So many mainstream fragrances are released each year- as a matter of fact the last estimate that I heard was over two hundred a year- that it’s amazing that anyone keeps up.  It’s such a large number that it’s somewhat numbing.  How can the public ever absorb or even register such a profusion of product?

In the past, perfumes were the high margin high sales item that helped many fashion houses maintain a position of cash positivity even in years when the resident designer(s) might have been off their game.  Certainly it worked that way for Chanel.  Year in, year out, No 5 would sell and offset whatever were the fashion foibles of the clothes themselves.

These days however, handbags do as well at generating fast profits. At some unspecified point in time, the handbag became the handbag du jour, something to be swapped out once or twice a season.  Everyone had several, or at any rate so the rag mags hinted.  You were supposed to have a number of bags just as you were supposed to have a number of scents.

This went along with everything else that was serial at the turn of the century: serial careers, serial marriages, serial perfumes. You could match your mood or your caprice to them, not the other way around, and you did not commit yourself fully to any one style of bag or scent.

I guess this is one definition of luxury.  Never to have to stay with the same scent twice.  Actually though, I am rather fond of familiarity.  No doubt this explains the one husband in twenty four years.   I don’t tire easily, or bore easily, and it seems to me that the interest in anything or anyone or any smell is largely a matter of perspective.  If there’s good quality to the original, it can last you a lifetime.  It’s quite nice to actually bond with a perfume and I fear that everyone has been so much in the habit of changing fumic partners, that we are in danger of forgetting that fabulous old collaboration between the woman and the scent.

This means your great aunt and Nuit de Noel, or my mother-in-law and White Linen, or the sister-in-law, who always wears Diorissimo in summer, or the best friend who is never without Light Blue.  It’s comforting and it’s sort of charming.  The smell announces the woman, and the woman is that scent – at least, to you.

Unfortunately, not much reaches that level of quality anymore.  If we’re going to wear it every day, it had better be well made, and I’d venture to guess that just as we don’t wear signature scents anymore, neither do the perfumers make them.  Do many perfumers even consider the possibility any more?  Do any of them actually compose signature scents?  If they did, what would they smell like?  Are they Frederic Malle scents, or Le Labo scents, or are they more like something Ayala Moriel would make?

If you could pick a signature scent, what would it be?

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27 thoughts on “Signature

    • L’Air de Rien is wonderful. I so wished to pull it off, but am very glad that other people do, because then sometimes I can smell it on somebody in passing. It is such a very warm and charming and dis-arming scent. Guessing that Un Petit Rien is too like LdR to be much of a difference? I remember you reviewed it.

  1. You know, I don’t think I have *ever* worn only one fragrance, as a signature. THere are only two that might come close. First, the original Chloe, the Lagerfeld one, which I wore all through my teens, if I was dressed up (church. awards assemblies. prom. holidays.) or just wanted to smell pretty. But I also had at least two other fragrances at the time – Prince Matchabelli Cachet or Emeraude or DvF Tatiana or Noxell Navy, so perhaps Chloe was less of a signature than a recurring theme. The second candidate for signature might be Victoria’s Secret Pink, which I wore exclusively for four or five years, having picked it out myself and bought it, and not being able to afford anything else.

    I truly don’t think I’d choose a signature now. I like changing to suit the season, or the weather, or my mood, and while I might consider paring down the collection to a wardrobe of 15-20, I can’t imagine wearing only one scent. The choices are too much a sensory pleasure.

    • You and I are not so far off each other in taste. I also love Emeraude, though I have lost the ability to wear tuberoses, like my old friend Chloe. I used to could, but now, something happens, and to make a long story short, Caron’s Tubereuse is about it for me.
      Secret Pink, was that floral? Don’t remember that one.

      As to having a signature now, I don’t think that even I,with my yearnings after fidelity, could manage it. One house for winter and one for summer might be about it! How many scents would that work out to? Answer:too many!

      • Yes, the VS Pink was actually a *green* floral. Smells pretty synthetic to me now, but it seemed unusual to me when I bought it – violet leaf, peony, freesia, lotv, quiet woody base. It was considerably better than anything they’ve put out since then (“then” being 2001, right after Taz was born).

