[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

Perfume Layering: Truth or Dare?


I have never had that urge to experiment mixing perfumes. I hadn’t come up with the idea of scents layering on my own but once I had been introduced to it I loved it. The idea.

In 2000 Calvin Klein released Truth. It is attributed to 3 (three!) well-known perfumers – Alberto Morillas, Jacques Cavallier and Thierry Wasser – if you ask me, any one of them would have been enough but whatever went on with this perfume creation, not knowing or caring about notes or noses behind perfumes back then, I liked  Truth and immediately bought a bottle and a set of five Truth Oil Essences. Each one represented a note in the perfume – bamboo, citrus, sapling, lilac and vanilla. They could be applied one at a time or in any combination with or without the perfume.

CK Truth Oil Essences

As I said, I liked the idea of combining notes, being my own perfumer, enhancing one aspect of the perfume or the other dependent on my mood… The unfortunate part was that oil-based components were so subtle that worn alone they gave almost no projection, I could barely smell them from my wrist pressed to my nose; and applied on top of the perfume they were completely lost (not sure if you remember but Truth wasn’t even the heaviest of this brand’s perfumes out there: CK Obsession or Contradiction it was not – and still…). Applying oils was more hassle than results so while I went through two bottles of Truth EdP my essences stayed hardly touched.

A year later, in 2001, Michael Kors launched a collection of three fragrances called Notes from Michael. The collection included three fragrances (40 ml each), which could be worn alone or combined with each other: Glenplaid, Houndstooth and Tattersall. The set was expensive (I think, $120). A bit too expensive for our budget. But I really liked the idea… My vSO got if for me as a gift for my birthday.

Michael Kors Notes from Michael

I tried playing the layering game. Tattersall was my favorite so I almost finished it. Glenplaid was fine (2/3 of the bottle found its place on my skin). Houndstooth didn’t attract me at all so the only time I used it was in the combination with one of the other two but since it wasn’t adding anything to the composition more often than not I started skipping that extra step. So the bottle went off almost full.

And then I discovered Jo Malone. I think I loved the brand before I finished sniffing through the complete line: the idea of fragrance combining itself was enough to sell it to me.

Jo Malone Perfumes

Over years I’ve added to my collection more perfumes from Jo Malone line than from any else. You can’t even imagine how many times I wore different Jo Malone’s perfumes layered! Do you want to guess? No? It’s ok, I’ll tell you: three times. I like those perfumes “as is” and do not want to mess with the original composition.

I still like the idea of layering but in reality I’m with Birgit: Who am I to tamper with well-thought out and finely balanced creations? I won’t dare.

For more adventurous perfumistas I recommend reading Victoria’s (Bois de Jasmin) Layering Fragrances : Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena and French Elle and Elisa’s (The French Exit) On the Scent: Adventures in Perfume Layering.


Images: my own