How To Find Your Signature Scent, According To A Perfumer

Atelier Cologne

Perfume can be a tricky thing — overwhelming, even. While you might feel like you need a signature scent, you should know that you don't have to pick just one. That's exactly what Sylvie Ganter, co-founder of Atelier Cologne, believes, anyways. On the opening night of their first Los Angeles outpost at the new Nordstrom Century City mall, Ganter sat down to discuss the inspirations behind her scents, how to test out perfume when shopping, and shares advice to those just diving into the fragrance world.

Ganter tells me that the perfume world seems to market fragrances that only make you feel sexy, but you don't necessarily want to feel that way all the time. For this reason, Ganter initially wanted to create her perfumes for women who don't like perfumes — so instead of sexy, suffocating scents, she made citrus notes the center of each of her fragrances.

"When you smell perfume, it takes over... your personality, even your taste buds," she tells me. Citruses, she explains, have a lighter quality that makes you feel good without hiding who you are.

Ganter understands how overwhelming shopping for perfumes can be. If you're just beginning to explore and are overwhelmed, remember that it doesn't have to be a stressful experience.

"I find that the best thing you can do is really educate yourself by smelling a lot," she says. Ganter suggests taking time to sit down and explore. By figuring out what does and doesn't work for you, you'll be able to become more familiar with the scents and ingredients you lean towards.

You'll also find that you might have different preferences depending on the occasion or time of day. "[Don't be] afraid to smell a lot to define what it is that you like. Also, it’s not just what you like [all the time], it’s what you like for a certain moment."

Fragrance, according to Ganter, can change as easily as your mood. "I think it's very similar to clothes or makeup. It's a matter of how you feel," she shares. On a day-to-day basis, she wears a light and fresh peppery scent, Bois Blanc; something transparent and comforting for her. For a night out or a date, she chooses something woodsy, saying, "[it] can be very mysterious and very dark and somehow seductive but in a not too-feminine way."

But how can different scents really affect you? It differs from person to person, says Ganter. Each scent will react differently on someone's skin, as certain notes will become stronger than others. No matter what, Ganter believes that perfume is an extension of your personality and your mood. Think of your perfume like an accessory to complete your look. If you're wearing a warm and cozy sweater on a rainy day, you might reach for a darker, more opaque scent. If you want to wear bright summer colors instead, a fresher, cleaner scent could be for you.

There are a few things to keep in mind when finding your next favorite scent, according to Ganter The first: Make sure when you spritz the paper swatch, not to touch it to your nose. A lot of people, Ganter tells me, tend to touch the paper right to their nose to get the scent, but by doing so, they accidentally get the perfume on their skin. This can affect how you smell other perfumes afterwards.

When you find the scents you love, spray them on your skin and wait about 15-20 minutes. The perfume on your skin will smell how they would smell after eight hours. When perfumes are [made], some of the [ingredients] are lighter, while others are heavy. So some are very volatile and some are more dense, so they’ll stick more," Ganter explains.

What you smell right away are the lighter notes, and after they fade you'll smell the heavier ones. Fall in love with what sits on your skin, because you'll be wearing it all day, she advises.

But what's the true test to know you've found the right perfume? "You know that a perfume is right for you [when] you have it here..." Ganter says pointing to her wrist, "... And you feel compelled to smell it and when you smell it is just makes you feel good, like 'Oh my God, I want more of this.' That’s a good sign."