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How to Smell Like Yourself, with Jess Cusack and Issy Brazier-Jones

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Who: Jess Cusack, 24, writer and producer at digital media company Contented, and Issy Brazier-Jones 24, an actress who is just finishing her last year at RADA. Both are mad about perfume and live in London.

Issy: My dad’s a furniture designer and I grew up in a scrap yard so the first smells I remember were quite ‘raw’ ones like dust, rust, the smell of musty damp cold, gasoline. The smell of rain really reminds me of the workshop

Jess: I remember my mum had this gorgeous facial toner by Decleor, we called it ‘brown stuff’ and whenever me or my sister were upset, she’d say, ‘do you want some brown stuff?’ and she’d put a little on cotton wool and wipe our tears away. It had this amazing smell and was our little ‘treat’ to make us feel better. I haven’t thought about that for so long!

One of my first fragrances was Rimmel Beat (now discontinued) I remember as a teenager when you went to Capital VIP parties, you’d get a mini Rimmel Beat in your goody bag. How our parents let us go to those I’ll never know, they were big parties for under-16s….

Issy: And you’d sneak a bottle of vodka in down your pants…

Jess: And you’d just kiss boys all night..

Issy: You’d kiss like six or seven guys…

Jess: Sometimes more, it was shocking! You just walked around snogging, which, when you were 14, was the best. The boys were all wearing Lynx – literally the smell of teenage boys – but we loved it.

Issy: I still wear it sometimes! I have a Lynx in my bag occasionally. I find it grotesquely attractive and it saddens me to admit that.

My first perfume was Diptyque Philosykos, It’s the most beautiful smell. We travel a lot to Greece for holidays and it fills me with tears when I smell it now, it’s dried herbs, dust, flowers, mustiness and salt, exactly the smell of Greece.

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Jess: When I was around 17 I had Dior Addict. I wore it all the time, it was very rock-and-roll edgy and the ads were sweaty-sexy.

Issy: It was all black knickers and legs out…

Jess: I stopped wearing it. Then a couple of years ago I found it an airport and remembered loving it, so now I wear it at night. It’s got a real time and place, it’s not an everyday perfume.

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Issy: When I’m acting I have a perfume for each character as it helps me stop being me. I have a terrible memory and I’m very cue dependant so I realised that perfume could help. I used my ex boyfriend’s fragrance recently in an acting exercise to get myself emotional. I sprayed his old T shirt with his fragrance and wore it, which drove me right to the edge….

Jess: It’s a way of encapsulating your identity, I know exactly what you smell like Issy, and when I smell it on someone else I’m like ‘you’re wearing Issy’s smell! How dare you!’

Issy: Everyone knows my smell, it makes me who I am. Perfume has so much meaning for me, I believe that certain fragrances have added to my life journey, I change fragrance when I’m ready to leave that part of the journey.

Jess: When I’m ready and have my clothes on, I’ll know what fragrance I want to wear, what will go with my attitude and outfit. I use it to bring myself together. It’s 100% who I am and where I’m going.

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Issy: When I first smelled Escentric Molecule 01, I knew it was all of the smells I love in one bottle, it reminds me of things I can’t put into words – perfume is a language of its own. I don’t think I could ever give it up. Isn’t it amazing to find a smell that you think, “wow!” every time you wear it?

Jess: My mum wore Jo Malone fragrances and I loved them. I remember my ex boyfriend’s friends saying ‘you smell so good’ when I wore her Pomegranate Noir so I thought right, I’m keeping that one.

Issy: I’ve just started seeing someone new, he’s not my type and I’m pretty sure I’m not his either but I’m really attracted to him because he smells fantastic, it’s a done deal because of the way he smells.

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Jess: If I can afford it, I will wear Le Labo Santal until I die. The girl sitting next to me at work wore it and I instantly needed to know what it was. It’s expensive, but I was crazed by it, I love it. I spray it for special occasions, not everyday because it’s very precious.

Issy: I love this Incense Jaisalmer by Comme des Garcons. I remember the first day I found it, I test-sprayed it on a red coat I had, which I hated but I wore the coat because I could still smell the fragrance. It makes me feel happy, joyous, and warm, I wear it when I’m feeling a bit sad, when I need a bit of magical uplifting.

With Incense Avignon, I went to a Greek orthodox church in Notting Hill and I loved the smell, when I smelt this and thought ‘I’ve found you’. It’s frankincense and myrrh and it’s my night time sexy scent, it smells mischievous and dark. I’m not religious at all…why do I find that sexy?

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Images Fraser Carr Miles

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