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My scent CV: three women on their fragrances of a lifetime

November 30th 2016 / Anna Hunter

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If you were to chart your life in fragrance, what would it look like? Three beauty industry greats share their defining moments in scent, from first sniff to wedding days…

Scent is one of the most powerful and evocative triggers of memory, whether it’s your mother’s perfume, an aroma that takes your right back to a family holiday or the fragrance you wore to close a crucial deal. From success to sadness, a particular scent can bring you right back to a particular moment in time, and life’s landmarks are often punctuated by the perfumes we choose to wear. From graduations to job interviews to falling in love (and setting the scene for vital days off), here are the fragrances that mark personal milestones for three compelling business women and beauty insiders…

Nancy Cruickshank, CEO of MyShowcase.com

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My first fragrance

Charlie by Revlon. My Dad worked for Revlon and I remember the huge razzmatazz as a child of launching this classic fragrance in the 70s. It felt so glamorous, my mother had a ritual about how she applied the scent. It made me feel so incredibly grown-up to wear it and to this day the scent reminds me of my mother. Lemon blossom and peach are two of the opening floral notes that I recall most vividly.

My graduation/ exam fragrance

YSL Rive Gauche, which was a gift from my father that I treasured and wore far too liberally! It’s a woody and aromatic fragrance that to me felt somewhat bohemian, hip and Parisian-chic. I adored wearing this fragrance!

My job interview fragrance

Sage LA's roll-on Onyx fragrance oil is always in my handbag. Hence, it's what I would reach for just prior to walking into any formal business situation, interview of otherwise. It's always an enormous confidence-boost to apply a favourite fragrance to your wrists. I deeply inhale this intense and opulent fragrance whenever I apply it. The blend includes black coconut, tobacco and oakmoss, and trails off on a rich base of vanilla, amber and sheer musk. Complex and natural, I love that this stunning little fragrance oil contains no alcohol, water or chemicals and looks so gorgeous in its Japanese rice paper packaging!

My date fragrance

Without a doubt, one of my favourite fragrances since its launch is Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino. It is seriously amazing, built around neroli, bergamot, mandarin, lavender and orange flower. It makes me feel fresh, stylish and confident. I am in love with the stunning cobalt blue bottle and packaging. In fact, I struggle to throw about the outer hard box packaging and have many of these lined up in my bathroom!

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My wedding fragrance

Chanel No5 was the fragrance that I wore on my wedding day. It’s such a classic, stylish fragrance, and it felt like the right choice aged 25 to wear on my wedding day. I adore this iconic and complex fragrance, with bergamot, neroli and ylang ylang. It set the tone for many of my ongoing fragrance choices for the future.

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My 'family' fragrance

As an entrepreneur and mum, I have a fairly hectic schedule on most days. Therefore, a real day off for me is likely to include time at home, with my family, relaxing and taking time out. Hence, my favourite fragrance is not one that I apply to my skin but to my environment.

I fell in love with La Montaña's Winter Oranges when Cassandra and Jonathan created this candle more than a year ago. They have exclusively created a large, 3-wick version for MyShowcase this Christmas and I am well and truly in love! This 900g candle is a warm, spicy blend of Valencian orange, cinnamon, red apple and clove, and will burn for at least 90 incredible hours! My teen girls light this candle regularly (or simply lift the candle and inhale its heady scent - lit or not). I think it signifies home and relaxation for all of us.

My 'starting a business' fragrance

I adore Connock London Kukui fragrance. The brilliant Amanda Connock is an outstanding entrepreneur herself, and I am constantly amazed by the adaptability of this clever blend. It's possibly the most universally-appealing fragrance that I have ever worn. That's saying something as fragrance is such an intensely personal thing and often takes on very different characters on different skins. This floral blend is built around bergamot, rose, jasmine and lily. Gwyneth Paltrow (via Goop.com) heralded this fragrance as 'beachy' and one of her favourites!

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My evening/ party fragrance

Sisley Eau de Soir was introduced to me by John Gustavson (beauty editor at Handbag.com, an online fashion and beauty business that I created in 2000). It's my go-to fragrance for a seriously glamorous party or evening out. This fragrance is rich and sophisticated and yet somehow, also contrastingly fresh. This fragrance makes me feel elegant and properly dressed up, with its citrus, floral and chypre notes, alongside more intense amber and musk.

