A new trend in the world of beauty, fra­grance lay­er­ing takes sig­na­ture scents to an en­tirely new level.


Find­ing that per­fect sig­na­ture scent, the one that we feel rep­re­sents us—in essence, our essence—is a feat worth the time and ef­fort. When we find it, the last thing we want is to dis­cover our sig­na­ture scent on some­one else. And that pang of hes­i­ta­tion be­fore di­vulging our sig­na­ture scent is ev­i­dence of our de­sire for unique­ness and ex­clu­siv­ity.

Per­haps this de­sire for in­di­vid­u­al­ity is the driv­ing force be­hind a fra­grance mar­ket that of­fers thou­sands of new op­tions ev­ery year. We’re no longer look­ing for a sig­na­ture brand to call our own; we want to tai­lor even that to suit our com­plex per­son­al­i­ties and moods.

Mar­ket re­search shows a shift in in­ter­est to­wards in­die fra­grance brands and, as for the clas­sics, con­sumers are flirt­ing with the Eau de Toi­lette and the Eau de Par­fum ver­sions of old favourites. Each month seems to bring about a new edi­tion of a rec­og­nized per­fume. In­ten­si­fied “Ab­so­lutes” (Lan­come’s La Vie Est Belle L’Ab­solu De Par­fum is a head­ier ver­sion of the clas­sic), and “Ex­tracts” (like Dolce & Gab­bana’s new The One Essence—the most po­tent con­cen­tra­tion of the orig­i­nal com­po­si­tion), or even the lighter, fizzier “L’Eau” in­ter­pre­ta­tions let us en­joy our favourites tweaked to suit the sea­son, mood, or oc­ca­sion; lighter for the work­day and warmer for a date night.

And while one school of thought main­tains that ev­ery fin­ished fra­grance is a work of art and should re­main un­touched, an­other is tak­ing notes—the fra­grant kind—and blend­ing scents to build an in­di­vid­u­al­ized ver­sion. The re­sult is per­sonal, an olifac­tory way to cap­ture the at­ti­tude we’d like to pro­ject.

The mar­ket has no­ticed this, too. In­die brands and ma­jor fash­ion houses, is of­fer­ing fra­grance lay­er­ing guid­ance in the form of multi-fra­grance sets and roller­ball kits. Deme­ter Fra­grance Li­brary of­fers Fool Proof Blend­ing Trios in Clean, Light Flo­ral, and Vanilla col­lec­tions, while CLEAN’s Roller­ball Lay­er­ing Col­lec­tion in­cludes five com­bin­able op­tions. Jo Mal­one, a pi­o­neer in the world of fra­grance blend­ing (the brand has ac­tu­ally trade­marked the tag “Fra­grance Com­bin­ing”), has a web-based ap­pli­ca­tion that helps users match pair­ings.

But even brands of­fer­ing more com­plex fra­grances are tak­ing no­tice of the trend. Dior’s new J’adore Touche de Par­fum gives con­sumers an en­tirely new ex­pe­ri­ence—the dry-oil-based for­mula is ap­plied with a unique “touch” dis­penser, and is made to mix. The deep, rich per­fume smells divine on its own, but it can be lay­ered with any of the J’adore fra­grances, and has a unique chem­istry with each scent when com­bined.

For those brave enough to ven­ture out­side the con­fines of ex­pertly pre-paired fra­grance sets, the po­ten­tial for ex­pres­sion is end­less. The most com­mon piece of ad­vice from fra­grance ex­perts is to start sim­ply. Mark Crames, Deme­ter Fra­grance Li­brary CEO, ex­plains that the com­pany’s sin­gu­lar scents “are the notes and ac­cords per­fumers use to cre­ate the more com­plex de­signer and pres­tige fra­grances.” He ex­plains that blend­ing them is “like us­ing a pal­ette of paints to paint a pic­ture.” An­other perk to us­ing sin­gu­lar scents like these, says Crames, “is that they ex­press their na­ture im­me­di­ately and do not change over time.” A com­plex fra­grance takes time to evolve and can change dras­ti­cally as its base notes de­velop and its top notes fade. A com­bi­na­tion that smells divine at first might be less de­sir­able hours later. “Any­thing more in­tense is go­ing to take longer to fully ex­press it­self,” he says.

Still, Crames is quick to point out that lay­er­ing a sin­gle-note scent with a com­plex fra­grance is some­thing peo­ple, him­self in­cluded, do all the time. “I like adding Deme­ter’s Patchouli or Black Pep­per to ac­cent Hal­ston Z-14,” he says. “A favourite sin­gle note, like cit­rus, with a com­plex fra­grance can cre­ate an en­tirely new fra­grance.”

As for a strat­egy that a fra­grance lay­er­ing rookie should keep in mind, Crames ad­vises stick­ing to a sin­gle fra­grance fam­ily, or re­lated fam­i­lies. “Blend­ing three dif­fer­ent vanilla scents is eas­ier than a vanilla, a flower, and a wood,” he says, but quickly adds that “cit­rus, fruit or vanilla scents work well with most flo­rals, green notes, and woods, while an­i­mal­is­tic ones, like leather, present greater chal­lenges.”

First and fore­most, Crames ad­vises choos­ing only smells that we love. But the only way to re­ally be sure if a fra­grance com­bi­na­tion works is trial and er­ror. Luck­ily, we have more op­tions than ever to play with, and an in­dus­try that’s more than ready to help us get started.

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