and could arguably be the epitome of sustainable, surely?

Now, I am the first in line for an essential oil blend, but I also want to protect our natural resources from depletion. So I think it’s important to embrace all the options that science provides.

Sustainability is a big topic in perfumery. The industry that has long been associated with luxurious packaging and ‘theatre’ is starting to wake up to the fact that consumers are shifting their lifestyle priorities and looking for their products to represent them wholeheartedly.

Brands are looking to be more accountable, realizing that existing with conscience, does not mean that one has to compromise on quality, craftsmanship and indulgence.

Perhaps we’re redefining luxury?

Many perfumers believe that we are moving towards a time when typical fragrance definitions will become less restrictive, scents that transcend traditional gender bias are experiencing a boom, according to Angela becoming more reflective instead of mood and lifestyle.

Fragrance is ultimately another form of self-expression; creatives are being challenged to embrace this new era demanding innovation, craftsmanship and individuality, as a result we are seeing extraordinary stories in the fragrance market challenging traditions.

Choosing a fragrance

However informed you are; however clear on your preferences…walking through the doors of the fragrance hall can be overwhelming.

At Elys, there’s a fantastic fragrance offering, with trained consultants and scent stylists to help guide you through your decision-making.

Personally, I use fragrance to help colour my mood…to shift an attitude.

How do you choose fragrance?

Angela suggests you are led by your emotional response to fragrance.

“Ignore the branding and the packaging, ignore the advertising, close your eyes and just smell…if you like it on the blotter, wear it on your skin and see how you feel about it in a couple of hours’ time. If you’re still in love with it then, congratulations, you’ve found the one!”

Fragrances are categorised on a wheel that groups notes together. Once you know where your fragrance preferences are, it can be easier to make fresh choices from the array of choices available, within the security of known preferences. It’s not a rulebook to live by, but helps you stretch your palette!

Unisex Fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Unisex Fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Female fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Female fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Male fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Male fragrance wheel, courtesy of CPL Aromas

Perfumes notes are often constructed as a triangle, grouping notes to give a guide for how a fragrance will wear on skin.

Top Notes – delivering an instant freshness but last the least time.

Middle / Heart Notes – often florals will sit here in a fragrance, this element will last for around 3-4 hours.

Base Notes – this is the warm woods, musks…the scents that cling to scarves and give longevity.

So there you are, a whirlwind insight to the wonderful world of perfumery. To be honest, we barely scratched the surface, but hopefully this is an interesting step into an intriguing, ancient art that captivates us all.

The Insider’s Tip

Remember, don’t rub those wrists!

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