What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


This morning I was surprised to see a short article entitled “How to find your signature scent”. How many of those have you seen over the years? It doesn’t appear to be a zombie article from decades ago because it was published just this week on a website mostly dedicated to business, not perfume. In all fairness it’s probably directed at people who have never used perfume before. Still, I thought that the alliterative concept of the single “signature scent” was a relic of the 20th century. Maybe I lead a sheltered life in the ivory tower of perfumista-hood.

The advice on how to choose a signature scent was basically, “go to a department store, try a few things, decide what you like and buy the perfume and a matching lotion”. OK. That’s one approach. What I wonder is how many people today actually do that? How many people ever did that? I know that even in my pre-perfumista days I liked to smell a variety of scents and would never have worn the same perfume two days in a row, or even two days in the same week. I always checked out every perfume shop I saw, looking for new things, especially mini-bottles. I’ve had a collection of those as far back as I can remember.

Wearing a signature scent makes about as much sense as wearing just one type of clothing all the time. Come to think of it, some people do exactly that, like Steve Jobs and his iconic black turtlenecks, or my colleague from Texas who is never seen without his one cowboy hat and one pair of cowboy boots. I guess it makes life easy if you don’t have to spend any time thinking about what to wear or what to spray. However, to me, life is too short to spend it as a caricature of myself. On the other hand, maybe this strategy is the ultimate form of self-actualization. Is it a metaphysical achievement to find the one thing that epitomizes one’s being and stick with it exclusively and faithfully, setting aside all curiosity about everything else?

I really didn’t intend to make this post philosophical, but the question of severely limiting one’s style is an interesting one to explore, as are the pros and cons of having one perfume that announces your presence like a fanfare leitmotif and prompts people to say, “Oh, it smells like X was/is here in the room”.

One thing I love about living in the 21st century is the amazing variety and lack of rigid societal norms about what we wear, either as clothing or perfume. We are free to play. I would not want to give up that freedom for an iconic “signature scent” or a black turtleneck. What do you think?

[Steve Jobs headshot from Wikipedia; poor Pepe Le Pew, who cannot get away from his/her signature scent, is from a Loony Tunes themed website, the sterile perfume counter is from a commercial website] 


  1. Hi Ellen,

    I'm afraid I am one of those people who likes to wear the same clothing everyday. I have a closet full of identical skirts, sweaters and jeans, all in black. There are lovely colors in that closet too, as well as edgy black styles and outrageous shoes, but I rarely, if ever, wear those things.

    Perhaps my inability to coordinate clothing has to do with all of my years in school uniforms. I have sincerely tried to change but these very old habits die hard and I simply don't want to take the time to plan or think about what I will wear. My "uniforms" free me to play with other things, namely perfume! I try and use every fragrance I can get my hands on, from the cheapest celebs to pricey niche. When I am overwhelmed by black I throw on some jewelry and dab on a little Mardi Gras.


  2. I never wore school uniforms, but still fall prey to the "just wear black" strategy, especially when I have to be somewhere early in the morning and want to spend as little time as possible getting dressed. Black is the best default!

  3. I never was a signature scent kind of gal: ever since I was a little girl, I looooved smelling, wearing, having as many perfume as I liked the smell of. I think a SS is kind of an old-fashioned concept at this point. Also, I had a boss who was (too) heavily perfumed, had worn the same one for 20 years... and I couldn't stand how it smelled. So there can be a drawback to a SS too!

    1. Larkin, I agree that the SS is an outdated concept, if it was ever a viable concept. I've known too many people who were always over-perfumed with the same scent. Men seem like even worse offenders than women.