What’s your earliest ‘scent memory?’
There are a few that really stand out, but the strongest is a memory of waiting for the babysitter and sitting next to my Mum, at her dressing table, whilst she's getting ready to go out. The smell is a blend of Chanel No.5, Elnett hairspray and how lipsticks used to smell - like waxy violets. I still use Elnett hairspray myself and whilst I don't wear it, I keep a bottle of Chanel No.5 on my own dressing table (in the same refillable Chanel bottle that my Mum owned and has subsequently given to me) and I have the odd sniff now and then to remind me of those evenings.
Is there a smell that you wish could be ‘bottled’, that doesn't exist in fragrance form?
Quite oddly, I am obsessed with the smell of Sloane Square underground station's platform. It's musty and dusty and it never changes; you could dump me there blindfolded and I would instantly know where I was. I worked in the area for quite a few years when I first moved to London and it was the station I travelled in and out of. It reminds me of those exciting times.
What’s your absolute favourite odour? – No matter how unusual or unexpected?
Choosing just one is difficult! But I think I have to plump for another strange one, which is Creosote after it's been painted onto a fence on a hot, sunny day (it's not the same if you just sniff it from the tin - believe me, I have tried it!). It reminds me of childhood summers and yes, I have been known to stop in the street and sniff fences.
Are there any smells that you first disliked, but learnt to love?...
I struggled to get on with the perfumery material, Oud, which disappointed me because my normal preferences suggested I would really fall for this woody, balsamic smelling ingredient. Initially I found the medicinal elements of its odour quite off-putting, but the more I learnt about it and smelt it in different forms and guises, the more I really came to appreciate it.
Likewise, although with a somewhat different analogy, one of my best friends used to wear a perfume (Dolce Vita by Christian Dior) when we were teenagers that I really didn't like (sorry Claire!). Years have obviously passed since then and the other day I spotted a bottle of it whilst in Duty Free at the airport, and with time to kill I had a sniff. The fragrance bought back a flood of happy memories, of spending carefree time with giggling friends and I enjoyed it so much that I bought a small bottle. It's proof that our preferences for different scents are really driven by the memories and emotions that our brains attach to each of them, which I find utterly fascinating!
… or the other way around?
This must be very common, but of course there are fragrances that were the signature scents of ex-boyfriends, that I wouldn't wish to spend much time with now (neither the fragrance, nor the ex-boyfriend!).
How did you end up working in fragrance?
I actually started working in fragrance very early on in my career, as I worked in PR and events with fine fragrance brands as clients, which was great fun. But, the psychology of fragrance marketing has always really baffled me. There's so much of genuine interest to say about perfumery that I have never understood why many brands rely so heavily on glossy images and provide such sparse information about the ingredients, processes or people behind the creation of a perfume. I love working with The Library of Fragrance because it's a brand that really celebrates scent and the psychology of smell, and is very open about its processes and inspirations.
What’s one ‘top tip’ that you could give to people wishing to learn more about fragrance?
If you think you have a burgeoning interest in perfume, fragrance and scent, then you're in luck - there are so many fantastic blogs and online resources, all taking a different angle on the subject, that you can keep yourself busy for quite some time without spending any money at all. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started: Odiferess, The Candy Perfume Boy, Bonkers About Perfume, Persolaise, Nick Gilbert, Volatile Fiction, I Scent You a Day, The Sniff Box, Fragrantica and Basenotes.
If you get to the stage where you feel that you would like to delve a little deeper, there are events and organisations springing up all over the UK, where you can learn more amongst like-mindeds. Try The Perfume Society, Perfume Lovers London and Odette Toilette as starters for ten.