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…
Alice du Parcq needs no introduction, but we are going to give her one anyway! Having worked as a beauty journalist for 20 years, Alice has been published in pretty much every big magazine you can think of (Vogue, Glamour, Stylist – the list does go on). She is particularly famed for her perfume writing (for which she has won awards) which is rich, evocative, accessible and most importantly, fun! We love catching Alice on Instagram, where she shares her reviews of new launches and hosts a weekly live series called Desert Island Spritz. We love Alice and , as you’ll be able to tell through her life in perfume, Alice really loves perfume….
“Perfume is my jam!”
It is my purpose. My hobby. My career. My ‘thing’ that I feel so connected to and deeply in love with that I can talk about it for hours. I respect its art form and its business, and the emotions it triggers in people. I love its non-discriminatory world because everyone can have an opinion on a smell. Fragrance fits every size, gender, age and wallet, and I love that I don’t know everything about it because it means I can keep learning for years to come. I love the people who work in fragrance; they tend to be highly emotional roller coaster characters. We all meet at the top of the ride in a euphoric adulation of this brilliant bonkers and beautiful perfumed playground. I love smelling good. It’s my self-care, and it helps me keep my sh*t together when the plate-spinning is out of control.
1. My First Perfume
This is so wildly inappropriate, but my first perfume, which I wore when I was 14, was Obsession by Calvin Klein! I was highly influenced by my delicious-smelling mum and aunt, who wore Shalimar and Opium, respectively, and I thought it was the absolute height of fabulousness to wear a huge, ballsy perfume that walked into a room before you. To me, it smelt like an Aladdin’s cave of precious gold trinkets and jewels, illuminated by amber candlelight. Rich, opulent, mystical and curious – all the things that, at 14, I certainly wasn’t!
2. My First Perfume Purchase
I was 16, and my parents took my sister and me to Boston for a holiday: it was 1996, my first time in the US, and I’d saved up all my babysitting money to have a massive spree in GAP. When I got to the till, I saw they were selling fragrances (which hadn’t arrived in the UK yet); I had a quick smell of an icy, pale blue frosted bottle of Heaven. Whoa. It was love at first sniff. I put back a pair of stonewashed boot cut jeans (wise decision!) and bought Heaven instead. I loved its celestial, splashy, salty-breeze mineral clarity – a complete opposite to Opium. When I look back, it all makes sense: it was a pivotal time when boys were on my radar and life got hormonal, emotional, messy and intense, so I craved that crisp flash of laundry-fresh scent all over me as if it were a force field of glowing light around my spiralling, 16yo identity crisis. GAP launched it in the UK soon after, and I stayed loyal to it for ages. I wasn’t anything special at that age: not the prettiest or thinnest or most popular or any of those damaging ideals we clung onto in those formative years, but I remember vividly a friend calling me “the best smelling girl at school”. That, for me, was the most flattering and important label I had ever been given, and I wish I could go back in time and hug you, Rowena Sayid, because you ignited a beautiful spark that I’ve now been chasing for over 25 years.
3. When I Realised Perfume Is Art
It was 2005, and I was working at Conde Nast Brides as their beauty director. I was invited to Paris for the day to meet Monsieur Olivier Creed and his son Erwyn, as the house of Creed was launching a new perfume called Love in White that they’d created together. Inspired by Grace Kelly’s wedding perfume, Creed’s Fleurissimo, this was their modern interpretation of a bridal scent. At the end of our chat, Olivier very generously said, “Now, I shall choose a perfume for you, Alice.” He selected a huge dark green flacon of Angelique Encens and dabbed some on my wrist. Choir voices and polished church pews and sticky frankincense and holy communion and sinful smoke plumes. I’d never, ever smelt anything like that before. Drenched in this cloud of church-y deliciousness, Erwyn then took me to lunch where we drank an extortionately priced Ladoucette Baron de L Pouilly-Fumé, and I ordered buttery, garlicky frogs’ legs. I was 25 and living my best damn life. Sixteen years later, stored in darkness, it still smells utterly magical, and when I open it, I think about how, deep within me, there’s still that bad-ass girl who ate parsley-flecked, messy, greasy, bone-riddled amphibian thighs in front of a super hot French perfumer.
