Your favorite perfume has the ability to turn your day around, evoke a memory and finish off a look.
But even your favorite perfume isn't truly yours. That Dior, Chanel, Marc Jacobs in your bedroom - they're made for the public - mass produced and widely distributed. While they're wonderful - they're not unique to you.
Sue Phillips, who started her career with Elizabeth Arden, then went to Lancôme, and then on to Tiffany as VP of Marketing - having grown within the industry ranks - realized there was an opportunity to go out on her own and tailor scents to your liking. "Being in the industry, and being a woman in an industry predominantly run by men, I felt it was very important to make a statement and to start doing one on my own," she says. "Now, customization is everywhere."
We met with Phillips in her "Scentarium" where she walked us through her formulation techniques and how our personality quirks would come to define our custom scents.
“For fragrance, much like in life, in food, in music, there’s a beginning, middle and an end," she begins. "In food you have your appetizer, main course and dessert. In music, you have your overture, your main theme and your finale. In fragrance there’s a beginning, middle and end. So when you first spray a fragrance you smell the top note for the beginning and usually they’re the light, bright citrusy notes, and you can smell them from about 10-15 minutes on the skin. And then it mixes with your body chemistry and then come the middle notes: the florals, spicy and fruity. And then, after about two hours, the base notes begin to kick in and it should last for about 4-8 hours.”
The session with Phillips in her Scentarium (a magically-lit room filled with the potions, perfumes and scents of the world) is intended to be both engaging and educational, during which we build our perfume from beginning, to middle and end. We discover that the biggest difference between men and women's fragrances is the base notes are much more prevalent and bolder in men's. Where a woman's fragrance is lighter, more floral letting the top agents do a lot of the work - the big base notes of men's cologne define their scents.
Sue Phillips. Photo credit Crains New York
She also informs us as we roam through her collection of bottles that one of the world's most beloved perfumes - Chanel No.5 - was created entirely because of a perfumer's mistake. Coco Chanel's perfumer's assistant, Jacques, put too much of the ingredient "aldehydic" (a powdery scent) in the perfume and with that, became the most profitable mistake in fragrance history. It will celebrate it's hundredth anniversary in three years, and is still in the top ten best-selling scents every year.
“This is all about you and your DNA and what matches your personality” she says.
Upon arrival, we take the scent quiz. “I do the scent quiz for several reasons," she says. "It’s to determine your olfactive personality. It’s a lifestyle quiz: it has nothing to do with fragrance, I’ll be able to tell from the answer whether you like fresh, floral or oriental.” And that she does. After collating our answers she's able to direct us in the path of our preferred flavors and intuitively points out what these answers mean for our taste profile.
There lay 18 different perfumes with which she uses to create our scents. Each of them are individually hand-made by her with an array of flavours falling into eight different categories: citrus, fruity, oriental, ozonic, chypre, woodsy, lavender and musk.
Phillips's title is that of Perfume Designer - rather than perfumer (which involves a little too much chemistry and not enough personal interaction for this entrepreneur), which means that she can deconstruct your favorite perfumes into these 18 different flavor profiles and explain them back to you. For this reason, she has been commissioned by an array of corporate companies for events that invite an audience to participate in perfume deconstruction or creation.
Using scent strips, we co-ordinate our formulas. She informs our decisions based on how robust or round the collection of aromas are to her. If our top note is too sweet, she adds a musk, if bottom is too spicy, she adds a lavender note, all while keeping in mind our tastes and likings from the quiz.
"Isn't it amazing how out of these blends you can find something that totally fits your personality, and out of these 18 we can find millions of scents."
Phillips's "Scentertaining" experience is really just that - a fun ay to understand what your nose likes and why it likes it. Your personality is fully reflective in the vial of liquid you walk away with.
It's no wonder that her scentarium has played host to guests such Katie Holmes, Zendaya and Jamie Foxx among others - this really is a most unique and fun experience for anyone that loves fragrance.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."