Small Beautiful Things: A Signature Scent

(by Hila Davies and illustrated by Charlie To)

I’ve always been obsessed with finding a signature scent. Maybe it’s the desire to be ‘that girl’ – more likely, the consequence of the male gaze – but there’s something so appealing about having a lasting, recognisable scent that follows you around. And yes, it has to be a good smell. 

I believe it to be the ultimate power move. Having a signature scent is main-character energy personified – something that makes you distinct and mysterious. It can define your personality – are you feeling ‘Bloomin’ Beautiful’ today? Or maybe it’s time for your inner Miranda Priestly to come out with a spritz of ‘Good Girl’? 

My ex-boyfriend told me that I smelt like vanilla and newspaper. ‘Newspaper?’ I asked, slightly thrown by the idea that my natural aura was akin to the same material used to wrap greasy fish and chips. Being quick-witted, he brushed it off with a romantic notion, but it left me wondering what a ‘signature scent’ actually meant. We all have a natural scent – but how can we find out what it is? And if we do, will we ultimately be disappointed, like I was when I went home for the first time this year and discovered in my time away that my family’s signature scent is actually just…IKEA furniture.

To me, remembering someone’s scent is one of the sincerest forms of love. When we miss someone, we hold onto objects that smell like them. It’s also the first sign of loss when that smell begins to fade. Sometimes I’ll get a waft of a scent once lost. People, memories – things that I miss so deeply I seem to conjure them into existence. Sitting in a cafe in Rome, my friend Lucy recalls the wonder of discovering her late Grandfather’s scent lingering in the napkins. Well-thumbed books, rosemary and Gold Block tobacco, she took the napkins home, a piece of a loved one found in a city hundreds of miles away. The spiritual side of me likes to believe that smelling someone’s scent is an act of remembrance. I like to believe that these random wafts are not random at all but, rather, a person faraway making their presence known. 

Warm scents. Woody scents. Scents so fresh that simply hugging someone feels like falling into a pile of clean laundry. Scents so sweet they set-up house in your nostrils. Scents that get your heart racing, making you want to bury your face into the nape of someone’s neck and never let go. Scents that make your skin tingle. This is the vice-like grip a good scent has on me – I go weak in the knees and find myself, yet again, scrolling endlessly through ‘PerfumeTok’. 

So on my 20th birthday this month, I was drawn into the Selfridges perfume section like a cartoon character – nose first and on the tippiest of toes. To my disappointment, Rowan Atkinon was nowhere to be found to ask me if “I would like it…gift-wrapped?”, but I came out with a bottle of perfume so delicious that the price tag was (almost) justifiable. The signature scent has been acquired. It smells of long summer days, figs and lemon meringue pie, sand in your toes and golden hour light…and yes, I will be gatekeeping it for the rest of my life. 

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