[N]SFW Perfumes

Flying on a plane, attending a symphony concert or visiting people in hospital – in all these circumstances we know the space limitations and are trying not to arrive in a nuclear cloud of a killer perfume. But all these situations happen once in a while so it’s easier to be mindful of the surroundings. When it comes to wearing perfumes to the office it gets trickier: we spend there a huge part of our life and we spend it mostly with the same people.

Many years ago I had a co-worker R. who really liked Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Halo. I liked it too and even bought a small bottle of it, but I never wore it to work because everybody knew it was R.’s perfume: you could tell she was in the office on the second floor once you opened an entrance door on the first floor. As I said, I liked the scent but I was happy that we worked in separate offices. Since she was a senior person (both age- and position-wise) nobody dared to tell her she was going overboard with application. I don’t know if she was done with the bottle or somebody finally decided to speak up, but her next perfume wasn’t as loud. But for me it was a lesson well learned and for many years, long before my perfumista times, I classified all of the perfumes I wore or tried as safe-for-work or not-safe-for-work. DKNY Women, Calvin Klein Truth, Cacharel Noa fleur and later several Jo Malone‘s bottles were my SFW perfumes back then.

Rusty and Cacharel Noa Fleur

During the descent down the rabbit hole, for a while I used most of the time I was awake for testing perfumes. And since testing meant putting on my skin something, with which I was unfamiliar, for both my and my co-workers’ sake I applied them very sparingly (besides, have you seen those Luckyscent’s samples?!). So even though many of the perfumes I tested during that period weren’t particularly SFW-type, with a careful application they didn’t bother anybody much (bar a couple of accidents with a crushed vial and mistaken identity).

But after testing 356 perfumes in one year, I realized that I wasn’t wearing my favorite perfumes from the rapidly growing collection. So gradually I switched to wearing to work perfumes I love and testing in evenings or during weekends. And that’s when I discovered that not wearing Angel or Fracas (other than maybe in homeopathic dozes) wasn’t enough: I had to take into account personal dislikes of people with whom I was sharing space daily for 8-9 hours.

Trying to be a good person, I asked all my office-mates to let me know if any of my perfumes would bother them: with the size of my perfume wardrobe I could afford not to wear some of them, right? Over time I learned that one of my co-workers disliked Tom Ford Amber Absolute (“too kitchen spicy”) and Jo Malone‘s Sweet Milk. I had to let him go: who dislikes Sweet Milk?!! (Ok, just kidding, there were multiple disciplinary infractions.) Another co-worker said that Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient was too strong and “smelled as in Men’s department at Macy’s.” Though I was sad when she left (not because of my perfumes choice!), I was glad I could wear my Encens Mythique d’Orient again.

Guerlain Encens Mythique d’Orient

Several years ago during our short perfume sniffing walk with Birgit and Sandra (Olfactoria’s Travels) in Vienna in one of the shops Birgit attracted my attention to the brand. Her comment was along the line that she didn’t like it in particular but it was one of the brands that weren’t widely available elsewhere. Prompted by her an SA handed me a test strip with perfume – Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik.

We visited four shops that day and tried numerous perfumes but that single paper strip came with me back to the U.S. via Paris. Birgit was right: three years ago Shaik wasn’t easy to find in the U.S. But I still managed to get a tiny vial of Chic Shaik No 30 from one of the decanter sites and later tracked and bought a bottle.

Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik

When I unpacked my purchase, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Pictures cannot properly convey how bizarre everything about this perfume’s packaging was – from a flimsy box à la Ghirardelli-chocolate-packet with that awful bow to the horrendous bottle adornments; with “FROM THE PRINCE IN YOUR LIFE” etched into an unexpectedly good quality coffin-like leather case as an apogee of this disaster. I’m not familiar with Middle Eastern aesthetics so I might be off with my impressions but I do not understand this etsy-worth chic for expensive perfume.

Packaging and name aside (people, you have to be Chanel for the numbering to work and even Amouage got most of us confused with their Roman numerals!), I like Chic Shaik No 30. It combines two of my favorite characteristics: it’s both floral and amber perfume. The brand’s site doesn’t provide any useful information so I’m going with Fragrantica’s notes: bergamot, cardamom, passion fruit, rose, jasmine, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris and tonka bean. As usual, my nose isn’t sensitive enough to recognize most of them but I enjoy the composition.

