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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The summer evening air smells like oxygen marmalade.

Today brilliant perfume writer Andreas Båsk gave me this incredibly indecent iconic piece of fragrance… Eau Sauvage, Dior’s from 1966 by the one and only Edmond Roudnitska.

No, I won’t be wearing this at work…

Love having perfume milestones like this one as references in my collection. Especially the vintage ones that are more untamed. Which reminds me, I need to do a post on this… Most people don’t know that perfumes are altered. The Chanel no 5 and Shalimar that we buy today is not the same formula as it was decades ago. Doesn’t have to be decades either… So don’t throw your old perfumes away. Store them well and then sell them on Ebay for example if you don’t want to keep them. Vintage perfume is a magic world. To be continued.

Here comes a lengthier version of my musings about perfume in a career context that led to the article in Swedish business paper Dagens Industri.

The main point that I want to make is this: Scent is one of the many tools that we can use to create good conditions for communication.

This is the main principle behind why I think that the perfumes (and scents in general) that we use at work are so interesting. This has nothing to do with “trying to smell like a leader”, as in putting an olfactory mask on. Nor is it about manipulation of situations or our image. It is about being aware of how scents are linked to our brain and therefore affect our perception of ourselves, of situations and of others.

Let’s proceed: the right scent in the right context can strengthen your professional communication and thus position by adding definition to your message about who you are and what you want. For a person already conscious of their personal brand it is only natural to also have either a signature scent or better still, a fragrance wardrobe.

An interest in perfumes is sometimes unfortunately associated with an interest in fashion, cosmetics etc. This leads to underestimation of scent as a powerful communication tool. Olfactory perception, our sense of smell, is particular. Olfactory impressions travel directly to the brain’s emotional and memory centers, which in turn affects both how we feel and perceive things – and how we are perceived by others. This happens not only in the moment, but also afterwards when we create memories. How you smell will affect the associations someone has with you when they remember you. Now tell me this does not matter in a professional context. Just think of job interviews! Or negotiations. Or your first day as CEO meeting with your key stakeholders.

With a conscious choice of scent, you can use this to your advantage. Your scent can clarify who you are, and reinforce the message you want to get across as well as the associations you want to evoke. In the same way that your voice, posture and clothing affect how others see you, the perfume you wear will make a difference. A positive one if you invest some effort.

A signature scent or a fragrance wardrobe?

Some people find a perfume that feels like the only one they can imagine wearing. Sometimes this lasts a few years, sometimes a lifetime. But let’s admit it, most people don’t. Sticking to a perfume that feels “ok” because you are unsure of what to look for or scared to try new things doesn’t count. Finding a signature scent is not an easy thing to do. Until you find one I really do recommend composing a fragrance wardrobe of say three to five perfumes for a start. Allow yourself to use different perfumes at work and at home because that will let you go all in with the various types of scents that attract you and explore (or define) more sides of your personality. Special perfumes are not generic or random. Adapt your fragrance to the needs of different situations and what you want to convey about yourself in them.

The scent of a leader
As a leader it is important to be clear. Nobody follows a confused guide. Your scent is one of the signals you can use to communicate who you are and how you want others to relate to you. A boss who has a very formal appearance but smells of summer vacation makes a confusing impression. Another example of olfactory failure is wearing a perfume that is too heavy and tranquilizing in a situation where your role is to be someone who boosts energy.

In a professional context, it’s not just a question of smelling well. There are thousands of great smelling perfumes and people. Someone who makes the right decisions will benefit from smelling right. Scent is a tool. It can improve conditions for communication, remember? Reinforce what you want to convey about your message and yourself by using the right fragrance. Choose a fragrance that works for you just like your other attributes do.

Risks with perfume failure

– Creates confusion
– Sending out the wrong signals
– Distraction from your message
– Negative associations
– Affect energy in the wrong way

Potential with the right perfume

– Extra definition
– Memorability
– Enhanced message
– Emotional values added to intellectual content
– Affect energy in a tactic way

Confusion or contrast?
In situations where it is important to be clear, concise and concrete confusion is seldom good. Avoid sending out confusing signals by mistake in important contexts. There is however another way to look at it. Attention can be caught by using disruption in the form of a contrast. A conscious use of contrast between fragrance and other attributes can create a very interesting effect. This is something that is interesting to experiment with and I encourage it. An informal minimalistic outfit with a complex perfume, an feminine look and a masculine fragrance, vintage and modern synthetic notes. You can create great effects. Again, this depends on who you are and what your professional context is all about. It is not black and white. You have to look at who you are, your context(s) and needs. There is no generic professional perfume wardrobe.

