Throughout July, I promised to do 10 things to celebrate 10 years of The Candy Perfume Boy. I’ve held four instagram live events, speaking to beauty journalist Alice du Parcq, Escentual founder Rakesh Aggarwal, PR legend Nicola de Burlet, and Olfiction founders Nick Gilbert and Pia Long. I’ve talked about 10 perfumes of significance from the last ten years over two IGTV videos (P1, P2), I’ve given away a £100 Escentual voucher and 5 Boujee Bougies, and I’m finishing off with this blog post and a celebration of my favourite photos over on instagram. It’s been a busy month.
For this blog post, I wanted to share just a small selection of the things I have learned since I started writing 10 years ago. From being someone who had never written anything longer than a tweet to a five-time award winning fragrance writer, it has been quite the journey and I have learned so, so many things. Here is a small selection, in no particular order:
1. Price does not indicate quality
When I first took my tumble down the fragrance rabbit hole, I saw a lot of discussion that niche is good and mainstream is bad, but with time I have learned that this simply isn’t the case. Price, in fact, rarely has any bearing on whether a perfume is good or not and just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it’s better than a perfume that is cheaper. In fact, there are just as many terrible, overpriced niche fragrances as there are uninspired, cynical designer fragrances at half, or even a third of the price. And likewise, there are as many fantastic, innovative, boundary-pushing perfumes in the mainstream as there are niche. So yes, good and bad at both ends of the scale. Follow and trust your nose to find what’s good.
2. You shouldn’t pay attention to gender labels
I was going to say that “gender in perfume isn’t important” but I don’t think that’s correct. Perfume has always been gendered and marketed to either men or women, which means we’ve seen trends and styles that have defined the history of perfume. It’s important to look back and see the evolutions of these styles, trends and families through the guise of gender BUT whatever gender label there may be on the bottle isn’t important. I’ve always worn and written about what I love. If it resonates with you, wear it.
3. Writing cannot be a constant
Since I started this blog I have changed jobs a couple of times, got married, had a pug-baby (and a snake baby too), completed a post-graduate degree, joined Escentual as their Fragrance Expert and joined Olfiction as a consultant. I’ve been a busy boy and I’ve had to learn that wanting to write and needing to write, especially for this blog, isn’t always possible. I’ve never been the type of person that can just sit down in front of a blank screen and start typing – the inspiration has to be there, and I’ve always fought this. Now though, I don’t put that pressure on myself and I always say to myself: don’t worry, you’ll write when you can. So that’s what I do now, I write when I can and I think my writing is better for it.
4. I used to want weird, now I want wearable (OK, with a little bit of weird)
Perfume tastes change, this is fact. We as people grow and change, and the perfumes we loved, say 10 years ago, don’t always stay with us 10 years later. When I started writing about perfume I always wanted the fragrances I tried to be weird and challenging – I craved the unusual and fragrances that would make me smell different to everyone else. I still love and admire (and wear!) perfumes that do something unique, new and novel, but mostly I just want to wear things that smell really fucking good.
5. Niche is no longer niche (and that’s good).
Niche perfumery has exploded over the last 20 years. From being inaccessible, hard-to-find, available only to those in the know, to niche brands being available in local department stores, not to mention the fact that mainstream brands like Tom Ford, Chanel and Dior have all launched more exclusive, “niche” collections. The moment when niche truly died for me is when Harrods opened H Beauty in my humble little town of Milton Keynes. When I was able to drive 15 minutes to pick up a Chanel Les Exclusif – that’s when I knew niche as we knew it was gone forever – and I’m not mad at it (in fact, I’m all for it – I love H Beauty!). I like how accessible interesting, off the beaten track perfumery has become. I like that people who have never tried a more unusual olfactory experience can stroll into a department store and find one, and I like how this explosion has challenged perfume brands to up their games and offer points of difference to people. So yes, niche is no longer niche, and that’s good.
6. Fragrance wardrobes are better than signature scents.
Like many others, when I started my perfume journey I was always searching for the one – that one fragrance that would meld with my soul (sounds painful) and make my life complete. This is a fool’s errand, my friends. There is never just one, there are so many that will come and go throughout our lives. So now I focus on a fragrance wardrobe. Fragrance wardrobes let you have a scent for every occasion, mood and outfit, and who wouldn’t want that? You wouldn’t wear the same clothes every day, so why wear the same scent? Fragrance wardrobes give us the variety to match all that life throws at us. I no longer look for the one, instead I’m on the hunt for the ones.
7. Fragrance content should be accessible.
This sort of links in with the point above. When I started this blog I wanted to write in a way that was accessible to all people, regardless of their level of perfume knowledge. I wanted people who loved perfume and obsess over it to read my blog and be satisfied and inspired, but I also wanted casual readers to enjoy it too. Accessibility is important – so much of the perfume industry has been behind closed doors for much of the last 100 years and the internet has forced a shift where the industry has opened itself up for people to see what goes on behind the curtains. Fragrance content should be about sharing knowledge and inspiring people to get involved – it should never be to show off or gate keep.
8. Fragrance can get you through difficult times.
A lot has changed over the last ten years and like many of you, I’ve had my fair share of personal losses and difficulties. Perfume has always been a constant – a fixed feature in my life that I can go back to when I need to seek joy and comfort. This has been more apparent to me over the last 18 months – the Covid 19 pandemic has upended much of the normality in our lives and it was the comfort of perfume that kept me going when I couldn’t see my family or my friends, and work got so busy I couldn’t think. For me, the scent of the pandemic was Papyrus Oud / 71 by Parle Moi de Parfum. It has been warm, spicy support in times of sadness, stress and worry.
9. There is no right or wrong in perfume.
Perfume is so subjective. Perfumes I love might be hated by many and I may not enjoy fragrances that many people love. We all come from different backgrounds – we are unique beings shaped by our equally unique experiences and we all associate different smells with different things, so of course we are going to experience perfumes in entirely singular ways. When you smell a fragrance, you should feel comfortable to explain it any way that makes sense to you – don’t worry about what the notes list or the internet says, if you smell something a certain why, that’s valid. There may be no mention of patchouli in a fragrance’s notes or marketing material (heck, there may be none in the formula) but if you smell it then it’s there.
10. Fragrance = friendship.
This one is the most important thing I have learned. Over the last 10 years I have made the most incredible friends. Friends who are perfume lovers and bloggers, friends who work for brands, who do PR, perfumers, industry people and so many more. If there is one thing I take away from 10 years of blogging about perfume, it’s the fact that I have made some wonderful friends who will be with me for life.