Once you find your signature scent, it can quickly turn territorial. Stylist staff reveal the story behind the fragrance they’ve claimed as their own.
Have you ever thought back to what made you fall in love with your fragrance? What’s the story behind your scent and do you continue to wear it every day? We did - and that’s why we asked members of the Stylist team to share their stories…
“I’ve become synonymous with this scent”
Editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski, 41, was introduced to Estée Lauder’s Tuberose Gardenia, £62, by a former colleague. She’s treasured it ever since
“I first discovered my favourite perfume in 2009. Stylist’s then-Beauty Director, Emma Smith, had a theory that if you wore something unique for a special occasion, such as your own wedding day, every time you smelt it thereafter, it would remind you of that moment. I was cynical that a perfume could define a moment, or even an entire person, until she presented me with a bottle of Estee Lauder Tuberose Gardenia. The powerful scent of flowers – tuberose, lilac, jasmine and gardenia - that filled my nose in an instant invigorated me and I soon discovered I didn’t feel ready to face the day without it.
This perfume receives more compliments than anything else I own, but more than that, the fragrance and I have become synonymous with one another. A few years later a friend messaged to say she had ‘just smelled’ me walking down the street and it had given her a huge flashback. I can’t imagine wearing any other fragrance.”
“It makes me feel like I’ve made it”
After stumbling across Creed’s Silver Mountain Water, £155, as a teenager, fashion writer Billie Bhatia, 28, eventually claimed it as her own
“When I was 15 years old, my mum dragged me to a boutique in our Leicestershire village. In a small nook of the shop was a set of neatly arranged perfume bottles that I didn’t immediately recognise.
When I realised they were Creed, my first thought was that they sounded expensive. Under each bottle was a note as to who the scent was created for and who wore it. I saw the names Elton John and David Beckham under a discreet-looking white bottle and my interest was piqued. Instead of one spritz on a tester card, I doused myself in it.
Thankfully, the unisex fragrance smelt like heaven – citrus, fresh, musk – but the price tag was well beyond my usual £30 Boots limit. I spent all summer doing £2 chores and three months later I strode back to the shop feeling like a fully formed adult and purchased my own bottle.
Regardless of how good or bad my day is, one spritz makes me feel like I’ve made it all over again.”
“I hate that everyone copies me”
Entertainment director Helen Bownass isn’t a fan of people adopting her signature fragrance, Le Labo’s Santal 33, £125
“Sometimes I get embarrassed that I wear a perfume that’s so commented on. Embarrassed because it means acknowledging that I’m the type of person who spends more than £100 on perfume. But mostly I love it. It reminds me I’m a person who can spend that much. A woman cool enough to discover – on a whim in Liberty in 2012 – a perfume that smells at once of smoke, flowers, hope and sex. I feel like my choice of perfume makes me more likeable.
The downside of wearing the world’s best perfume though, is that everyone else wants to wear it, too. Pretending I didn’t care when a dear friend copied me, while internally shouting, ‘You don’t spend £100 on a perfume to smell the same as other people!’ wasn’t my finest acting moment. So what I’m saying is this: it’s mine. You can’t have it.”
“It ’s a symbol of my evolving identity”
Digital writer Megan Murray formed a relationship with Cleopatra by Tocca, £65, when she headed off to university
“My signature scent, Cleopatra by Tocca, was chosen for me by the most special woman in my life: my mum. Growing up, most of our bonding was done in Nottingham’s very small Space NK, and before I went to university, it was she who chose the ornately bottled fragrance, inspired by the powerful queen of the same name, to come with me to London.
To me, it smells warm yet subtle – a bit like sunlight on my skin. Grapefruit keeps it fresh, tuberose adds depth while amber and musk give it sensuality. At a pivotal moment of change in my life, this perfume was a symbol of my evolving identity. It quickly became an inherent part of me, so much so that I won’t even let friends have a quick spritz. The idea of them taking away some of my scent’s specialness and sauntering into the night smelling like me feels like they’re pinching a piece of my identity.”