My point, again, is to inspire you to make more conscious choices and explore the communicative potential of scents. To see how they can convey different aspects of you and what this can add to different situations. Go explore, have fun!

Doing a little olfactory nerdiness for a better smelling world in Swedish business newspaper Dagens Industri today about how to smell like a boss.

Stick around for my next post, a more lengthy piece on this topic is coming up. In the meantime you can find a series of my articles with guidance for your perfume shopping here. And if you have questions that you would like me to address please feel free to send an e-mail.

Have a powerfully smelling day! 😉

Every now and then it’s good to refresh our memory about the basics when it comes to scents. Brands are more or less trendy, there are seasonal perfume launches and top ten lists and marketing budgets. Then there is the smell of rain, of summer, of skin, of coffee beans. Sometimes it is easy to forget how it is all connected. So, here is a very short and extremely simplified guide to the sense of smell – or olfactory perception. It is not necessary to know these things to appreciate perfume, but having some rough insight into the links between scents and our body and brain makes things more interesting and the search for perfume or candles more conscious.

Nothing is arbitrary, and so much of how we perceive scents has to do with the construction of the brain.

First of all, we are all affected by scents around us. This has nothing to do with preferences or interest. We are programmed to take smell seriously as it has initially been a survival tool used to sense danger and to find suitable partners for reproduction. We might not find ourselves in the situations where it is the most important tool anymore, and much has changed. For example we select partners according to various criteria and we have dates written on food packages so we don’t necessarily smell them to see if they are still ok. But our brain is still built the same way and our instinct is to trust the information that smells gives us. 

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When we inhale a scent travels in odor molecules. It goes up through the nose (it is possible to have two separate impress, that is one through each nostril) and to olfactory membranes inside the nose. The odor molecules match receptor cell sites that line the olfactory epithelium. When stimulated by odor molecules the nerve cells send impulses to the olfactory bulb in the brain which forwards  the impulses to the gustatory center (where the sensation of taste is perceived), the amygdala (where emotional memories are stored), and other parts of the limbic system of the brain. The sense of smell is the only one of our five senses that is directly linked to the limbic lobe of the brain which means that what we smell goes directly to the brain’s centers for memories and emotions.

The limbic system is also directly connected to the parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels and hormone balance. What we smell goes right to the parts of the brain that are related to emotions and memories. We might intellectualize olfactory impressions, but we can never avoid the highway they take to our feelings. This is one of the reasons why a conscious use of smells, for example in professional contexts, is a very powerful (and underestimated) tool.

What scents we prefer is to a large extent based on memories and cultural preferences. Scents trigger old memories and suddenly something creates a feeling of safety because it reminds us of childhood. Or the opposite – a scent can take us back to an unhappy feeling because it triggers a sad memory. Scents have been used in therapy to activate traumatic memories among war victims so that these memories can be processed. Sometimes we are not even aware of the strong associations between a smell and a memory until we experience them. It is noteworthy here that what we perceive as a bad smell is something that we are taught. This is a good reminder for parents with small children – the children do not evaluate the smells until you teach them. Why not let them keep discovering for a while longer before drawing the map?

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The associations are subjective. There are however some general scent-related effects that seem to affect us in a similar way. A citrus smell will boost our energy (try smelling a lemon when you get sleepy in your office the afternoon). Lavender has been used in studies that indicate that it improves our cognitive ability. Benzoin, vanilla and sandal wood calm and balance. You might not think this matters or that it is obvious – but do you really think about how your perfume affects different situations at work? A brain storm and a crisis meeting benefit from entirely different smells. You benefit from different smells in the morning compared to when you need to unwind. 
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Smell the attraction
A strange mash-up of procreation science and marketing clichés has created some sort of hype around fluffy explanations and theories on the sense of smell and attraction. You will for example hear the word “pheromones” thrown like some sort of dating dart. It is not that easy. Olfactory perception does indeed play an important role in attraction but various aspect of contemporary life has changed that game a bit. We have over-washed bodies, on-paper-criteria and online dating for example. It is true however that olfactory perception has had the purpose to help us select appropriate partners based on information about immune systems communicated through pheromones. But let’s leave it at that for now and I promise to do a post on pheromones later. I would suggest however that when you select a perfume based on your desire to meet Someone that you want to keep meeting: don’t go looking or asking for perfumes that “smell sexy”, look for perfumes that add to you smelling like you.
There is an infinite amount of aspects to talk about when it comes to our sense of smell and our body and mind. I have mentioned some of these in my posts about scent and memories, and the posts on specific ingredients. Please feel free to share insight or questions by commenting below or send an e-mail.

