I looked for a perfume ad that doesn’t follow the formulae : a naked woman crawling on the floor. My search converged on to this shot by Peter Lindbergh. 

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When it comes to ones style, fragrance is as personal as it can get. You don’t buy it because your style muse wears it or a an internet influencer recommends it . We don’t like it because a celebrity endorses it or a gorgeous model stars in the campaign. The way they make perfume ads id certainly lost on me. A scantily clad bronzed girl sprawled on the floor is the formula. But why ? Perfume doesn’t work that way. Its pure in some sense. You like a scent or you dont. There is no snobbery in it. It can cost 2$ or 1400$. Can be a bottle from the drug store, a celebrity fragrance, a brain child of Roja Dove or a vial of oil gifted by a friend from the middle East. Only you and your nose can work together to pick one. You got to smell it in the air, smell it on yourself, and wait. Wait for it to mature over the day to see how it develops on your skin. Then, if you fall in love with it and people around you can stand it, great ! Some rules from by book :

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RULE ONE :

FOR MYSELF.

Every morning, after a shower, I use a splash. Its my ritual. I do this even if I am staying home. I don’t reserve it for going out. I don’t reapply before I go out. I don’t carry it around in my handbag. I wear it for my pleasure. I don’t want this to change.

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RULE TWO :

WHO CAN SMELL IT ?

Let it be discovered. Don’t let it arrive before you do, unannounced. I don’t want strangers to get a whiff of me. The ones I sit next to, just a little perhaps. The ones whom I hug should get a lot of it. It should not leave a trace after I leave. My pillow or sweater can contain traces, but not the couch I sat on or the dog I snuggled ( the worst sin). If you live with dogs, their sense of smell is x30 times stronger than humans. You could be smothering them with your fragrance. Exercise restraint. I choose eau de parfum. Its not over powering but has enough longevity for my needs. May Lindstrom’s body oil was a big mistake from my past. It gave my husband a headache. My father once asked me to get out of the car and walk home to air myself out. I was catching the attention of the people around me for the wrong reasons. Lesson learnt.

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Age Vs Evolution of my nose 

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RULE THREE :

SHOULD NOT BE OVERLY FLORAL 

“Flowers puked all over me”, should not be the first thing I implicitly scream when you meet me. In India, the women in my village used to wear too much jasmine. You could not escape it. And its left me with a strong distaste for florals. We the women have been stereotyped as flower lovers .. descriptions like ‘cheeks like roses’, ‘as fresh as petals’ are common in poetry. And most fragrances marketed to women are too sweet. I did like them when I was a toddler. Now, its just too much. Muted floral tones with musk and fruity undertones is my current preference.

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RULE FOUR :

SHOULD NOT MATURE TO A POWDERY FINISH 

This was the reason I stayed away from perfume for a long long time. Most of them seem to mature to a grandmas hanky/ 80’s talcum powder sort of fragrance after the short chain molecules from the top notes have evaporated. The ones that dont, are expensive and I couldn’t afford them for a long time. My nose is not easy to please.

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RULE FIVE :

BE OPEN TO DIY 

I read Gossip Girl when I was young. The character of Serena is quite different from what they adapted on to the screen. She is the one who goes vintage shopping, has the vegan activist tendencies, can effortlessly be chic and fashionable at the same time, a trend setter who doesn’t follow trends, .. and the best part : she makes her own fragrance from a blend of oils. She was an inspiration for me. There is a whole world of perfume oils which are the real deal for the ones with ‘the nose’.  A boy who had a crush on me once gifted me some oils from the Middle East – Oud, Rose, Vanilla, Musk. I used to experiment. I loved the fact that it was my own. The need for the creativity and originality is slowing dying in me, as I age. I now buy a composition that I like from a Perfume House.

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RULE SIX :

CONTINUE TO BE A LITTLE SNOBBISH

“Have you ever wondered why designer fragrances all smell the same? It’s because they’re put together by focus group. Companies grab people at Victoria train station, take them to a hotel, and then make them smell a dozen things, saying which they like and why. It’s the job of the noses to narrow it down to what people like best: to please the lowest common denominator and therefore create the biggest possible international market. It’s not an easy job; it involves tiny variations in the proportions. But it’s not creative or original”

– Frederic Malle

I stay away from designer, celebrity and mall brand fragrances. (Tom Ford and Maison Margiella being the exceptions.) While I understand that a given perfume smells differently on everyone in consideration of their body chemistry, I don’t want a commonly liked perfume. I prefer to get mine for a perfume house.

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RULE SEVEN :

SIGNATURE 

I don’t see a point in owning a wide range of scents. Excess stresses me out, instead of making me revel in the choice. I have been wearing Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir for the last 3 years. The tops notes that stay on for the first two hours have roses and sour fruity notes. Its base notes contain balsamic, wood and musk notes which is what I need to stay on through the day. This formula is exactly what I wanted and could never DIY. I have no plans to replace it or go hunting for another.

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RULE EIGHT :

COLLECTION 

This is my perfume collection. I hope you are not expecting a dozen ornate bottles because I used the word collection. This is plenty for me.

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RULE NINE :

RESERVE ONE FOR HOME 

I have one that I find .. really um … ‘carnal’. I do not want people other than myself or my husband to smell it on me. I reserve it for at home use. Never underestimate the power of romance in a relationship.

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RULE TEN:

STORE IT PROPERLY 

The less exposure it gets to light, truer it remains to its original composition. The bathroom is a bad place to store because of the temperature fluctuations from the hot showers. Store in a dark closed cabinet.  Overly designed bottles are great but whats the fuss about ? I like that Jo Malone make simple square bottles. Makes storage easy. I store mine in my lingerie box.


These are more guidelines than rules. Fragrance is such a fascinating world and I am looking to learn more. A very good starting point for anyone interested in the world-class perfume houses : Sali Hugh’s collection video. For now, I am loyal to Jo Malone. In the future, I want to explore all natural perfumes but its such a grey area. Not much information. No where to go if I want to try them out. Expensive and hard to find – is what I know so far. The ones I do find are sickly floral or reek of patchouli. I need the woody and musky notes. Hope the market evolves as we the people, seem to be getting more mindful of what we put on our bodies.

Question :

Have you ever DIY-ed your own perfume ? Are you a signature perfume wearer or a perfume-for-every-mood-and-season sort of person ?  Have you looked into all natural perfume ? Wisdom ? Thoughts ?