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My 'day off' fragrance

Le Labo Neroli 36 feels like wellbeing in a bottle for me, so I love to wear this eau de parfum on a day off. It's an indulgent treat at £165 for 100ml but I am addicted to this neroli (another name for the essence of orange blossom) blend, and I love its rose, musk, mandarin orange, jasmine and vanilla composition. When I need something extraordinarily warm, comforting and upbeat, I reach for my Le Labo 36.

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My holiday fragrance

Sage LA's Turquoise is an effervescent scent with a top note accord of blue chamomile, grapefruit, cassis and ozone elements, and a base note of flower-infused musk and mysore sandalwood. It's fresh and reminds me of summer, whether I'm heading to the beach or sitting at my desk. Hence, I adore this roll-on fragrance oil on holiday and to remind me of that holiday feeling long pre or post a vacation. Turquoise is also my birthstone: December, so there is something particularly personal and fitting about my love for this little gem!

Sarah Coonan, Liberty London Beauty Buyer

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My first fragrance

Charlie Red of course! I used to get it from Superdrug with my pocket money when I was about 12 and would walk around in a fog of it. Thank goodness my tastes have changed.

My graduation/ exam fragrance

I wore Jean Paul Gaultier Classique all through university. I could never wear it again as I associate it with deadlines, lots of stress and being so poor that I would eat beans on toast for a month!

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My job interview fragrance

It has been so long since I had a job interview I don’t remember what I wore. If I were to have one now it would definitely be Le Labo Santal 33. It is understated, totally unique and if intelligence had a smell this would be it.

My date fragrance

Hands down Le Labo Rose 31. It is the sexiest fragrance on the planet.

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My wedding fragrance

I wore Jo Malone Orange Blossom on my wedding day and every time I smell it I feel like I’m right back there. I don’t wear it very often as I associate it so much with a really special time and I don’t want to make it ordinary.

My 'family' fragrance

This has to be my husband’s fragrance. He wears Creed Aventus and I think of him whenever I smell it. My two little boys always have a faint smell of it in their hair from cuddling him.

My evening/ party fragrance

Serge Lutens Fleurs D’Oranger. It is such a beautiful fragrance and really heady so it is perfect for a party. It lasts for ages too so you don’t need to take it out with you in your bag.

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My 'day off' fragrance

Byredo Mojave Ghost- it is totally gorgeous and really laid back. It goes with everything too so I can wear it in the gym, at the park or if we go out for the day. It’s not too overpowering either, just really clean smelling.

My holiday fragrance

D.S & Durga Debaser is the perfect holiday fragrance. I started wearing it this summer and I think I’ll wear it forever! It is inspired by the Pixies song and is a slightly rebellious fig. It’s gorgeous and completely unmistakable.

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Josephine Fairley, journalist, author and co-founder of both Green & Blacks and The Perfume Society

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My first fragrance

Miss Dior (original). My dad was a much-travelled journalist (ITN Science Editor) who compensated for his absences via splurges at Duty Free for me and my mother. Miss Dior was followed rapidly by Dior Eau Fraîche, Hermès Calèche, Paco Rabanne Calandre, Chanel No19 , Cristalle and more; I had a ridiculously sophisticated collection, for a young teenager. But it fuelled my enduring love of fragrance and my belief that we all need a ‘wardrobe’ of fragrances.

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My graduation/exam fragrance

Goya Aqua Manda (um, that’d be ‘O’ Levels since I left school at 16). It was the fragrance I’d buy with my own allowance, and it came in loads of layering possibilities: soap, bath oil, talc. Some years ago I started a Facebook group called ‘Bring Back Aqua Manda’ – and on the back of it, someone did!

My job interview fragrance

I haven’t had a job interview since I was 19! I’ve had amazing opportunities come my way without really looking for them. But if I look at my scent timeline I would have been wearing YSL Rive Gauche or Dior Eau Sauvage, at that point, when I applied to be a secretary on Woman’s World magazine (and not only got the job, but within a few years was youngest-ever magazine editor, of its sister title Look Now, at 23). If I was advising a young woman now, I’d suggest something floral and sheer, lightweight and pretty: Coach The Fragrance, or Elie Saab Eau de Toilette, or Philosophy Amazing Grace.