Olfactory disorders
Last but not least, our olfactory perception is not something that we should take for granted. Many people suffer from an olfactory disorder and this can be quite problematic. Here are some of the most common disorders of smell.
  • Anosmia – inability to smell 
  • Dysosmia – things smell different than they should 
  • Hyperosmia – an abnormally acute sense of smell
  • Hyposmia – decreased ability to smell 
  • Phantosmia – “hallucinated smell,” often unpleasant in nature 

This started about a year ago. Well, of course to be honest it started much earlier. It started when I was a student studying at the libraries in various European cities that I passed on my young journey searching for my future path(s). It also started when I understood why my father would buy very old books at auctions not necessarily to read them (for example seven or so versions of Qvo Vadis). It started many times. But also about a year ago. I was talking to my friend, and at that time colleague, Karl about how we loved the smell of books. All the ways in which old printed paper can smell… How it is part of the reading experience and about the feeling of stepping into an old book store. When I read about Dead Writers a few months ago I remembered this conversation. Karl had actually read about this perfume too and had the same association. So – this post is dedicated is to you, Karl. One of the most intellectually rapid and insightfully witty persons that I have ever had the pleasure to be around! 
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So, what happens when a writer starts experimenting with aromatherapy trying to create a remedy for migraines?

Home of the Dead Writers line of literary perfumes, Sweet Tea Apothecary is a Seattle based micro-perfumery specializing in historically inspired handmade perfumes. About three years ago the owner – writer, journalist and teacher JT Siems started to experiment with aromatherapy to create something for herself that would help her deal with migraine problems. One thing led to the other and soon she found herself crafting scents around the ideas of famous historical people.

And one day I stumbled upon Dead Writers while doing some research and had all these lovely associations based on my past and personal references. So I contacted JT to hear more about her thoughts about perfume and the idea with the writers theme! This is what she kindly shared with me.

How did it all begin? 
I’ve always loved perfume. That was always the luxury item I wanted. I think I have good body chemistry or something because people tell me I smell good all the time, even when I’m not wearing any scent. Reactions like that are really intriguing to me so I find it fun to kind of play mad scientist and see what I come up with. I also really like hearing people describe my perfume because it’s so subjective – sometimes people come up with stuff I haven’t even thought of. In making my own perfumes and mixing them with writing and learning about other people’s lives, I’ve really found it to be another creative outlet for me.
 

How do you choose your writers?


My intention was to have a whole line of writer inspired perfumes but the Dead Writers perfume itself got popular before I could release the others. Right now I’m working on getting those ready. I have an Edgar Allan Poe inspired perfume called Lenore coming out soon and am working on a Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda and a Jack Kerouac called Dharma Bum. My process for choosing writers is kind of all over the place. Sometimes I have a fully formed idea and I just go for it, sometimes I’m just working on a perfume and say to myself, “Wow that reminds me of [insert writer].” Lenore and Dharma Bum were intentional, Zelda, I was actually trying to make an F. Scott Fitzgerald scent and what I came up with just screamed Zelda. I also think she’s under appreciated so I’m happy to give her the spotlight. Thoreau was also an accident. I like woodsy scents and after I first made that one, the first thing that came to mind was Walden. 
Is any of your perfumes a favorite of yours? 

Remy and Georgiana are probably my favorites. I could wear Remy everyday, I just love the honey quality to it and the saffron also gives it this nice spiciness that keeps it from being too sweet. Georgiana is my favorite to wear for special occasions or going out because it has this elegant, sultry smokiness that is subtle yet very memorable. It shocks people to know that I don’t usually wear Dead Writers. I like Dead Writers but two things prevent me from wearing it. 1. I tend to like lighter perfumes that have tea, floral, or honey qualities. 2. I literally spill Dead Writers all over myself every time I make it, which is very frequently these days to keep up with demand.

You categorize three of your perfumes as unisex. What are your thoughts on this, is it necessary or good to separate perfumes into for men /for women? 

