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We asked writer and editor Wing Sze Tang, who recently launched FleetStreetMag.com, about her favourite nostalgic scent, what smells remind her of home and how she feels about signature scents.
With over a decade of experience in the beauty-media world, it’s no surprise that Wing Sze Tang has some perfume tips, which she shared when answering our #TWTRQ questions. The result? A thoughtful chat about her first foray into fragrance (it had to do with boys) and how important fragrance is to her daily style.
What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
I’m most nostalgic for my mom’s home cooking. She’s always keen on wok hei (Cantonese for “breath of the wok”), a kind of hard-to-describe seared taste you can only achieve by stir-frying on high heat. As you can imagine, it also makes the whole place smell like dinner.
What was the first fragrance you bought yourself and why did you buy it?
I remember being partial to The Body Shop’s vanilla in high school. It just had the kind of safe sweetness a teen girl would go for.
What maternal (or paternal) figure influenced your attitude towards perfume?
My parents weren’t perfume wearers. So growing up, I didn’t clue into the powers of fragrance until I started crushing on boys. I was painfully shy then, so just being close enough to smell someone’s skin felt like an intimate thing.
What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?
I have many favourites, but Frédéric Malle’s Portrait of a Lady by Dominique Ropion gets the most compliments. It’s heavy on rose essence and patchouli, and on paper it doesn’t sound like the type of thing that an introvert would fancy. But opposites attract. It’s a bit over the top, in the best way.
What makes you notice a fragrance?
If a certain je ne sais quoi makes me want to draw closer to you, it’s working. But you should never apply fragrance like you want it to be all-caps NOTICED. Less is more; generally, two spritzes max.
How many fragrances do you own?
Enough to feel like a borderline hoarder. I’ve been a beauty editor for years, so let’s just call my collection thorough.
How many fragrances do you regularly wear?
I probably rotate through a handful at any given time, and I’m always trying new ones. When I get advance samples of launches, I like to test them before forming an opinion based on the flowery marketing. Ultimately, that’s the only way to judge a scent: wear it. You’ll know if it’s love or hate.
What do you smell like?
Probably sunscreen, Cashmere Mist deodorant (worth the $$$), maybe hand cream (right now, Roger & Gallet Gingembre Rouge), and whatever perfume I’m feeling that day. Lately, I’ve also been spritzing my face with Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist just for the lovely neroli, orange blossom and rose scent. It was inspired by the world’s first recorded perfume, made circa the 14th century.
What smell reminds you of home?
Bleu de Chanel (my husband) and apple-oatmeal shampoo (my goldendoodle, Ramen).
How do you scent your current home?
At bedtime, I might spritz my pillows with perfume, but that’s pretty much it. I don’t care for candles at home unless there’s a power outage.
If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be?
If I could have a beauty genie grant any wish, I’d want Jean-Claude Ellena, the now-retired Hermès nose who considered perfume “a poetry of memory,” to dream up a fragrance just for me. It could smell like a lush garden in Thailand, where my husband and I honeymooned 12 years ago.
What scents/smells are overrated?
Anything cloying or done to death. To me, the best fragrances are a rare work of art, and the worst ones like a photocopy of that piece of art—a poor imitation.
How do you feel about signature scents?
Much like sticking to a precise aesthetic (all-black everything, or red lipstick forever), having just one defining scent shows a certain confidence. You know exactly who you are. But it’s way too restrictive for me; I prefer to experiment.
What piece of fragrance advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to your kids/friends/the next generation?
Try a new scent when traveling to a new destination or celebrating a major occasion (like a wedding); whenever you smell that fragrance again in the future, it will bring back those memories much more vividly. Legit mind tricks.
How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
I dabble in many perfumes, but I don’t wear one every single day. To me, it’s a strategic mood-setter. I ask myself, how do I feel? How do I want to feel? What impression do I want to leave? It calls for some thoughtfulness.
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