Vice-president fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, Barb Atkin, talks about…
Ashley Kowalewski-Pizzi writes about beauty for Best Health, 29 Secrets and Beautezine; and yes, she is opinionated about perfume.
The writer and beauty editor shares the scents that are connected to the people she loves, her fragrance
hoarding collection and the vacation smell that she wishes she could bottle.
What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
For as long as I can remember, my nonna (“grandmother” in Italian) grew an herb garden with basil and parsley and would send me out to pick some when she was cooking. Even though she’s been gone for some time, the smell of freshly chopped parsley will forever remind me of her—I make a point to try and cook with it frequently.
What was the first fragrance you bought yourself and why did you buy it?
Full disclosure: I spent the last hour going down a Google hole of trying to find this unnamed, probably discontinued ‘90s scent that I loved with no such luck. However, after that, I remember the first “real” scent that I got was Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely. It was a gift from my dad for one of my teenage birthdays. I used it so sparingly because it was so cool and special that it lasted years and then after my dad passed away when I was 20, I just decided it was a good thing to keep and hold onto. It still sits at the top of my fragrance shelf in my room over a decade later.
What maternal (or paternal) figure influenced your attitude towards perfume?
Both my parents did, actually! My mom wore Guerlain Shalimar for most of my childhood and into my teens and I remember it being something my dad and I bought for her for Christmas or her birthday when she was running low. It was always a necessity and something glamorous.
What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?
I have a hard time narrowing down one favourite fragrance (too many to choose!), but I think that shows that I have a wide range of tastes. That being said, most of my favourites (top five, at least)—Givenchy Hot Couture, Chloé L’Eau de Chloé, Chloé Eau de Parfum and Prada Candy—are all classics in their own right. None of them are really new, all have fairly identifiable notes and are good all year round. Or maybe it just means that I’m really, really basic.
What makes you notice a fragrance?
Usually, a note that I love. I’m a sucker for florals (in fragrance and just in general) and always fall for a jasmine, lilac or rose note. Though, if it’s a cool bottle I’ll give it a second sniff, even if it’s not really my jam.
How many fragrances do you own?
I recently downgraded from a 28-fragrance rotation to a more manageable 22 scents. Some call it hoarding, I call it having options.
How many fragrances do you regularly wear?
I wear all 22, but not all year long. I definitely have certain seasonal scents. For instance, my current summer fave is the new Elie Saab Resort alongside Atelier Cologne Grand Néroli (which I wore at my wedding last year), Dolce & Gabbana Dolce and Chloé Love Story—I’m a massive Chloé fan, in case you didn’t notice. In the fall and winter, I gravitate towards warmer scents like Hermès L’Ambre des Merveilles, Lancôme La Vie est Belle and Dior Miss Dior Le Parfum.
What do you smell like?
Probably coffee. I’m a hopeless addict and also a bit of a klutz.
How do you scent your home?
If I’m home, I almost always have at least one candle burning. Currently loving the Canadian-made Coal & Canary candle in Sweet Perfumes & Lilac Blooms, but I love a wood fire-scented candle any time of year. Illume has a great one in the winter that I hoard when it goes on sale. I also have diffusers in the bathrooms—the new Nest Liquidless Diffuser is amazing!
Who is the best smelling person you’ve ever met, and what did they smell like?
I can’t think of one person in particular—so many people smell so good. Though I imagine Matt Damon smells pretty great.
If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it?
I went to Bali for the first (but hopefully not the last) time last summer. The entire island had the most intoxicating scent of incense and frangipani. The incense was from the offerings that were outside each home and storefront and there was also a hint of rice scent. The frangipani were literally everywhere! They were so beautiful they almost looked fake. I found a candle called Bali recently and it was disappointingly nothing like the place.
What scents/smells are overrated?
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. I know everyone loves it, but I don’t think it’s worth the hype (sorry!).
How do you feel about signature scents? Is it freeing or limiting?
I think, like anything, it depends on your personality. Having a go-to scent/dress/bag/pair of shoes/lipstick can feel really empowering sometimes, but it is also really nice to switch it up with your mood.
What piece of fragrance advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to your kids/friends/the next generation?
Let your nose do the deciding and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you have too many fragrances.
How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
So important! I almost always forget to put on earrings (and sometimes even almost forget to put my wedding band back on after I wash my face), but fragrance is always my last step before I’m done getting ready.
Next Post: A new Tiffany perfume to covet
Previous Post: Jessica Chastain is the face of Ralph Lauren Woman