While I attended college, there was a certain group of guys from a country that will remain nameless that doused themselves in cologne. Their fragrances lingered in the elevators, the library rooms and the dorm hallways. God forbid you were stuck with them in the dorm elevator for all 12 floors, or sat near them in class. It was intense, intoxicating and possibly the reason I got a C in that religion class.
All of this came back to me when I was invited to interview Marie Line Patry, director of retail development for Guerlain, the legendary French purveyor of luxury fragrance, makeup and skincare since 1828. Guerlain has created more than 800 fragrances, many of which are recognized as masterpieces of perfumery. Here was the perfect opportunity to find out insights on the world of fragrance. (Patry is hosting a fragrance master class at Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 8. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments necessary. For more information, call 561-694-9009 ext. 262)
M&V: What is the rule for applying fragrance?
PATRY: Perfume extract goes directly on the skin, usually on any pulsar point [the neck, the wrist]. Eau de parfum is sprayed on the body. Eau de toilette is sprayed all over body and clothes. In France one would have their fragrance in all three concentrations and apply all three daily.
You perfume the parfum. The parfum does not perfume you. The moment it touches your skin your own body chemistry dances with it. All day long different notes will develop. Each person has it’s own unique body chemistry and a fragrance will develop differently because of it.
M&V: What is the appropriate way to tell someone that they are wearing too much perfume or cologne?
PATRY: It is not about what we say, but how we say it. Is this a personal intimate relationship or a professional one? In each case honesty is always the best policy, especially if the person asks for your opinion. People wear fragrances for many reasons; sometimes they remind us of childhood memories and places so knowing what the person is wearing and what it means to them usually tells you what to say or not to say.
M&V: Is it necessary to change your fragrance with the seasons?
PATRY: It is not. Fragrance is emotion, feeling, a moment in time, a place [and] a memory. It is true that certain fragrance compositions with let’s say citrus, for example, are more popular during the warmer months and in warm climates. However, that doesn’t mean you should not wear it year round. If it makes you feel good, wear it whenever you want.
M&V: Is there an expiration date on perfume and what’s the proper way to store perfumes?
PATRY: For me a fragrance is like a bottle of fine wine. It should be kept in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Recently on my trip to Paris, we opened a 30-year-old Guerlain fragrance kept in our archives, and it was divine. For Guerlain that longevity of the juice is due to the know-how, the craftsmanship and the heritage passed on from one generation to the next. That only comes with time but it all starts with quality ingredients.
M&V: Do our olfactory system alter as we age?
PATRY: Yes they do. Over time everything alters including our olfactory system as well as our taste. Sometimes we do not realize that out taste has changed and evolved.
M&V: There are so many celebrities that have fragrances. What’s your opinion on these fragrances?
PATRY: Fragrance is a form of expression, creating them is an art form and a science. Celebrities express themselves with fragrance as well. Opinions and expectations are very individual. Some people shop the trend; some shop for their signature.