Chic Shaik No 30 by Designer Shaik

I thought that with a light application Chic Shaik No 30 was a perfectly SFW perfume. But a co-worker with whom I used to share the office took a strong dislike to it. Surprisingly, she pinpointed exactly what bothered her about if: she said it smelled like a souk. She didn’t protest any of my other perfumes, so I had to respect her pet peeve.

I wore Chic Shaik No 30 on my first day at the new job. So far no complaints but only time will tell.

Did you come across any perfume that you considered SFW but got complaints, unfavorable comments or some form of non-verbal disapproval from a co-worker?

 

Images: my own

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22 thoughts on “[N]SFW Perfumes

  1. I truly enjoyed this post, it’s too funny to hear peoples reactions to perfumes they dislike; it’s so often not what you think. Although the only one people have ever vetoed for/on me was Songe d’un bois d’Ete, the woody oud I believe was just too much and too unfamiliar for them.
    Good (perfume wearing) luck for your new job

    • I know! I was actually surprised that my co-worker found Encens Mythique d’Orient to be too masculine. I thought that Songe d’un bois d’Ete was a little too masculine but Encens always smelled very feminine (though probably loud) perfume to my nose.
      Thank you for your good wishes, Asali.

  2. Ooh, CK Truth, I used to have a bottle of that. Very SFW as you say. I have never had this problem of people telling me my scent is inappropriate for work, as I mainly work from home(!), but I remember feeling uncomfortable myself in a couple of business meetings because I thought I had put on too much perfume that day – SJP Lovely and AdP Iris Nobile were the culprits!

    Ironically, I am grateful to a friend for wearing a few of her perfumes too generously, because it was through googling the similarities between those scents I didn’t care for – or not in that strong register ;) – that I fell down the rabbit hole myself!

    Then a friend of my ex’s had No 77 from Chic Shaik. He brought the bottle round to our house and the packaging amazed me in its brashness. I took loads of photos – it was unlike anything I had ever seen! The solid box like a hard shell suitcase. The scent itself was a nice men’s cologne as I recall. I am thinking Blenheim Bouquet, although it was a long time ago.

    Oh, afraid I don’t like Sweet Milk! ;(

    • I didn’t pay too much attention to the Designer Shaik’s bottles at the store in Vienna (they weren’t accessible, you had to ask an SA to help you with those), so I saw just pictures online: they all are equally surrealistic. But since I like the perfume, if I ever get a chance I’ll try the rest of the line.
      I’m very surprised that you dislike Sweet Milk. It seems so… “peaceful” to me that I expect people to like it or to be indifferent – but to actually dislike?! “You’re Fired!” Ok, you’re not but you just have to read my story about it! :)

  3. Ha! Love it. “FROM THE PRINCE IN YOUR LIFE…as an apogee of this disaster” is hilarious and I love the way you describe the packaging as “etsy-worthy chic”. I hope it’s not condescending to say how brilliant your writing in English is these days, not that it was ever bad.

    Luckily I’ve had no perfume complaints at work although I got the impression it wasn’t appreciated by the Chairperson when I attended a board meeting in a cloud of Cuir de Russie as a confidence booster.

    • Tara, I really appreciate the compliment. Usually I feel happy when my readers “get” what I was trying to say.
      Cuir de Russie is a very assertive perfume, it was a good choice for the purpose.

  4. You made me smile with the word “homeopathic.” I most often use perfume in small amounts, especially for public wear. I tend to apply scent sparingly so I can refresh or change to another fragrance later in the day. Over the years I have not had a complaint from a co-worker, even when I wore the original Oscar by Oscar de la Renta way back in the time when it was a flowery-spicy-resinous wall of scent. I don’t work in an office environment now, but if I did I know Jo Malone would be SFW. I love JM Red Roses and Blackberry & Bay.

    • As a Jo Malone fan, I also think that most of their perfumes are SFW.
      I try not to over-apply perfumes to the office but sometimes I either forget how powerful one of the perfumes is (e.g. a tiny spray of Tauer’s LDDM can cause a gas attack alert from the most faint-hearted “civilians) or accidentally apply more than I planned to.

