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That Chanel No.5 is an iconic fragrance is undoubtable. But the truth is, when it comes to perfumes, even a Chanel No.5 will smell different on you than it does on your best friend. And that’s the magic of perfumery right there – each scent, each smell, each note is unique and extremely personal. No two individuals will ever find a fragrance that works for them forever. So then how do you find your signature fragrance, a scent that is ‘truly’ you? 

Nathalie Pichard, celebrity trainer, coach, and perfume connoisseur who has been in the business for 25 years, has some suggestions. Passionate about perfumes and the olfactory universe, Pichard founded Top Notes, an agency specialising in tailor-made fragrance training services in 2009; she is also the author of the ‘Web Fragrant Newsletter’. Her work and in-depth understanding of the fragrance structure, olfactory families, niche fragrances and more, make her the expert in this regard. Recently in India as a guest for Maison Des Parfums, we got her to reveal a few secrets on how to zero in on the right fragrance for yourself.

Imagine your happy place 

“Everyone has a memory or a person they love, something or someone that give them a certain feeling of peace. While looking for a scent, look for an emotion. A wise man I know said, ‘Perfume is liquid emotion,’ and I believe that. Close your eyes and think of a place that is yours and yours alone. What does it entail? Flowers, orchards, fruits, vintage wood – whatever it is, it needs to evoke a certain memory for you. Try to think of a smell that connects with you most.”

Find your fragrance family 

“Everyone has a basic knowledge of fragrance ingredients, so look at what fits your bill. Choose from citrus, aromatic, floral, woody, fruity and oriental, even spicy formulas. Sometimes scents overlap too, so be mindful. For example, there’s woody and oriental or citrus and floral – it’s about finding that balance.”

Look for samples

“Ask for samples of fragrances that you are closer to so that you can gauge them. Most stores allow for samples you can take home. Wear it for a few days, see how it sits on your skin, and then take a call.”

How to know if a fragrance is unique 

“A perfume is unique by the way it touches your heart. That’s the first emotional response – you instinctively feel uplifted, light. But technically speaking, a perfume is unique if it has got the perfect balance of ingredients. The highest quality of ingredients, formula that works, the right combination, or the right order that these notes work.”

Timeless fragrances vs trendy ones 

“Look for timeless fragrances with beautiful ingredients. You have to keep coming back to the juice, the formula. The bottles, the brand, and the details don’t matter – it’s the memories and feelings that get evoked. That’s why we say let the perfume stay on your wrist for a bit, keep smelling it, leave it overnight and you know. This is an important way how you can find your signature fragrance”

 

First the fragrance, then the design 

“The first thing you see is a bottle – it is a lot of work and they set the pace. The story of a fragrance can also be attractive. What a perfume stands for and the woman they recreate – that’s important too.”

Look for long-lasting ingredients

“It’s important that the formulation stays longer on your body. Eau De Parfums stay longer, because they are not using trendy, ephemeral ingredients. So always choose something timeless, deeper, and lasting on the skin. Rich florals and oriental fragrances last longer. Oud, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, and patchouli have a molecular weight that’s bigger and they take time to go away. Citrus is just zest and it doesn’t last too long. When you spray perfume, remember that a top note lasts for 20 minutes – it is after all, the very first impression of the fragrance. The note that stays longer is the heart – it lasts for about four hours.”

Your skin decides the perfume 

“On certain skin, some perfumes last longer, some don’t. Quality of ingredients, combination of the formulations and the condition of the ingredients – all matter. If your body is oily, it’s easier for the perfume to stay on. If your skin is dry, it doesn’t stay. Oil attracts the fragrance and helps to let it stay on your skin.”

Always pick a fragrance based on a story

“My favourite perfume is about women in the 1920s – I love Mitsouko by Guerlain that was made at an age where women were trying to look like men – smoking, wearing pants, and having short hair. It was the time of Chanel, and these were forbidden. I like the fragrance for the attitude and for the juice, and my grandma wore it. The bottle gave me the impression of character and assertiveness and that appealed to me. One needs to find a connection of that sort to be able to develop deeper feelings for a perfume.”

Find a perfume that is iconic

“When fragrances send a strong message, break rules, and stand alone by themselves, it’s a treat. For example, when Chanel No 5 came out, it was completely new, never seen before. There was no benchmark. An iconic perfume is the one whose smell you cannot forget – it’s a trendsetter.”

Latha Sunadh
Deputy Editor
When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.