As I’m no longer buying any new clothes, I’ve decided that maybe a new perfume is just what I need to (literally!) spice up my wardrobe. Something that’s not too overpowering, as kind to the environment as possible, but still, in the words of Kelis, ‘brings all the boys to the yard’?!
Scent is hugely evocative. Of all the senses, it has the greatest power to re-create memories and bring back thoughts and pictures, with such force it can be quite overwhelming.
I have clothes in my wardrobe that hold memories of past events. Highs and lows of my life, tucked within the silk folds of a favourite blouse or the sparkle of a sequinned dress. But it’s the scent I wore that really takes me back to places and events that have shaped my life.
It can be both positive and negative. The other day I came across a perfume sample in my drawer and absent-mindedly dabbed it on my wrists. I used to love that particular fragrance, but as the smell drifted to my nose, I was instantly back in St. George’s Hospital and overwhelmed for a split second with the grief and trauma of seeing my child in intensive care. My oldest son is now 16 and full of the joys of imminent adulthood and independence(!) but for a short while at the age of 2, he was in an induced coma fighting for his life against meningitis. The scent, which a dear friend gave to me all those years ago as a small comfort to take into hospital, transported me straight back to that time.
On a lighter note, I bought myself a small bottle of body spray from & Other Stories earlier this year, for a (rare) girls’ weekend in Marbella. Small so that I could take it in my hand luggage. For me now, the remains of that bottle hold the scent of anticipation! Of a weekend of joy, laughter and female camaraderie. Of being picked up in the early hours of the morning by a friendly neighbourhood police officer and driven to a party, because we couldn’t find the apartment we were looking for. It is the scent of sunshine, skin, cocktails and dancing.
I also love Annick Goutal’s perfumes. My absolute favourite for a long time was Vanille Exquise, slightly musky but with an undertone of vanilla and almond…. but I bought the last bottle on a weekend away in Paris, with my ex-husband – so, sadly, that one is now done, finished, over.
Goutal’s ‘Un Matin d’Orage’ however, I bought for myself during the quite literal storms of first separating from my husband – and the scent evokes a forward struggle and the beginnings of a new positivity.
I fell in love with ‘Mad Madame’ by Juliette Has a Gun on a weekend in Budapest with my middle son. It was the name that first drew me to it, – that and the fiery red bottle. I wore it for a while, and I still really like it, but I’m starting to feel a little less ‘mad madame’ and a little more ‘grounded, sorted, getting it together’ woman – so it’s time for a change.
This time, I also want to shop wisely, and choose something more natural and environmentally friendly. The Organic Glam Fragrance Collection by the Organic Pharmacy, is brilliant and includes scents such as Orange Blossom, Oriental Blossom and Tuberose. I would quite happily wear any of them, but my particular favourite is the Rose Oud. All Organic Pharmacy products are made in London using organic ingredients.
There are an increasing number of perfume oils available now, in roller ball form. More environmentally friendly than a spray and easier to pop in your handbag, or take with you on your travels. Philosykos Perfume Oil Roll-on by Diptyque is a beautiful woody fragrance. Diptyque suggests also using the oil to scent a special letter – an idea I really love. But I guess you need to find that special person, first, as the majority of correspondence I write these days goes directly to the bank or contains a family birthday card – hardly worthy of ‘the memory of a Greek summer at Mount Pelion’?!
Penhaligons has an amazing range of perfumes. Paithani is top of my list – I go on instinct and there’s something about it that really draws me in. All Penhaligons perfumes are manufactured in the UK.
Finally, for something organic I like the Aveda Pure Fumes. Each one is a blend of pure plant and flower essences. They are manufactured and packaged according to Aveda’s ayurvedic principles.
We all have our own opinion on the wearing of perfume. Christian Dior is quoted as saying “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting”. And according to Coco Chanel “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future”.
A new scent would make a lovely Christmas present, but I have to be honest – I’m thinking of treating myself before the ‘party season’ kicks off. After all, I’m ever hopeful and I need to start topping up that bank of special memories to see me into the New Year?!