Thursday, May 26, 2005

Perfumed Timelines

I was browsing in today and came across this article about a UK designer working with scientists to produce “smart” clothing that can deliver scent to the wearer as the need arises. Jenny Tillotson thinks that one day fashionistas will be able to get their aromatherapy fix or pheromones direct from her prototype outfit, whose fabric is lined with tiny veins of perfume that activate upon changes in the wearer’s body temperature. They might want to wear it to attract lovers at a party, for instance – just think of the market for this! According to the article, through this technology, asthma sufferers will one day be able to get their Ventolin directly from their clothing. It’s odd, but the article also mentions that there might also one day develop a future military application for scented apparel (to throw off bloodhounds in pursuit?).

Tillotson’s favorite scent is that of a newborn baby, which she says lasts for only three weeks. When my sister gives birth in October I think I’ll take a deep whiff of the baby. One of my childhood friends loves the smell of a puppy’s milk breath; something about it brings out her maternal instincts. Two real good scents in my book would be coffee and baking bread; I’ve heard real estate agents in the US either make coffee or bake bread in houses they’re trying to sell, to project the sensation of “home”.

“Smell is the most primitive sense and can remind us of all sorts of early memories,” says Tillotson.

Let’s take a little look back at my history in scents: Joy by Jean Patou came in a tiny black bottle with a red lacquer stopper and reminds me of my mom when I was growing up (her present scent is Lancome's Tresor). My dad smelled of Old Spice aftershave back then (his present scent is Armani). [Side story: In college I asked a male friend, “You smell good, what is it?” He said, “Old Spice”. I remarked innocently, “I love that smell! Reminds me of my dad!” Alas, he blushed and never wore that scent again, as he wanted to smell more “dangerous” and therefore more attractive to girls.]

In high school girls either smelled of Johnson’s baby cologne, or of "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific" shampoo or were wearing Sweet Honesty, an Avon product. The original Paco Rabanne scent reminds me of my college English professor in UP, who gave me a grade of 1.0. My first boyfriend smelled of baby powder (yum!). My second boyfriend, who had a leather jacket a la Tom Cruise in “Top Gun” and drove a restored 1967 Ford Mustang, wore Grey Flannel. He was more vain than I and always had scented hankies. He was the one who introduced me to the fragrance shampoo Finesse (which I still occasionally use). Then came an assortment of Spanish citrus-based colognes which every girl wore, namely Denenes, Baby Gal and Nenuco. Shortly after this there boomed a market for local body sprays, but I don’t remember the name of the brand. Then I received Ralph Lauren’s Lauren as a birthday gift, the one in the jewel-red square bottle with a gold stopper. I stayed with that for a year or so.

Next, the college party girls started wearing Christian Dior’s Poison (which to me smelled of “rich old woman” and wasn’t appropriate for girls our age). Then Drakkar came into fashion. In small doses it smelled great, but could smell toxic when you’re trapped in an elevator with a guy who's slapped it on in lieu of a shower. My third boyfriend wore a cedar-based aftershave from St. Michael (which I gave to him). Then someone gave me a tiny bottle of Givenchy’s Amarige, which I loved, and promptly lost on a trip to Baguio. After graduation I worked in garments retail management and went through a couple of little metal spray bottles of Gap Heaven and Dream. A few boyfriends later: Mr. Nicole Miller for Men smelled absolutely yummy, Mr. Hugo Boss Dark Blue inspired lust, but in the end it was Mr. Ralph Lauren Romance I loved most. I did ask for the nearly empty bottle of Nicole Miller and stowed it in my suitcase so my clothes would smell good. Although those relationships didn’t last, at least I remember the boyfriends smelled good, and I therefore can’t think badly of them (yes, I am too nice).

By the time I finished grad school I had gone through Tommy Girl and Clinique Happy (both gifts, I never bought my own scent even up to that point), so at the Duty Free Shop in Sydney I bought myself a small bottle of Estee Lauder’s Pleasures and one of Davidoff’s Cool Water Woman. Back in Manila there were days when I would walk through Rustan’s perfume section after work and get one of those Japanese paper cones sprayed with scent and put it in my bra so that my body warmth would spread the fragrance. I’d come in looking bedraggled and later walk around feeling like a million bucks.

At present I still wear Pleasures, it’s such a classic. I confess, at times when I feel low I sniff it in the bathroom like glue, after which I emerge feeling all right. I alternate that with The Body Shop’s Cotton White eau de toilette (another gift), which has a lovely clean freshness.