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How to find a signature fragrance that sings

Evie Leatham, former beauty director at Stylist, explains how and where to find a fragrance that speaks to you

9 May 2023

A fragrance is like an old friend. Find a good one and it will lift your mood, instil you with confidence and bring out your best self while also complementing the hidden aspects of your character that few uncover.

Take time to find a signature scent that speaks to you and you’ll have an olfactory companion for life.


You are the only influencer

Perfumes smell very different on each person. The same fragrance can take on a unique signature for each person wearing it, influenced by anything from your diet or age to your hormones or skin type (a scent tends to last longer on those with an oilier complexion). That means finding the perfect fit is not as simple as getting a recommendation from a friend or influencer. Visit a store to sample a scent on your skin before you invest.


Browse the boutiques

Shopping can be overwhelming, so it helps to simplify the experience by focusing on one fragrance house that offers an array of options. The ever-so-cool French parfumerie Maison Diptyque has its flagship boutique on Sloane Street and offers scent discovery sessions as well as a host of inventive ways to wear a new (or old) favourite fragrance, from hair oils to perfumed bracelets. Alternatively, invest in a discovery set from a brand you’re intrigued by, and then experiment with wearing each fragrance at different times of the day and on various occasions to get a feel for what works for you.


Make like an insider

If you want an elevated scent, there are a few go-to perfumers who ought to be on your list, and Harvey Nichols’ perfume emporium is a good place to get to know them. Serge Lutens and Frédéric Malle should be the first ones to explore. Then there is Francis Kurkdjian, a master perfumer producing thoroughly modern, beautifully crafted scents. I also love Juliette Has A Gun and often get complimented when I am wearing something from its collection.


Indulge in the discovery

“Make it the loveliest self-treat. And ring-fence time off for yourself,” says fragrance expert Alice du Parcq. “I advise scent shopping on a weekday morning when your nose is more alert, and the crowds are minimal. Plan a manageable schedule of four or five brands that you have in mind. You’ll find brilliantly curated counters at department stores such as Peter Jones, which includes Floral Street, Maison Margiela Replica, Creed and Hermès. Or if you have one dream brand in mind – for instance Chanel – make sure you head to a location such as the Sloane Street boutique, where the full scent collection is available, including the Les Exclusifs de Chanel.”


Overcome overwhelm

Try not to overwhelm your nose, warns du Parcq. “After smelling about a dozen fragrances, your olfactory receptors will begin to shut down temporarily (which is completely normal, so don’t be alarmed!). If you’re trying several scents at once, ask to smell the lightest ones first – anything with heavy oud-style ingredients will overwhelm your nose and you won’t be able to smell anything else afterwards.” It’s also important to let a fragrance breathe and develop on the skin. A scent evolves over time as the top and middle notes wear off and the bottom or base notes emerge. This is called the dry down – and it can make (or potentially break) a fragrance for you.


Take a layered approach

Layering fragrances adds different facets to familiar friends, creating a unique blend that no one else will be wearing. Head to Jo Malone London, where each fragrance is designed to be worn alone or layered with another. You can experiment yourself or get an introduction to some notably chic combinations in a pairing consultation. The brand’s new The Highlands collection of four colognes is out in May and is inspired by the rugged Scottish landscape – think misty moors and heather-laden horizons – and is a pleasure to pair.


Think beyond your wrists

Scenting your space can be just as uplifting as scenting your skin. Think diffusers such as Anya Hindmarch’s quirky Pencil Shavings Diffuser and large candles in reusable ceramics that create welcoming scentscapes in any room (try Dior and Brunello Cucinelli). Or, for those on the move, car diffusers from Memo Paris (at Harvey Nichols), Diptyque and Jo Malone London will be sure to elevate your journey. Meanwhile, travel candles, also from Diptyque and Jo Malone London, are great for making hotel rooms feel more like home. 


Evie Leatham is a London-based health and beauty journalist who was formerly beauty director at Stylist, acting beauty director at Harper’s Bazaar and associate beauty editor at Net-a-Porter. She has contributed to Grazia, The Daily Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller and The Times, among other publications.
Diptyque's store on Sloane Street
Diptyque Eau Rose hair mist 30ml, £55
Serge Lutens Chergui eau de pafum 100ml at Harvey Nichols, £182
Frédéric Malle French Lover eau de parfum 100ml at Harvey Nichols, £210
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge 540 eau de parfum 70ml at Harvey Nichols, £235
Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance eau de parfum 100ml at Harvey Nichols, £125
Jo Malone London Melancholy Thistle cologne 30ml, £58
Anya Hindmarch Pencil Shavings diffuser, £135
Dior candle, £360
Diptyque Feu de Bois candle 190g, £56

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