You smell. I smell. We all smell of something. Some people stink like radioactive fox pee, others like summer meadows. Sometimes my hair smells like fish fingers and oven chips, and other times, when I have my monthly wash, I smell of Imperial Leather and TCP. Either way, my alluring personal musk always brings the boys to the yard (as well as a few cats).
Scent is a complex, subjective, emotional thing that brings about so many associations. Your first Anais Anais drenched kiss, getting dumped by a guy who wore too much Fahrenheit, spritzing yourself with Poison on a night out and always linking that hideous purpley smell with throwing up on your friend’s shoes. Mitsouko reminds me of my mum kissing me before she went out, and Chanel No. 5 is the smell of black velvet and blonde hair and red lipstick. It’s all in there, a constantly spinning Rolodex of odours and memories.
But finding a perfume that you can live with forever is harder than finding true love. Every time I nip into a department store or the Duty Free my nostrils are assailed with scents that remind me of a toilet in a care home. Where one person smells freesias, I smell Cillit Bang. Gardenia with a sandalwood base? Oust. Musk? Old men’s bums. The only perfumes I have ever got on with are Armani for Her, Jo Malone Ginger and Nutmeg, and Ortigia’s Fico d’India. Otherwise I may as well just cut out the middleman and slather myself with Flash lemon. Oh, and there was another fragrance I loved – a wonderful fruity talcum powder I had as a kid, a cheapo Victoria Plum knock-off called Betsy…something. If I ever find that, I’m going to snort a line of it.
But if scent is all about allure, memory, promise and other intangibles, why do most modern mainstream perfumes insist on smelling like shite? Take Lady Gaga’s Fame – peach schnapps combined with the morning after pill. Britney Spears’ Fantasy Twist – Eau de meth lab. And don’t get me started on Florabotanica by Balenciaga. It’s advertised by Kristen Stewart, who stands there sulkily in a nasty psychedelic body con dress, looking as if someone has taken away her DS in the middle of a particularly thrilling game of Fruit Ninja. Truly, this is the scent of doom. You could use it against the Taliban. Smash a bottle of this, and every man, woman, animal and plant in the universe would be wiped out.
So instead of giving us top notes of Toilet Duck, I think that parfumiers should harness our powerful smell memories in their fragrances instead. Beyonce’s Cake and Custard. ‘That Guy I Used to Fancy In First Year,’ by Dior. ‘Inside Your Pencil Case’ by Yves Saint Laurent. There’s not a woman on earth who wouldn’t spend £50 on a bottle of something that reminded her of her childhood collection of scented erasers. Forget lust and musk and Charlize Theron with her baps covered in gold paint – just stick a Strawberry Shortcake concession in Selfridges and watch the money roll in…