We asked six writers to step out of their cologne comfort zone and try a new, extraordinary scent for a week…
ANTHONY ASH, an Irish writer and critic currently based in Stockholm, wears Bal d’Afrique by Byredo, €140, at Brown Thomas Dundrum; www.byredo.com
It’s just before eight when, wearing perfume on assignment, I spiral down the staircase into morning. Inspired by the vogue for African art in 1920s Paris – following the brutal, near-total colonisation of the continent – the scent is named Bal d’Afrique. Does it matter that Byredo’s founder is of colour when the wearer, pastily, is not? On the hill to the station, weighed down by a book on Giacometti in my satchel, post-colonial anxiety briefly gives way to another, less culturally complex, concern. Have I put enough on? Has the wind swept it up off my skin? Busy light flashes off a body of water, but I can’t smell the scent on my neck anymore, and the water on the map doesn’t seem to have a name.
So, I spiral back up to the cylindrical, dome-capped, 100ml bottle that (late in the day, early in the week) arrived at my door as I lay dozing. It’s a little after eight in the morning. It’s just about still rush hour on the train when I finally board. No sooner have a pair of bronze heels gotten off, however, than I sense myself becoming conspicuous, the silence taut with citrus emanating from beneath my vanilla turtle-neck and vanilla turtle-neck sleeves. To make matters worse, a blind man gets on. He’s looking for a job, he insists – a cup held out to the silence, which doesn’t seem to break despite his speech. How bitter my body must sound to his nose! (How redolent my vibe of the Paris avant-garde?) As his cup shuffles emptily past, a blue rosette turban sitting three seats down the carriage lowers her mask and, pointing a finger at me, says: You’re rich. Give him your crowns. (‘The mask’s intervention helped Giacometti overcome his indecision. The finding of the object served the same function as that of a dream.’) No, I insist. I am a cultural critic.
SARAH McDONNELL, THE GLOSS editor, wears Eau de Basilic Pourpre by Hermès, €106; www.hermes.com
A friend left Dublin for NY, leaving us in charge of her spindly but pungent basil plant. We kept it alive by watering with warm water – never cold – for two weeks. When I went away, I worried very occasionally about the plant but it thrived in the Irish heatwave and I came back from my holiday to see it burgeoning on a windowsill, thanks to the ministrations of my hen and house-keeper (not housekeeper). After a warm holiday, the house usually smells cool because that is possible, though you wouldn’t think it is, and faintly fragrant, and this time it smelled of basil as well – light, green, deeply vegetal, with a little spice.
On holiday, I had asked for basilic every few days at the market – because of the heat, the herbs were kept cool under the tarp of the stall and I had to ask. Though I cooked little else, the sweet tomatoes and yellow courgettes at the market said Cook Me so I did, standing in the sweltering conservatory kitchen, and added the bright green basil just before bringing the bowl to the table for dinner in the cooler evening. In the hot kitchen, the remaining leaves withered almost instantly in a glass tumbler. If July had a smell, basil was it.
Christine Nagel, who created this invigorating fragrance for Hermès, conjured it from her memory of a farmers’ market, adding bergamot, geranium, patchouli and warm spices. I’m keeping summer alive with this fresh, invigorating herbal scent in its big green glass bottle, drenching myself twice a day. There are costlier, riskier ways to boost your mood this autumn.
The Fashion Statement
SARAH HALLIWELL, THE GLOSS beauty editor, wears Voodoo Chile by Dries Van Noten, €220; www.eu.driesvannoten.com
When I eat something sweet, I know I will be crying within the hour. For some reason, my 50s have gifted me the sugar tolerance of a six-yearold. I’ve just had a cupcake and am now bracing myself for the vanilla crack-induced low. You’d think, then, that sweet smells would offer a consolatory high – but I’ve always hated them (bar an 1980s passion for LouLou); if anything remotely candyflossy gets near my skin, I have to wash it off.
Instead, I need something robust, for balance. There’s no sweetness on the catwalk of Dries Van Noten perfumes. Each distractingly beautiful bottle trains a microscope on a part of the garden, then ramps it up into technicolour, like hallucinatory Gareth McConnell photographs. Each comes on strong, and fades fast, like Irish weather. Jittery, distracted, I can’t commit. I veer from Raving Rose to icily imperial “Mint, Iris”, my type on paper. But it’s the stagily named Voodoo Chile – “Rosemary, Patchouli” – that I keep dabbing on my skin.