  5. I don’t work anymore, but either way I have to keep everything SFS – safe for Sun! I love love love scents, but I’m so sensitive to them, and often they can give me headaches or make me feel like I’m suffocating if I apply even 2 paltry sprays. Sometimes I can get away with 2 if it’s a Jo Malone. :) Anyhow – it’s a real problem. So I definitely keep my sillage low, usually so that I can only smell the scent if I bring my wrist to my face. :(

    • Oh, dear… If we ever meet I’ll make sure not to wear anything heavy. Luckily, I have a wide choice of Jo Malones. Still it’s great that you can enjoy perfumes in some dosage.
      (I saw that you were still sick: I hope you’ll get better soon)

      • Thanks! I am *finally* back from the dead :) One thing that bothers me about my “issue” is that I’ve heard there are some scents that you don’t really get a full appreciation for without a heavy application – because all of the notes don’t come out the same way or something. So I’m hoping that with continued time my tolerance goes up. FWIW, I am not *as* sensitive to other’s people scents, unless I’m trapped in a small area with some super heavy wafters. So if we ever meet, you’ll probably be safe!

  6. I have to say, everything about the presentation of Chic Shaik No 30 is truly dreadful… The case is just like a sarcophagus. The good thing is the bottle would be well protected, I guess.

    Fortunately, I work alone so I can wear anything I like. Whether it is Salome or Angel or other scent bombs, there is nobody to complain. :)

    • You’re right: this case is a good protection. I read somewhere that they have an option of real gems for a bottle adornment. Something tells me that it won’t improve the aesthetic much.
      It’s great that nobody would complain but, on the other hand, nobody will compliment either, right? ;)

  7. Never had a problem at work–and I do tend to ask people who sit near me to please, please let me know if I wear something they dislike, or wear something that invades their space. Apart from the day I accidentally broke open a small vial of Alien Absolute in my pocket. Blimey, I was radiating that stuff at about a half-mile diameter.

    On the train, however… oops. The worst–and this is on British public transport where a disapproving glower is considered a strong protest–I had an excruciating moment with a lady sitting opposite me. What’s that STINK?! she started muttering, and then repeating, more loudly. And then covering her face, and rolling her eyes, and carrying on with comments like “SOMEONE is wearing perfume and that’s just AWFUL and it SMELLS”. Um, said I, that’s probably me, I’m sorry it bothers you (etc etc). The lady sitting next to me tutted severely, and I though, oh hell, here it comes, the great pile on.. and then she leaned over and said “well I think you smell completely lovely.” (It was Mitzah, and yes, I still wear it on trains.)

  8. Nice post! That Chic Shaik No. 30 is really hideous, errrr, elaborate. Have you seen the Arabian Oud packaging? They are distinctive – kalemat looks like a hardbound book while Ghroob ((the Orange Blossom oil that I had to give away because I couldn’t stand the smell) came in what I recall as.a carved iconographic mini castle.

    Anyway, I actually have never asked any of my co-workers about my perfumes. With my family being so sensitive, I’ve learned which lerfumes are safe and in what quantities. It’s not a science by any means but I figured that if someone thinks it is too strong, they will tell me as I am known as a very approachable person.

    • I’ve never seen Arabian Oud packaging but now I would be curious to hear what somebody familiar with that aesthetic and good taste thinks of this type of packaging.
      With co-workers I felt that I had to ask/insist since many of them reported to me – so I didn’t want to torture them :)

  9. I had a coworker who really didn’t like Rose Poivree (she would look for the stinky unwashed person in the office on those days!), but I think a lot of people would understand that. She also wasn’t a fan of LADDM, and she HATED Byredo 1996. We are very good friends, but I am very glad to not share an office with her anymore :)

    • I don’t remember if I’ve ever tried Rose Poivree but with civet in the list of notes I can see how it may present a problem. LADDM is extremely potent: even two sprays can be too much for office (as I discovered recently :) )

  10. Oh I so remember those days of being overwhelmed by R.’s over abundance of her perfume. Her over application was a good lesson to me to try and use mine sparingly – I know I have had days where I’ve probably been a little heavy handed with my application. Co-workers have either been too nice to say anything (or perhaps too shy/too afraid to offend me). I try to use more mellow perfumes to wear to work so as not to offend anyone. There’s a few I’ve worn and myself have deemed the NSFW – mostly the Gucci perfumes I own, which I think work better for evening wear and Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir – I keep wanting to like this one but have found that it really doesn’t work for me and definitely not a wear to work perfume.

    • Juli, most (or I would even say “all”) of perfumes that you wear are perfectly safe for work, even applied with a heavier hand than you normally do :).
      I like Pomegranate Noir but I can wear it only in cold weather (and yes, you’re right, probably not to the office). Gicci’s perfumes that I liked (the original Gucci or Guilt) are definitely more of an evening wear.

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