I separate three into men’s / unisex more as an identifier for the men who happen to come looking at my shop. They tend to want to stay away from the florals and the sweeter perfumes so I do it as more of an easy way for them to find something they might like. That said, I love wearing “men’s” cologne and have found that many of the women who visit my shop aren’t at all bothered by the label and feel as I do. Maynard is the only one so far that I’ve made with men in mind, Dead Writers and Thoreau turned out how they did and I heard feedback from both men and women that they liked it. I made Maynard for my husband, but that’s another one I actually really like to wear. Overall, I think if you like a scent you should wear it without worrying about whether it’s perceived as masculine or feminine. We all have different body chemistry and you never know what’s going to sit well on you. 



Where do your draw inspiration from in the perfume world? Are there any specific noses or houses that you are inspired by?


I’m not that heavily involved in the perfume world to be honest. Here in Seattle there’s an amazing indie perfume scene that I’ve met up with a few times. They’re really cool people who are very passionate about making artisan scents. They all have interesting collections that you just don’t find at your standard perfume counter. I would say that this spirit of perfume as artistic creation is what inspires me. Apart from that group of people, I’d say I’m more inspired by the ideas, people, places, specific materials. I went to Paris for the first time about two years ago and just walking around Versailles gave me these intense feelings that became my Antoinette perfume as soon as I got home. That’s my usual process – I read about someone or watch a movie etc, and just feel struck by the emotions in their life and I try to capture it.

If money was not an issue, what perfume is your dream to make?


If money was not an issue, I would literally buy every kind of rose out there. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t really afford some of them yet because then I’d have rose in every perfume. I would also really like to be able to work with some of the high end chamomiles. I love the smell of chamomile and have so many good ideas for use, but it’s so prohibitively expensive I’d never be able to make it on a large scale. 

Any favorite ingredients?
 

Right now I’m all about the Dragon’s Blood. I love it. Dragon’s Blood is featured in Lenore and Boleyn, my two upcoming perfumes.


Who buys your perfumes? 

When I started it was mostly women aged teens through 50s who were interested in the little histories I write for the perfumes, or were just looking for handmade perfume oils. I had a lot of teen customers buying up Dead Writers until it went viral and now, it’s everyone. All ages, men and women. A lot of people have been coming for Dead Writers but end up buying either sampler packs or splurge on something else that caught their attention. I’ve noticed lots of university addresses recently. As far as countries, I’d say the rankings right now are USA, Australia, Canada, and the UK. But I’ve sold all over – France, Spain, Bosnia, Greece, Turkey. It’s so amazing to have people find you from all over the world.

Right now I sell only through Etsy but I have a brand new website coming out soon at the super imaginative address www.sweetteaapothecary.com I’ve been on Etsy for almost a year and it’s such a great starting point for opening your own business. Now I’m trying to branch out with my own website and have had talks about various wholesale opportunities 


I am fortunate to have samples of the entire range. (I really appreciate the not only cute but excellent little sample bottles! Everything stays where it is supposed to be, an aspect that should not be underestimated.) The variation in JT’s range is really impressive. It is a grand adventure and olfactory portrait gallery that she has created with all sorts of guests around the table – some light and romantic, some weird, some stubborn, some philosophers and some kindered spirits. Some seem to have appeared straight from a summers evening and some from a long travel in leather boots (that would be Boynard). Antoinette tries to seduce you, Dharma Bum will give you life advice and Maynard…oh you will want to go on a long walk over the meadows with Maynard. HRM Victoria however – you don’t want to get into an argument with her! I cannot really specify exactly what it is, but I do associate these scents and their complex voluptuous character with reading. They go well with a blanket, candle light and a big cup of tea. Darkness won’t bother you wrapped in Georgiana, the rain will feel cosy scented with Pamplemousse. And the harsh HRM Victoria will keep you safe from harm.
“If you find comfort in the tea stained pages and dusty covers of 
old leatherbound books, then the perfumes and colognes 
in this collection will speak to the writer in you.”
JT Siems

I am guessing this makes you curious to also find out more about JT’s writing. I can reveal that two of the things she has written are two novels, one is a steampunk adventure and the other one is more of a dark fairy tale a la Coraline. If you are interested in finding out more about these and getting your own uniqye olfactorized writer experience go to sweetteaapothecary.com or visit www.facebook.com/passtheteapot 

Book jewelry from Etsy