When my godmother died, two friends gave me a plant to remember her by: flourishing rosemary in the garden of a house is said to indicate a strong woman lives within. I’ve admired its sharp, spiky greenness and kick of flinty woodiness ever since, even drinking it as an aromatic tea. For me, rosemary is a little fierce, hardy and resilient. And here, in equilibrium with patchouli’s smoky earthiness, it feels both airy and grounded – a polar opposite to sugar highs, for sure. And a quotidian reminder of love and loss.
New, Irish and Cool
DAISY HICKEY, THE GLOSS digital contributor, wears Digital Daze by Roads, €98; www.roads.co
What I dab on my wrists in the morning has to have some coolness to it. Bonus points to a scent that reflects my personality, job or name, so, naturally, my lifelong favourite has been Daisy by Marc Jacobs. On the nose? Well, exactly.
Digital Daze by ROADS was a gift from a loved one who was wise to my narcissistic scent-selection practices. It’s perfect – Daze is my street name. Plus, this one reflected my love of all that is digital (my screen-time records are terrifying and day to day, I scroll through five different Twitter feeds – yes, five). But as I say, any perfume I use, has also gotta be cool.
This light punchy perfume emanates cool. Irish-owned ROADS, by Danielle Ryan, is a marvel in brand narrative. ROADS is all about exploration of the world we inhabit, and ROADS of ASIA – the collection to which my precious Digital Daze belongs – pays particular attention to the symbolism and culture of the Asian continent. The perfume bottles in the collection are a sultry red, a colour signifying luck in China, sacredness in Japan, and love in India. Talk about taking the customer on a journey.
Dynamic, luminous, zippy and modern, Digital Daze is a clean fragrance. There’s a surprising peppery note beneath the citrus and rose that will take you by surprise, and even though it’s light, it has fabulous staying power throughout the day. I just love that it is inspired by connection – the idea of a fast interaction between humans and our beloved digital technology. I will definitely be Tweeting about it.
KATE MORTON, The GLOSSiest Beauty Panellist, wears This Is Not A Blue Bottle by Histoires de Parfums. €110; www.histoiresdeparfums.com
Usually I am a signature scent girl. I’ll go for the odd variance here and there, but even then will stay in line with my usual scent which is understated, fresh, clean and perhaps even (now that I think about it) nondescript. But I am still obsessed with new scents; I believe that a scent can convey something of your personality and so always notice a waft from someone else. I tend to avoid flowery and very overpowering fragrances myself, yet I’m intrigued when I notice them on others.
To my surprise I felt happy to be given the excuse/permission to stray from my own familiar, comfortable favourites. This bottle – bright and loud – did not appeal, and I would not have picked it up in a shop, let alone sprayed it. But as I wore the perfume, I felt energised by its crisp, green, outdoorsy and slight sharpness, and loved the freshness of something new. The scent itself was not as strong or loud as the bottle would suggest – but it was such a contrast to my usual choice, and it made me feel different. More confident, perhaps; I felt I had more of a presence.
I now feel encouraged to branch out, and perhaps even rethink the whole idea of a signature scent (maybe). I also found myself reconsidering my wardrobe too; it’s interesting to re-invent (even in a small way) how we come across. Essentially, I think the change invigorated me, and has given me food for thought …
GRACE COLVILLE, student, 15, wears Infusion de Vanille by Prada, €140, at counters nationwide.
I find that most of the scents marketed at teenagers are sickly-sweet and floral – useful for masking any lingering hint of alcohol or cigarettes, but otherwise far too flamboyantly feminine. The obvious upside of these perfumes or body sprays is that they are cheap, many within pocket-money limits. The vanilla perfume I’ve been trying out is absolutely not something I could ever think of buying myself, at €140. But wearing it, I notice that it’s much more subtle than many of those sugary, girly scents. As one of my friends, a keen cook, remarked, “It’s the kind of smell you get when you’re baking.” Vanilla, bergamot, neroli and angelica (it tells me on the side of the bottle in French) make up a smell that is free from the alcoholic fumes I find in stronger scents. Instead, you get this lovely effect – that the smell is coming from your skin itself, and that you smell sweet, naturally.
The idea of a perfume that seems to alter your skin’s own scent, rather than it being obvious that you’re wearing perfume (that you’ve put lots of effort in, that you’re trying too hard, etc.) does genuinely appeal to me. On the other hand, I don’t think it lasts long enough or smells strong enough to justify the price. I love the effortless air, but if I was to spend €140 on smelling good, I think I’d want to smell good for longer than two hours…