4. My All-Time Favourite Perfume
I hope that’s OK to steer off-piste. Fornasetti Otto Candle is my favourite, most beloved scent ever. Created by Olivier Polges, the master perfumer at Chanel, it’s seeped in spiritual resins, rich herbs and wood stain – like the scent of the atelier floor in Milano where Piero Fornasetti sketched and printed and baked and gilded hundreds upon hundreds of ceramic plates. I have a deep, deep love for this candle because it’s the smell of my favourite hotel in the world. Over the years as a beauty journalist, I would visit Claridge’s in Mayfair several times a month for product launches and breakfasts with work colleagues, and it became a very precious sanctuary to me. My granny would stay at Claridge’s whenever she had her house redecorated (how fabulous?!), so I feel like it’s in my DNA to continue this pilgrimage – via cocktails, coffees and the rare special occasion where I get to stay there myself. It is the most magical and welcoming beacon of elegance and fun. A few years ago, I noticed that every time I spun through that glorious revolving door and stepped onto the chequerboard foyer, I’d breathe in the most spectacular, sumptuous and decadent perfume. I found out that the hotel was scented exclusively with this candle, Otto, and from that moment on, I’ve been buying it for myself. The Fornasetti vessel designs are mad and glorious, and it makes my home smell like it’s turned left on the perfume plane to first-class utopia.
5. My Most Sentimental Perfume
I am very, very lucky to have my parents still here: mum went through cancer and chemo hell, dad had a brain tumour the size of a grapefruit; both miraculously got through Covid and are now double-vaxxed and having a ball. But luck will run out one day, and I am already irrationally preparing my emotions for that time. That sounds ridiculous, I know, but I have to. I know already that the fragrances they wear right now will be woven into my grieving process. They will become sensorial time machines that connect me to them far more powerfully than photos: especially my dad’s fragrance, his favourite Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male. I can detect it more intensely on him than anything anyone else wears. It fits him perfectly (he’s a French hairdresser and loves the camp artistry of the bottle!). That curious warm-yet-cool, vanilla-laced, talcum-powder-puffed, fresh-out-the-shower concoction – I adore it so much, and I often wear it myself. One day, when he’s no longer here when the luck runs out, I will smell Le Male and fall apart. And one day, much later on, I will smell Le Male and build myself back. It frightens me that one single scent can determine a pathway of emotions that haven’t happened yet.
6. My Everyday Perfume
I am not a signature-scent kind of gal. It would be like going into a museum and looking at just one painting. Ludicrous! So I have a rotation of about a dozen faves that I wear depending on my mood, the weather, the event and the level of fabulous or quiet or moody or happy or whimsy or don’t-come-near-me that I want to project. Acqua di Parma Colonia Essenza, Jo Malone London Basil & Neroli, Tom Ford Metallique, Chanel Le Lion, Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, Guerlain Cuir Beluga, Dior Eden-Roc, Guerlain Apres L’Ondee, Juliette Has A Gun Gentlewoman, YSL Kouros, 4711, Hermes Terre D’Hermes, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre and Clinique Aromatics Elixirs are my most-worn perfumes.
7. My Perfume Collection
If I said over 650 would you believe me? I have about 450 bottles in my collection and a couple of hundred vials. I recently redid my perfume cupboard in my office and ticked off every bottle and vial as they went into it. That was two months ago, and I’ve been sent about 30 new launches and bought a few classic icons since.
8. My Favourite Fragrance Brands
Acqua di Parma makes me go all wobbly and daydreamy. I adore the brand and everything they do, plus we share the same initials. There’s a reason why Guerlain, Chanel and Dior are next-level, and I have enormous respect and love for them and their master perfumers. I’ve watched some of the most inspiring and fascinating events with perfumers Geza Schoen and Francis Kurkdjian. They’ve been so generous with their behind-the-scenes insight and expertise, so inexorably it makes me fond of their brands and perfumes. I also think we should all take our hats off to Tom Ford: the absolute audacity and balls to call your perfumes Rose Prick, Lost Cherry and F*cking Fabulous is the renegade breath of mischievous fresh air we all need to inhale once in a while and feel like we’re standing on a yacht in gold lamé knocking back tequila.