Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The First Rule of Fragrance is You Do Not Talk About Fragrance

Ladies Love Cool James

Seriously though, it has recently come to the attention of researchers that the very concept of word-of-mouth is inactive in the global community of female fragrance wearers. Women do not buy fragrance for other women and they don't tell other women what fragrance they wear. And for good reason.

Like any accessory worn on the body, fragrance forms part of a personal identity. But a scented accessory is different, and for many reasons. It's invisible, it's silent. Unlike a piece of jewelry which may go in and out of fashion, looking garish one day and played-out the next, people tend to stick with a trusty fragrance for a long time. This is not to say that fragrance is unperturbed by the whims of fashion, but that people tend to form strong emotional associations with their chosen scent, and such relationships die hard.

It goes deeper than that, however. Scent is a secret weapon in the war of sexual selection. The power of this weapon is immediately halved by the number of others who smell the same as you; keeping your armory secret is the first rule of fragrance. A coauthor of the above-mentioned study reports another finding: "When they dislike a scent, they won't purchase it for themselves or their boyfriend, but they will buy it for a female friend.”

I stopped by the by Kilian boutique in New York City . One of his signature components is the packaging of his juices. And not just the bottles, but the elegant lacquered cases in which they are meant to be stored. The well-informed gentleman handing me samples of olfactory art retells the centuries-gone practice of storing one’s valuable perfume in a locked box, to keep curious children and suspicious maidservants from pilfering.

Centuries later, not much has changed - people still want to keep their scents personal. Ironically, as my vendeur éclairé points out, fragrances technically smell different from person to person due to the chemical breakdown that occurs between the ingredients and the individual’s sweat composition, and so there is no need to be so secretive. Nonetheless, we are. And in the quest to learn the Language of Smell, this is added as another reason for the silent sense to stay in the shadows.

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