Sue Phillips is a big fan of merging words. She’s a self-described “scentrepreneur” and she runs a business as a fragrance consultant that she calls “Scenterprises.” But new words aren’t the only thing she creates. At Phillips’ appointment-only, custom boutique in Manhattan’s TriBeca neighborhood, which she calls “The Scentarium,” she helps her customers, including celebrity clients, design custom perfumes to match their unique personalities. Learning how to best perceive and interact with our enigmatic sense of smell is one of our greatest passions at Aera. We spoke to Phillips about how people can better identify their signature fragrance, and what scents people prefer.
Q: What’s your biggest takeaway about how people should think about their sense of smell?
A: To understand fragrance you must understand its power. Our most powerful sense is our sense of smell. People don’t really think about it unless they encounter a negative smell, but on a day to day basis people take their sense of smell for granted. I would really like people to stop and smell the roses and everything else.
Q: How can a person become more appreciative of fragrance?
A: People’s sense of smell has not been honed, and yet animals have such a powerful sense of smell. I think it’s really a question of self-education. It’s a question of being aware, of remembering past associations with a fragrance. What did my mom wear when she went out? What did my dad wear? And maybe it’s Old Spice – but what does Old Spice smell like?
Q: This raises a good point – what does Old Spice smell like? How do you go about talking about fragrance in a more concrete way?
A: People’s vocabulary is very limited when it comes to fragrances. Most Americans, if you ask them what fragrance do they like, they can’t tell you, but they will tell you “fresh and clean.” But what does fresh and clean smell like? Many people say Old Spice smells like lavender and fern notes. Other people might say it smells like the ocean.
Q: Are there differences between the genders in terms of what kinds of fragrances men and women enjoy?
A: There’s no such thing as a masculine ingredient or a feminine ingredient, it’s a matter of how fragrances are combined. Typically, most men like a sporty citrusy fragrance combined with deep, woodsy, spicy notes. Most women like floral fragrances, with roses and gardenias, for example.
Q: You work with celebrity clients to design custom fragrances at your Scentarium in Manhattan. Can you tell us about some of your highlights and what the fragrances they designed were like?
A: Jamie Foxx’s fragrance was woodsy and spicy with a hint of fruitiness. Katie Holmes went for something light and crisp to start, with a hint of light, fresh florals and some fruitiness. Snooki liked a spicy, fruity and oriental fragrance.
Here at Aera, we work with master perfumers and world-renowned scent designers to create complex fragrances that will resonate with your particular tastes. To find out which of our signature fragrances might best suit your home environment, try taking our fragrance quiz or request a fragrance leaflet!
photo c/o Crain’s New York Business Magazine