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My Signature Fragrance Is… Water

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Do you remember those Demeter perfumes? The ones that promised to smell like weirdly singular scents? I didn’t know where they were sold as a teenager, but I liked to go on their website to read the names and imagine the scents. Some were pleasantly romantic, like Laundromat and Snow, some were odd (Mildew, New Baby), and some were oddly comforting, like Turpentine, which will always make me think of a summer spent painting with oils. I could smell each perfume perfectly in my head. I fixated on the idea of being able to bottle my olfactory memories—maybe I wouldn’t want to smell like Glue, but a fragrance that smelled like an afternoon of collaging Tiger Beat cut-outs with Mod Podge? It sounded more like a scent time machine than a beauty item. Nostalgia potion, if you will.

When I moved to New York, I found out that most of the Demeter fragrances were sold at Duane Reade and I spent about an hour smelling them all. None of them were right—too chemical-y or powder-y or just not like I’d expected. I put the bottles back on their shelf and let go of the idea that I’d ever find a memory in a bottle. It would probably be too difficult to get exact—an impossible feat of synthetic fragrance.

Flash forward to ITG’s interview with Alia Raza of Régime des Fleurs. As research, I felt it necessary to go forth and smell her wares. I expected to like the citrus and fig notes in Vines and I did; I sniffed Little Flower and it smelled like fresh roses; but it was Falls, a fragrance very much out of my scent comfort zone, that I fell in love with. Here’s what you’ll get from the online description: tropical spices, hapu’u tree ferns, rushing water, green mist, wet jungle moss, monkeypod bark, manoa red clay. And here’s what you’ll get from mine: notes of leaning on a wet, cold rock, the air on one of those rainy-and-then-sunny spring days, the indoor water wall in the freezing lobby of my grandma’s apartment, the mist tunnel at Butterfly World, the Rainforest Cafe.

The experience was unexpected and instant and jarring. With one deep breath, I was transported to places I hadn’t been to or thought of in years. It smelled exactly like water. Which has no smell? I didn’t know how it was possible but I literally had to own it.

Once I got Falls home, I was tentative to wear it. Was it desirable to smell like water? I wasn’t sure. I sprayed it liberally on my wrists and neck (it’s a subtle one) and went to meet a friend for dinner. I wanted to know: how did I smell? I stuck out my wrist, and she dutifully whiffed. “You smell like water,” said with the same surprised glee as I felt upon first discovery, was the verdict. And after a couple hours of wear, it melts into a clean, slightly floral skin scent with just whispers of that watery smell. Definitely wearable. Throughout the day, I’ve started taking long, slow breaths with a sleeve pressed up to my nose—I love my office, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes it’s nice to be somewhere else.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG.