Who: Pascale Cumming-Benson. Pascale works for CPL Aromas, the world’s largest fragrance-only fragrance house and came to the industry through the arts, which has had a recent fascination with fragrance. She previously worked at London based independent fragrance boutique Les Senteurs.
Today I’m wearing Musc by Mona do Orio. I like to mix scents – usually when I can’t quite decide what to wear. I think you can know instinctively what will work, but sometimes things surprise you. I also like to wear different perfumes in different places.
Musc is an ethereal powder scent. It makes me think about clouds and marzipan, it has the richness of an opulent old-fashioned powdery floral with a modern transparent woodiness. Its sweetness is soft, and the notes – tonka, heliotrope, neroli, musks – appear in fluffy but delicate layers. It blends with the skin but has a strong character too. It also has a bittersweet dryness that reminds me of Cassie flower.
I like how Mona di Orio scents interpret ingredients, often taking them in unexpected directions. The result is that the fragrance feels somehow eccentric, whilst being sumptuous and very full. I first wore these scents when I went to Amsterdam, where the brand is based, in the deep winter and the extreme cold brought me around to their unusual beauty.
I wash a lot – I like just a bar of orange blossom soap and an intensely green bath oil of pine, geranium, rosemary, lavender. I like how bathing rituals remind you of your body. We think of our senses as putting us in touch with a ‘real’ world outside us, but they also tell us a lot about our bodies, ourselves and our interior lives.
I don’t moisturise my body but I use a few dabs of Nuxe Oil on my face and hair – partly for its solar floral scent. I always put perfume in my hair. At the moment I’m using Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Universalis hair perfume, with the scent of crystalline shampoo.
I use one or two sprays of scent before I get dressed, just in the air around me. Then I do the same when I’m dressed. I might put a bit on my neck and and wrists but I wear it mostly on my clothes – on the inside breast of your coat is a good place as it diffuses with the warmth.
I would feel devoid without fragrance in my life. Its importance is usually spoken of by saying how much we would miss it if it wasn’t there. It’s true, life would have no tone without it. But as well as being a background that adds a richness and rhythm to our lives, smell is also a fascinating cultural product. Our collective taste and appreciation of fragrances changes over time.
I’m interested in how smells can seem to exhibit qualities in themselves – whether their effects on us are not only based on our associations. Almost all odours affect our trigeminal nerve, which is what makes your nose sting when you taste mustard, or makes your eyes water with onion, activating specific pathways to give specific sensations. This has a bearing on how an odour and its effects are perceived.
Ironically, since I’ve been working at CPL Aromas I’m maybe less adventurous than I used to be. I also like a scent to feel like part of me, not like it’s wearing me. We aren’t actually allowed to wear perfume at work…but I still put on a dab for the journey in, and as soon as I’m about to leave!
Trésor was my first proper perfume at age 11, I found it in a car boot sale. My teenage years were lots of Anna Sui, Cacharel Gloria, Si Lolita by Lolita Lempicka, Libertine by Vivienne Westwood, Ultraviolet…But the mainstay was Alien and all its flankers. I’ve been told I smell like a brothel more than once.
I hoard scented candles, the woodier the better. My favourites are Mousse (which smells like a savoury soily mushroom) and Chêne (oak – peppery, barky, and almost chocolatey to me) by Diptyque. I find that Joyeux Noel, the honeyed pine Christmas candle by Frederic Malle can be burnt all year round! I spray cologne around my bedroom, and wave incense around occasionally.
I love damp, soily outdoor smells, when you almost feel like you’re ingesting it. It feels very cleansing. Crypts and stone too. Also dried leaves when they take on a hay-like feel. I have a crumpled fig leaf I’ve kept for over a year now and it still smells.
On the other hand I love the smell of rubber, biros that smell of marzipan, new plastic such as those glittery cups you find at the Disney store. And speaking of glitter, that children’s blue glittery toothpaste. I had a Malibu Barbie at five years old that came with a miniature perfume – I still remember it, or think I do, and one day I will find something similar.