Perfume is personal. Spraying it on is like a ritual. Collecting a bottle is like collecting artwork. Certain scents are attached to a memory, an event, a moment, a phase and a person. Growing up, my first perfume were Barbie scents that came in teeny tiny bottles: Aventura, Summer Fun, Princess and Supermodel. I wore them, but not very much because I was scared of finishing them all up. Yet, I hated the thought of throwing away the bottle because the graphics were so dang cute. Then, I went for J.Lo’s Miami Glow, which smelled of coconut and vanilla. Being the typical Gemini, I went for Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Coast to Coast perfumes, which were inspired by LA and NYC.
After wearing all of my fave celebrity perfumes down to the bottom of the bottle, middle school me went for Victoria’s Secret Sexy Little Things, which I purchased on my summer trip to the States when I was 13. I guessed Alessandra Ambrosio’s kissy face made me believe that 13-year-old me could be as sexy as her even though I was far too young to be feeling that way with its sugary sweet scent. From then on, my mind craved for more sweeter scents that were not as annoying as Love Spell.
While I was searching for my signature scent, I returned to the all too familiar route of wearing celebrity fragrances. If I was feeling coquettish, I’d spray Paris Hilton’s namesake perfume, a fruity floral creation that made me feel innocent. But if I wanted more spice, I went for Britney Spears’ Midnight Fantasy, which a teacher commented smelled like “apple shisha”. Heck, I even wore Pink Sugar, Donna Karan’s Red Delicious, Vera Wang’s Princess, Fragonard’s Juste Un Baiser, every single Harajuku Lovers scent and Marc Jacobs’ Daisy. But, I briefly experimented with Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir, a heady vanilla-based scent that was a tad too grown up for me. Even though I was an angsty teen that went to church and studied hard, the sweet smell of perfume comforted me in ways I never knew.
When I moved to LA to start college, my tastes in perfume changed. Desperate to break away from my past as the anti-social wholesome girl from high school, I felt like it was time to stop wearing fruity scents. To accelerate my newfound metamorphosis, I started shopping vintage, dyed my hair in shades of rainbow, wore sluttier outfits, went to house parties, partied with musicians, listened to Bangerz hardcore, skipped church or academic obligations for USC football games and sneakily puffed on e-cigs (an on-off vice I did for years until two years ago). If I was going through a wild child phase, why not I go for something a little more dangerous, a little more grown up or a little more badass? During that phase, the only comforts I swore by were Elizabeth and James’ Nirvana Black and Fresh’s Cannabis Santal. The former was woodsier whereas the latter was a bit more earthier. However, I did continue to wear Nirvana Black post-college, too. Though I was only in the wild child phase for a few years, my taste in perfume continued to level up when I moved to NYC.
Long gone were the Cannabis Santal and the Nirvana Black. Instead, I relished myself in wearing BYREDO’s Rose of No Man’s Land, a perfume that my sister and brother-in-law bought for me when I graduated college. Named for the selflessness and compassion of the nurses who saved the lives of soldiers during WWII, this rose-based scent was a new favourite that slowly grew on me. Like the Venom to Spiderman, it clung to me, feeding into my blossoming sensuality as a strong, level-headed young career woman. I wore it almost every day anytime I went out to the point where I finished the entire bottle. Feeling naked and in need of a new bottle, a life-changing scent suddenly came along.
On a cold blustery December 2016, my dad and I were surrounded by more than footlong thick pile of snow. Walking on sleet wasn’t sexy, but if there was one place where we needed to step inside to escape the snow, we went to Barney’s. Say what you’d like about Barney’s, but a small bottle caught our eye. Without a title slapped on the body, the light citrine liquid was calling me to smell it. A saleslady opened the round little black cap, sprayed it on us and mentioned that it was by BYREDO, the same brand that made my graduation scent. Amused at the thought that it was a nameless scent, she explained that we could call the perfume anything we’d like. We walked out with three bottles of BYREDO’s Unnamed – one for me, another one for my mom and another bottle for my sister. Rather than another random title, I put down “MISSY”, my childhood nickname. Fresh like the forest, powdery like Daisy and comforting as a bucket of popcorn, MISSY became my new fragrance that I’ve continually wore for years until today.
Since 2016, I hadn’t purchased any new bottles until I was at the Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, where I was taking my flight home from Paris to Singapore. Since airports were great for last minute beauty buys, I was always fascinated by taking a little souvenir home. Given that it was cheaper to buy French beauty products in Paris, I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to indulge. From the corner of my eyes, I spied two perfumes that caught my attention: YSL’s Libre and Paco Rabanne’s Pure XS. One was a lavender-citrus based scent and the other smelled of candy. Unable to choose, a saleslady advised me that I was better off getting both. From that moment, it was an epiphany that no matter who I grew into, I could always bridge my past with my present through the journey of scent.
Sitting on my computer as I am typing this, I realize that whether we’re going out responsibly with our friends/family or staying at home during this pandemic, a bottle of perfume will always be there by my side. No matter if I’m happy or sad, a bottle is just one sniff away.