People 18 October 2017
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.
3 min read
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Help! I'm Dating a Jerk!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. After spending some vacation time with him and realizing he is not treating me the way I like I'm wondering — what do I do? I need him to be kinder and softer to me but he says simply, "chivalry is not his thing." I believe when two people decide to be together they need to adjust to each other. I don't think or feel my boyfriend is adjusting to what's important to me. Should I try to explain to him what's important to me, accept him for what he is, or leave him as I'm just not happy and the little gestures are important to me?
- Loveless Woman
Dear Loveless Woman,I am saddened you aren't getting your needs met in your relationship. Intimacy and affection are important to sustain a healthy relationship. It's troubling that even though you have expressed your needs to your boyfriend that it's fallen on deaf ears. You need to explore, with a therapist, why you have sought out this type of relationship and why you have stayed in it, even when it's making you chronically unhappy? Your belief that couples should adjust to each other is correct to some degree. These things often include compromising and bending on things like who gets the bigger closet or where to go for dinner. However, it's a tall order to ask someone to change their personality and if your boyfriend is indeed a jerk, like you say, who refuses to acknowledge your love language or express kindness and softness, then maybe you should find a partner who will embrace you while being chivalrous.
- The Armchair Psychologist
Hi Armchair Psychologist,
Just wanted to let you know that your article was really offensive to read. Do you refer to women's genitals as: "gross," "ghasty," "smelly," or otherwise? Humans are not perfect, each of us is different and you should emphasize this. I hope that man finds a partner that will love and accept him rather than tearing him down. Which gender has a whole aisle devoted to their "special" hygiene needs? I can tell you it's not men.
Dear Male Reader,Thank you for your thoughtful feedback to my Armchair Psychologist column. My email response bounced so am writing you here. I am so sorry I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I actually meant to be sardonic and make the writer see how ridiculous she sounded for the harsh language she used to describe her date. I obviously failed at this sneer since you think I meant to be offensive. Many apologies. I'll do better. Have a wonderful day and keep writing us with your thoughts.
- Ubah, The Armchair Psychologist