"I would rather leave the house with no makeup than…
Forget one signature scent. Toronto-based writer Anne T. Donahue is a perfume polygamist. She spoke to us about scent memories, both seasonal and boy-crush-related, and the beauty of Margiela spritzes and Glade Plug Ins.
What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
I always and will forever love the smell of fireplaces. Cold weather is my favourite, and even as a kid I remember getting immediately psyched for Halloween and Christmas and playing outside in the leaves or snow as soon as the neighbourhood fireplaces went on. Also: bonfires. Preferably while accompanied by burnt-ish marshmallows.
First fragrance you bought yourself?
Gap Dream! But I didn’t buy it, my aunt bought it for me one Christmas. My Mom and Dad were super-sensitive to scents (or so they told me when I was a kid, because they’re sure as shit into scents now), so I wasn’t allowed to use anything ‘overpowering.’ I think I also bought every one of those Bonne Bell emotion-centric perfumes, which I remember feeling very grown-up coordinating with my eighth-grade moods.
What maternal (or paternal) figure influenced your attitude towards perfume?
In terms of scents and makeup and fashion, I wanted to basically be my Aunt Vida and my Aunt Daina, my Mom’s sisters. They were—and are—so cool and well dressed, and I equated perfumes and “getting ready” with their cool, grown-ass woman lives. (They’re 18 and 20-ish years older than me.) I have no idea what they actually wore, but they always smelled so . . . together. Like they had their shit on lock.
What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?
Actually, I think this might say more about my personality: I don’t have a favourite fragrance. I own a lot of fragrances, but I don’t have a go-to because I usually put on what I’m in the mood for, versus what’s tried-and-true. Recently, I just bought Maison Margiela’s Replica By The Fireplace, and I’ve been all about that. But I also re-bought Ralph by Ralph Lauren (never forget) because I was feeling super nostalgic.
I think scents are kind of like clothes where you put on what you feel best in, in that moment. I remember a girl I worked with years ago freaking when I didn’t have a signature scent, and I always felt weird that was even a thing.
What makes you notice a fragrance?
The packaging, which is embarrassing to admit. That’s the reason I picked up Miu Miu’s latest back in the winter—it looked super cool, and it ended up smelling lovely. And from there, I basically avoid anything too serious-smelling, if that makes sense. My Grandma Donahue always wore very, very strong perfume and it reminded me of church. So, nothing like that, please and thank you.
How many fragrances you own?
13! I am a criminal.
How many fragrances do you regularly wear?
I’m pretty good about not leaving anybody out, but lately I’ve been wearing Jo Malone Basil & Neroli, Ralph, the aforementioned Maison Margiela, Marc Jacobs Daisy, and, because I’m deranged, Tommy Girl. I rebought it on a whim back in the summer, and I’ve learned that provided you don’t drown yourself in it, it’s actually okay. That, or I’m having a full-on post-teenage crisis.
What do you smell like?
Currently I smell very much like the closet I keep my coats in because I am wearing a very large blanket scarf I found this morning. And specifically, I am wearing it as a shawl and/or cape.
How do you scent your home?
I burn sage a lot because I like to keep my space clean, but during the fall and winter, I live that apple cinnamon-scented candle life. During the summer, though, I just keep the windows open, so I scent it with neighbours’ BBQs, fresh-cut grass, and the nearby McDonalds.
Who is the best smelling person you’ve ever met, and what did they smell like?
An impossible question! I remember one of my high-school crushes always smelled like clean laundry and his house smelled like the Hawaiian-scent Glade plug-in, so I was pretty obsessed with both of those for way too long. I also remember thinking another crush’s Swiss Army cologne was the greatest smell of life, which is simply incorrect.
If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be?
Sometimes in the summer, you’ll smell people’s laundry being dried—like the fabric sheets and the dryer venting out from their house. And I love that. It reminds me of being little and playing hide-and-go-seek with all the kids in my neighbourhood during the summer. Especially at night: That’s when everybody seemed to do their laundry, and it was always a really big deal to stay out after the streetlights turned on.
What scents/smells are overrated?
This is absolutely because my Dad’s car always smelled way too strongly of pine-scented air fresheners, but fake pine. How did we let it get so far? Why did we think this was an okay idea? (My Dad’s car fresheners have since switched to fake leather—and it’s much better.)
How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
I’m a big fan in that it’s the last step before I go out, usually. It kind of caps off the look (whatever it may be), and I feel like I’m consciously “going out”—kind of like my aunts when I watched them get ready. Although that said, I am sure I smell amazing currently, wrapped up in closet-scarf.