Your Signature Scent - The Francais Way...
It's no secret that perfume is a delicious part of the very fiber of French style and culture.
We have recently explored several of the Parisian woman's beauty secrets, including skin care, the signature red lip look, and the minimalistic manicure. Let's take a look at your own signature scent, the français way...
What we call perfume is derived from the Latin phrase, "per" meaning "through" and "fumus" meaning "smoke." The French later used the word “parfum” to describe the smells released when burning incense. So really, the first form of perfume was incense, first made by the Mesopotamians about 4000 years ago.
While we think of perfume as a totally French invention, the first perfume maker on record was actually a woman chemist named Tapputi. The legend of Tapputi has been traced back to a clay tablet from Mesopotamia, suggesting that her fragrant creations were available at some point during the second millennium BC.
The first modern perfume as we recognize it, where oils are blended with an alcohol solution, was named Hungary Water.
This fragrance consisted of a blend of lemon, orange blossom, thyme, and rosemary notes, and was created for Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in 1370.
While its primary goal would surely have been for a delicious scent, back then, fragrances were also used to ward off evils, serve as cures, convey prayers, and invoke divine protection.
We imagine Queen Elizabeth's personal quarters must have smelled heavenly, indeed!
Today's scents (for men, women, and unisex) are formulated as such:
- Top / Head Notes (lasting 5-15 minutes)
- Heart Notes (lasting 20-60 minutes)
- Base Notes (lasting around 6 hours)
You'll recognize the notes based on what you smell after time of application. Top notes are noticed immediately. Once this head note fades, the heart notes expose the perfume's essence, and the base notes are the scents that last the longest and the fragrance you remember most.
Today, fragrances are big business.
The global perfume market size was estimated at USD 33.69 billion in 2020, with no signs of slowing down.
From celebrity endorsements, to personal creations, not to mention social media influencers, everyone has an opinion on personal scent.
When creating a scent, companies employ a specialist, called a "Nose." This perfume artist is able to capture moods, emotions etc. through fragrance blends. Noses are well trained to be a living encyclopedia of ingredients and their scents, as well as knowing how the ingredients change over time, and how they may be altered when combined with other ingredients.
Once the scent composition is finalized, it should be noted that the packaging and marketing get almost as much thought as the fragrance juice itself!
One fun example here - it is widely believed that Coco Chanel was so inspired by the aerial view of the Place Vendôme, from her suite at the Ritz Hotel, that she modelled her own bottles after it. Clever, Coco!
2022's top 5 selling women's fragrances:
· Chanel N°5
· Marc Jacobs Daisy
· Dior J'Adore
· Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb
· Mugler Angel
2022's top 5 selling men's fragrances:
· Chanel Bleu de Chanel
· Maison Margiela "Replica"
· Giorgio Armani Beauty Acqua Di Gio
· Dior Sauvage
· Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille
In Unisex fragrances, CK1 launched in 1994 and remains the strongest scent of its kind, with notes of mandarin, lemon, pineapple, sandalwood, and green tea.
P'Niche Personal: My own daytime fragrance is the supremely feminine Miss Dior (by Dior), in the roller pearl bottle.
Relaunched in 2017, the head notes are pink pepper, blood orange, sweet orange, Mandarin orange, Calabrian bergamot and lemon; the heart notes are Grasse rose, damask rose and jasmine leaf; and the base notes are patchouli and Palisander rosewood.
I was lucky enough to stroll Dior's own home and rose gardens and truly feel as though this scent takes me back to that special moment with each application!
At night, it's Black Jade - the exact fragrance worn by Marie Antoinette! I love that MA used the say, "my dear, and very dear, so and so." This perfume was given to me as a gift by my dear and very dear Janet & Lina - merci!
With head notes of cardamom, galbanum and bergamot; heart notes of rose, cinnamon, incense and jasmine; base notes of patchouli, vanilla, Tonka bean, amber and sandalwood, it makes me feel like an absolute queen when I wear it!
When shopping for your new scent, make sure you try everything - even scents you think you may not like. You never know what will work on your unique chemistry. Note that what smells great on a loved one may note work for you and vice-versa. Importantly, try them a full day before purchasing. The top notes may vary greatly from those long lasting base notes.
Applying your scent also has some tricks.
To note, most perfumes come with a spray bottle. When spraying - do not then rub the fragrance into your skin. That actually crushes the fragrance notes.
You'll spray onto your pulse points and perhaps a bit behind your ears. Some women even spray their thighs as the scent releases as they walk. Many spray the air and "walk through" the fragrance.
I like to layer my scent by using a similar bath wash, shampoo, and body cream.
You should store your scent in a cool dry place, as leaving it on your vanity exposes it to humidity and sunlight, both of which can break down your fragrance.
When in Paris, I enjoy shopping for fragrances at:
40, bd Haussmann, 75009
Métro: Chaussée d'Antin — La Fayette (Line 9)
64, bd Haussmann, 75009
Métro: Hauvre-Caumartin (Lines 3, 9)
Sephora (multiple locations)
72, avenue des Champs-Élysées
Métro: George V (Line 1)
Rose Desgranges (what a history here!)
70, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008
Métro: Madeleine (Lines 8, 12, 14)
Not in Paris? Pas de problème! We use:
Fragrantica is a great resource, where you can find out all of the notes in each fragrance during your aromatic research.
When in Paris, P'Niche also loves to visit the Musée du Parfum, located in the 9th arrondissement.
In the shadows of the Opéra Garnier, (we see you, Phantom!) you can enjoy an in-depth study of the history of fragrances and its unique value to the French culture.
These are classes, workshops, as well as an outstanding Fragonard boutique. It's a smaller museum, less traveled, but a truly unique sensory experience...
Feeling even more creative? You can also attend a private workshop to create your own signature scent. Even better, at time of this post, it's in a Parisian apartment!
I've attended this workshop myself. Not only did I learn quite a lot from the wonderful and charming teacher, I had a ball. The memories invoked by this uniquely personalized fragrance are next to none. You can book here.
What do you think P'Nichers? What's your signature scent? On the hunt for a new fragrance? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!