  2. Wow, I love the new look of the site, very pretty!

    I confess to getting bored easily. Wearing one perfume more than two days in a row is too much for me. But there’s a practical reason as well: In my experience, a fragrance worn too often can “turn” on me and become repellent. Another possibility is that I will stop being able to smell it. Both have happened, so that’s why I have a large rotation of fragrances.

    Here’s a list of fragrances that I wore exclusively for periods of time:
    Skinny Dip (a teen fragrance of long ago, probably the equivalent of Pink Sugar)
    Spellbound (what was I thinking? I almost skunked my office with this)
    5th Avenue
    Jessica McClintock

    • Wanted a nice new color and as yellows and oranges are favorites of mine, here we are! Glad you like it!
      The problem of losing the sense of smell on a favorite perfume or having it turn are real. I used to sit behind many ladies in church who had obviously been wearing Youth Dew and L’Origan for far too long. They customarily overdosed on it. Not nice! It’s taken me years to find that L’Origan is actually beautiful.
      So yes, I take your point, And by the way, I’d forgotten Skinny Dip too.

  3. I think the issue with signature scents, much like the fashion industry, is that the younger generations are used to the idea of disposable things. To wear something once and then donate it could be lauded as eco-conscious as long as the GDP keeps growing, and the “luxury” industry has nice big profits. Because American consumers are not limited by the price tag of one bottle of perfume, they don’t have to be faithful.

    There’s also the argument that because there’s so much new stuff we, as consumers, want to try it all. Really the whole issue is with consumer choice and preference, and that’s so complicated to rationalize why people make decisions.

    Personally, I like to buy decants of things I like and continue to sample other things. I’ve made perfume into a hobby of sorts. Now, if I was forced to choose only one for a sig scent, I’d waffle between Amouage Gold Woman and By Kilian Rose Oud. Luckily, I don’t have to choose ;)


    • Hi Coleen,
      My French brother in law stands in front of cereal displays, and shelves at Home Depot, and shelves in Macy’s men’s department and customarily says, “Trop de Choix!” This is his way of pin pointing the primary flaw in the US marketing system.
      I’m not sure if he’s right, but I’m also sure that I’m no better off wearing two dozen perfumes rather than one or two. Still it is lovely not to have to choose, and Amouage Gold sounds like a pretty nice
      compromise between decadent excess and fidelity!
      It is nice not to have to choose though.

    • I know, (whispering) because I’m about to take a group photo of all my current bottles, and they look like the tree cover at Yellowstone to me! It follows that although I may consider signature scents, um, I actually have a very large number of them!

  4. I think there is a mystical relationship with signature scents; somehow, likeness attracts likeness, and this principle does exist in the perfume world too. My signature scent is L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, and it’s the scent that evokes my personality at this current phase. Even though it has become part of me, I do not mind smelling it on other people; on the contrary, we become one!

    • Hi Alexandra,
      That’s a lovely attitude to have towards your scent! And L’Ombre dans L’Eau is a very poetic one. It always reminds me of the swan on the label, absolute serenity paddling along past white water lilies.

  5. Although it never occurred to me to think of it as a “signature scent,” I wore only Magie Noire for many many years. It was only its reformulation into unrecognizability that catapulted me back into perfume exploration.

    • Grr, do I know that scenario! My great favorite Narcisse Blanc was refo’d shortly after I started wearing it. Drove me distracted, and I went looking for a whole other perfume house to express my dissatisfaction (with Caron) but in the end nobody else produced their dry down.
      So , I know only too well how that can start a perfume odyssey. Hope you find something(s) that make you as happy as Magie Noir!

  6. Haha, just picked up a new bottle of Diorissimo at the duty-free in St. Kitts….am I that predictable? Truly the reason is that the muguet in the yard is so fleeting.

    • My Mom was that predictable, Diorissimo year in year out, that is when the Tabu was definitely a thing of her past.
      Diorissimo is like all the current Diors …changeable. It might smell a bit different than you remember.
      Hope that St. Kitts was lovely!

  7. I don’t want to have just one perfume even if it’s the best one ever: there will be days when I’ll need something not as great but just nice. And I cannot possibly think of a single perfume that would be equally appropriate for a New Year party and a tropical beach walk.

      • Sorry about that. The website’s under construction at the moment so while it should work, there may be a few snafus until we’ve gotten it totally updated.

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