Welcome to our brand new series, ‘My Life in Perfume’. We’re asking our favourite fragrance fans to reveal all – from their first perfume purchase to their signature aroma; here are their scent stories…
First in the series is our very own Fragrance Expert, Thomas Dunckley, AKA The Candy Perfume Boy. With five Jasmine Awards under his belt (the most prestigious perfume writing award in the UK), a hugely successful fragrance blog, consultancy career, perfume podcast, and more recently, a best-selling candle brand, Thomas’ scented memoir is one not to be miss…
1. My First Perfume
My first perfume was not something I chose for myself. It was a Christmas gift – a bottle of Paul Smith Men that I thought was the fanciest thing in the world. My love of perfume didn’t start immediately. Like many others, I grew up not overthinking about perfume – it was just that pleasant thing my parents wore when they were going out. Paul Smith Men was the first time I got to experience a scent for myself, and of course, I wore it to death. I haven’t smelled it in years, but it was green and fresh with the mineral, aquatic quality of violet leaf from memory. Not a bad entry into the world of perfume, IMHO!
2. My First Perfume Purchase
The first perfume I bought for myself was Le Male by Jean Paul Gaultier. I bought it because it felt undeniably masculine and luxurious at the time. I used to wear clouds and clouds of Le Male (also known as too much Le Male), reveling in its barbershop softness, which always felt like the perfect blend of masculine and feminine. There was something so well-groomed about Le Male that just made me feel like I was the best-looking person on the planet when I wore it (spoiler alert: I wasn’t). It was the scent of my misspent youth – the scent of nights sneaking into bars and dancing to Madonna. I still wear it now.
3. When I Realised Perfume Is Art
My mind was blown when I smelled Kingdom by McQueen. This long-discontinued scent shocked me to the core because it didn’t smell pretty. When I encountered it in a department store, I couldn’t fathom why anyone would make such a thing, let alone wear it. It smelled like roses and quite like armpits, and whilst I was repulsed, I kept coming back to it. I eventually bought it and wore it exclusively. Kingdom is a perfect example of the savage beauty Alexander McQueen created in his clothing, and it matched his aesthetic so perfectly. Kingdom taught me that perfume could be so much more than a nice smell; it can challenge and fascinate. Kingdom made me realise that perfume could be an art form.
4. My All-Time Favourite Perfume
My all-time favourite perfume is Angel by Mugler. I don’t wear it often these days, but I have worn it so much in my life that it has become a big part of who I am. I smell Angel and think of so many people, places and things that I love. I also admire it for its tenacity, divisiveness and boldness. There really is nothing else quite like it.
5. My Most Sentimental Perfume
The perfume with the most sentimental value is Stella by Stella McCartney. Strangely, this is a perfume I’ve never worn, but it is my sister’s signature scent. My sister and I were born 11 months apart (she would most likely want me to point out that she is 11 months older, and therefore, superior, so let’s get that out of the way), and we have always been close. Stella reminds me of her not just because she wears it but because it shares the same character as her. It’s a beautiful and soft rose with an approachable air – just like my sister!
6. My Everyday Perfume
Day-to-day I wear whatever suits my mood, outfit or activity. Nowadays, I’m more about smelling good than smelling weird, so I’ll often reach for something easy to wear, but what that might change from day-to-day. It’s not often that I’ll go for something super challenging, but there are always moments where I fancy something unique and avant-garde. Right now, I’m obsessed with green perfumes – I love the powdery, aloof quality of Chanel No19 and the juicy, sharp verdancy of Wander Through the Parks by Miller Harris. I want to smell good.
7. My Favourite Fragrance Brands
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The brands I tend to love are varied. I wear the odd thing from many brands. Brands I wear extensively are Chanel, Miller Harris, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Hermes, Guerlain and Jean Paul Gaultier. These are the brands that gel most with my olfactory aesthetic. I think of it as clothing, we all have those brands that make things that just fit – that suits us perfectly, and for me, perfume is the same. These brands all capture a part of my personality.
8. My Perfume Collection
I don’t know how many perfumes I own. I can’t bring myself to count. Is that bad? It’s probably bad. Let’s say that I have a lot – more than enough for three lifetimes, but I’m someone who has always liked variety. Having ADHD means that you’re always looking for something new and exciting to stimulate your under-stimulated brain, so having lots of perfume suits me. I’ll often switch my perfume out once, maybe twice per day, and I enjoy nothing more than dipping into my collection and falling in love with something I haven’t worn in a while.