My date fragrance

I used to wear a lot of YSL Opium back in the day, having been to the very glamorous launch party at San Lorenzo when it came out, as a ‘baby’ journalist. I remember wearing Opium with a nightclub-wearing boyfriend to a bunch of London nightclubs ranging from Tramp to Régine’s via Maunkberry’s and Morton’s. I find it inconceivable that I was such a late-night bird when my idea of heaven now is to be in bed at 9.30 with a Green & Black’s Hot Chocolate. I still love Opium, though – there’s a reason fragrances become classics, and that is: they’re generally very, very good.

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My wedding fragrance

Schiaparelli Shocking. It was more than my wedding fragrance; it inspired the whole shocking pink wedding. My then-boyfriend Craig Sams and I went to Paris to see a Schiaparelli exhibition, as we were both fans. He’d always loved Shocking – whose curvaceous tailor’s dummy bottle (considered the inspiration for Jean Paul Gaultier’s) was designed by Dali for Schiaparelli. We scoured the Rue de Rivoli’s perfume shops for an old bottle. We found one, discovered that Schiaparelli was based around the corner on Place Vendôme and went there, too, where we found a bottle of the parfum.

That afternoon I had a secret plan to go to visit a shop owned by someone called BillyBoy, who had created a china doll called Princess Mdvanii – like a grown-up Barbie with couture clothes. As we walked and walked down the endless Rue du Cherche-Midi (it was right at the other end), he kept asking: ‘What are we going to see…?’ I didn’t know how to tell him our destination was a doll shop. But when we got there, we discovered the walls were shocking pink felt and unbeknown to me, Billy Boy (who was there himself) had a huge collection of Schiaparelli. I decided that any man who’d come with me to a doll shop must be pretty cool. When we decided to get married a few months later, I bought a very nice cream suit. Craig said, ‘No, why don’t you wear shocking pink?’ So I did: a really early 90s wedding frock, in shocking pink, with scarlet bridesmaids and red, orange and pink flowers by Kenneth Turner. And of course Shocking the fragrance, which I still have in my drawer packed away. I got it out the other day and it smells as good as it did 25 years ago. (Which is why we really should all be keeping our fragrances in their boxes, in the dark…!)

My 'family' fragrance

Madame Rochas, Femme and Chanel No5 were all ‘guilt-trip’ purchases by my father for my Mum, which she was generally swathed in, so they definitely remind me of being at home. Floris Rose Geranium soap, because that’s what I smelled when I kissed my dad goodnight; it was his shaving soap. But mostly, the family smells were cooking – roasts and stews, and in particular a signature dish invented on a camping holiday in Spain during a downpour and named ‘Bung-It-All-In-Together’, combining Fray Bentos Stewing Steak, Heinz Baked Beans and tinned new potatoes. Does that count?!

My 'starting a business' fragrance

At the time I started Green & Black’s, in 1991 (it was a busy year!), I was mostly wearing Guerlain Mitsouko, having finally found ‘my’ Guerlain after a lot of research. I still love it and wear it today.

My evening/party fragrance

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur. Actually, it’d be evenings at home; my hippie, liberal husband has banned me from wearing this out of the house. Frederic Malle told the audience at a Perfume Society evening we hosted with him at Selfridges just the other day that actually, when developing that fragrance, the young woman he was trying it out on got hit on twice on the Métro going home on consecutive nights – so my husband was quite right to be nervous, because it’s truly provocative. It’s just the sexiest smell: warm, nuzzleable, naughty (don’t say you weren’t warned!)

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My 'day off' fragrance

I’m very often drawn to Bella Freud 1970, which has lashings of amber. I’m almost always trying something new (it’s my job!) so it’s a treat to wear something I get to choose.

My holiday fragrance

I almost always take something new that I like in order to create a deliberate smell memory that whisks me there when I smell it again. So Francis Kurkdjian Oud Velvet Mood is Dubai, to me. Perfumer H Gardenia Leaf is the fragrance I wore for my birthday party just outside Paris, this year, at an amazing Landmark Trust property formerly owned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Estée Lauder Youth Dew is New York. Penhaligon’s Iris Prima is Edinburgh, because I bought a bottle there while visiting a friend for a lovely weekend. And so it goes on: around the world, in 80 sprays!

Follow Sarah on Twitter @Liberty_Sarah, Nancy @cruickshankn and Jo @jojosams


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