Forget one signature scent. Toronto-based writer Anne T. Donahue is…
Though it often seems like a very specific topic, talking about perfume casts a wide net. We love learning how other people wear certain scents, why they perfume themselves, how their memories are tinted with specific fragrances—and we especially love when people start their own projects with their sense of smell in mind.
Dallas Curow is a photographer who specializes in family, maternity, couples and wedding photography; she’s based in Toronto. We were first drawn to Curow when we happened upon her “Feeling of Fragrance” series, a collection of photographs inspired by scents from Curow’s childhood. Knowing we had a perfume lover on our hands, we spoke with Curow about her relationship to scent.
Question: What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
DALLAS CUROW: I have many favourite scents from my childhood, and several of them provided the initial inspiration for my The Feeling of Fragrance project. Laying in the long grass at my cottage and looking up at the sky; walking through the forest on a rainy day; the clean soapy scent of a warm bath; fresh linen straight out of the dryer—all of these scents remind me of adventurous and cozy moments of the wonderful childhood my parents created for me.
Q: What was the first fragrance you bought yourself and why did you buy it?
CUROW: Love’s Baby Soft during elementary school for a school dance, and Tea Rose from The Body Shop for my grade eight graduation. Both scents made me feel sophisticated but were soft enough to suit a young girl.
Q: What maternal figure—mother, grandmother, aunt, other—influenced you the most in your attitude towards perfume?
CUROW: My aunt Nancy has been the most influential person in terms of both beauty and fragrance in my life. She was a hairdresser and makeup artist when I was younger and always taught me so much about different products. She also had a great collection of Chanel fragrances that I coveted. She showed me the transformational power of makeup, and the fun and glamour of fragrance.
Q: What does your favourite fragrance say about your personality?
CUROW: While I am still searching for “the” fragrance, and am thoroughly enjoying the hunt, I doubt that I will ever be able to choose just one and would rather have a wardrobe of favourite scents to suit various seasons and occasions. This is definitely in keeping with my personality in the sense that I love to experiment and evolve. My hair colour and style change constantly (in fact, I compulsively cut five inches off my hair in my bathroom this very morning) and I am always curious about how a new scent might be the perfect accompaniment to a new look.
Right now, I love layering Sephora Vanilla Cupcake dry oil spray with Le Labo Jasmin 17. It’s so pretty during the summer.
Q: What makes you notice a fragrance?
CUROW: An element of oddness, strangeness, contrast or depth is always what draws me to a fragrance. I fell in love with Thierry Mugler’s Angel when I was a teenager precisely because I found it strange. I was initially repelled by its strength and dirtier notes, but I took the test strip home with me and couldn’t stop thinking about it. My grandparents bought me a bottle that Christmas and I wore it every winter until it ran out. When I arrived at University and saw that my roommate had the same bottle sitting on her dresser, I knew we would get along, as it takes a certain type of teen to embrace a scent that intense.
As I’ve grown more and more interested in fragrance, I continue be captivated by scents with depth, ones that make me think “oh, weird, what is that?” I recently had that reaction when I smelled “Jeux de Peau” by Serge Lutens. The buttered toast note was so different from anything I’d experienced before that I was taken aback. That one is now on my wishlist as an autumn scent. All this being said, I do love a clean, classic floral scent as well.
Q: How many fragrances you own?
CUROW: I own about a dozen full-size fragrances, but I also have dozens of small sample bottles and travel atomizers that I’ve ordered from various fragrance websites.
Q: How many fragrances do you regularly wear?
CUROW: I hold about three fragrances nearest and dearest. I love to wear Le Labo Jasmin 17 on hot summer days and nights. L’Artisan Parfumeur L’eau d’Ambre Extreme is my go-to powdery scent for cold winter days. I most recently purchased Gardenia by Penhaligon’s while I was in Scotland, which is really light and fresh.
Some of my other favourites include Vacances Liquide by Memoire Liquide, Violet Blonde by Tom Ford, Parisienne by YSL, Maybe Baby by Benefit and Fleur de Corail by Lolita Lempicka.
I have a long wishlist of scents I hope to purchase next. Here’s what’s at the very top of my wishlist: Liquidnight by A Lab On Fire, Corunubia by Penhaligons, Volutes by Diptyque, Vici by Histoires de Parfums, Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince, Jeux de Peau by Serge Lutens and Anima Dulcis by Arquiste.
Q: What do you smell like?
CUROW: Soap, tea, baking and whatever fragrance I’m wearing that day.
Q: How do you scent your home? Can you give us specifics?
CUROW: Scent is very important for me in the home, as I have moved so often that I find fragrance is the best way to make a new place feel comfortable. My husband and I both love smoky scents so to us, Diptyque’s Feu de Bois candle is our preferred scent that just smells like home. We also use Diptyque’s Amber room spray in our bedroom. In our kitchen we use Fruits et Passion’s Cucina line of products, which all smell fantastic.
Q: If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be and please describe the smell.
CUROW: A summer night walking on Mont Royal in Montreal where I lived for many years. Dewy grass, wet pavement, gravel paths, forest, red wine or Prosecco in plastic cups, and the lingering smoke from fireworks in the distance.
Q: How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
CUROW: Fragrance is and has always been important to me. It elevates everyday life and adds atmosphere. It personalizes a home and enhances shared memories. It is the final touch on a look for a special night, that will also embed itself into any memories made during the evening. I definitely know more about fragrance than I do about style, so in a way I think my interest in fragrance compensates for my many fashion missteps. I love scent so much that I fall asleep reading fragrance descriptions and reviews.
Q: Why did you decide to start “The Feeling of Fragrance” series?
CUROW: I love to take on at least one big personal creative project every year. It complements the photography work I do for my clients and pushes me to create better art. It also feeds my spirit. The Feeling of Fragrance was born in a moment of homesickness. I moved eight times within a two-year period and was living in a foreign country at the time. I was missing the idea of home, comfort and familiarity and was feeling nostalgic.
Q: What were you hoping to capture with the photographs?
CUROW: I wanted to create a series of images that paid tribute to some of my favourite memories and the scents that accompanied them. I wanted each image to show the spirit of the scent, and the feeling that goes along with each scented memory.
Q: Do you think there is a connection between scent and photography?
CUROW: Absolutely. I think a powerful photograph should engage all the senses. Yes, photography is a visual medium but if you’ve ever felt pulled in by an image, I would argue that it’s because it evoked a sensation beyond sight alone. It compelled you to imagine what it might feel like to be in the photo’s setting. When we imagine, we do so in several dimensions, and I think our senses shape those imaginings. On the other hand, scents and even perfume descriptions themselves are treasure troves of inspiration for me personally in terms of photography concepts, art direction and styling.
Make to take a look at the rest of Curow’s series, The Feeling of Fragrance.
PHOTOS: Dallas Curow
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