“Smelling it is what I imagine falling in love to be like”
Editorial assistant Moya Lothian-McLean uncovered her romantic side thanks to Malin+Goetz’s Cannabis Eau de Parfum, £130
“I’ve been on the lookout for a signature scent since I was old enough to understand the concept. The idea of a fragrance that was wholly mine appealed to the irrepressible romantic in me.
So, from the age of 12, I tried to make it happen. I started by spending pocket money on The Body Shop’s Satsuma eau de toilette (a phase that ended abruptly when a boy told me I ‘smelled like salad dressing’) before graduating to YSL’s iconic Opium at university.
Then, six months ago, a colleague gave me Malin+Goetz Cannabis Eau de Parfum. As soon as I smelled it, I knew. It was what I imagined falling in love would be like. It’s earthy and smoky, pairing a cedarwood and patchouli base with bergamot, magnolia and black pepper. It doesn’t just sit on the skin, it sinks into it.
This is the longest I’ve worn one perfume without switching to another, and I haven’t been seduced into straying just yet. This is the real deal.”
“I had to flirt with other scents to appreciate this one again”
Associate editor Anna Fielding recently reignited her love affair with Guerlain’s Mitsouko, £87
“It seems there’s a sisterhood: women have stopped me in the street, asking, ‘It’s Guerlain’s Mitsouko, isn’t it?’ with eyes full of intense focus. It is, and I love it as much as they do. It’s nearly a century old, but I’ve been wearing Mitsouko since I was 18. I’d read about it in an article and wore it every day for 14 years, until, to my huge sadness, I had become so used to it I couldn’t smell it any more.
I love Mitsouko because it’s a woman’s perfume. It’s complicated and distracting. It’s full of wood and amber and heady evening flowers. A man once climbed into a taxi I was getting out of and told me I smelled like his ideal woman. I sprayed an ex-boyfriend’s mattress with it before leaving his room for the last time. I once broke a bottle on a Tube station platform, and when I returned 24 hours later it was still lingering. I had to take a break from Mitsouko to flirt with other perfumes. But now we are back together and stronger than ever.”
“Everyone I’ve ever dated hates it”
Beauty director Anita Bhagwandas is adamant that nobody will stop her wearing Fracas by Robert Piguet, £145
“‘Do you like my perfume?’ I said, wielding my wrist aggressively in exchange for a compliment under my then-boyfriend’s nose. I was expecting, ‘Yes, every time I smell it, it makes me think of you, holidays in the Bahamas and tropical blooms.’ Instead, the reply was less than satisfactory: ‘No, it smells like rotting fruit.’
Outrage was my initial reaction. Granted, we were 18 and this was the Noughties, when most girls probably smelled like Impulse O2, CK One or Tommy Girl. I labelled him a philistine, but, then it kept happening. To this day, I’ve never met anybody else who wears it and nobody I’ve ever dated has liked it.
But I couldn’t care less. The instant hit of the sweet-but-addictive tuberose/iris combo is like a shot of adrenaline, even when everything around me is sucking away all my energy. To me it’s perfection,and an iconic piece of fragrant history – I’ll never stop wearing it, for anyone.”
“I’ve not met another person who wears it”
Sarah Lakos, 28, social media editor, opts for Gypsy Water’s lesser-known companion Inflorescence by Byredo, £105
“Byredo’s most iconic fragrance is, without question, Gypsy Water. Its following includes beauty bloggers and packs of Instagram ‘cool girls’, and I’m glad of its cult status. Because while everyone has been distracted by those earthy base notes, I have been liberally spritzing its gloriously floral (and lesser known) cousin: Inflorescence.
After just over five years of consistent use, with the exception of a few dalliances elsewhere, this is my signature scent. Mostly because I’ve not met another person who wears it. I’m sure there are people who do – my one-bottle-a-year purchase can’t support Byredo’s production alone. But when I started wearing it after an early-20s heartbreak, it not only signalled a fresh start but the magnolia and wildflower notes, means it reminds of the jasmine hedges in the neighbourhood I grew up in, and intrinsically, my mother. It’s feminine without being sweet, and I hope it remains in production for my lifetime.”
This article originally appeared in Stylist’s 2018 Beauty Issue, out 26 June. To see more from the issue, click here.
Main image: Getty. Photography: Omer Knaz