Who: Nafia Guljar, fragrance-obsessed cancer research scientist by day and a fragrance illustrator by night (and often weekends). Nafia’s moving and inspiring feature for The Scented Letter, It Takes Me Right Back – Night Blooming Jasmine, brought Covid home to us when it was published. We’ve all, heartbreakingly, had friends and family who’ve been affected by the pandemic, but few have written about it and the loss it brings with such quiet, simple power. She has rightly been nominated for a Jasmine award from the Fragrance Foundation this year, and you can read Nafia’s piece here.
Nafia’s moving feature was not the original reason we wanted to feature her on We Wear Perfume, we have been huge fans of her wonderful fragrance illustrations on her instagram @anillustratednose for years. As well as interpreting each fragrance via a tiny piece of art, Nafia write scent reviews that are touched with both personal stories and a real depth of knowledge about perfumery. She’s worked with brands such as Andy Tauer (for Tauer Mag), Maison Incens, FL Parfums, Aspects Beauty, CaFleureBon and LUSH to bring their fragrances to life via her artful illustrations. We caught up with her to find out more about her perfumed life.
Today I’m wearing Carnal Flower by Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. It’s one of the most gorgeous smells in the world, heady, lush tuberose and jasmine, crushed leaves and sappy stems with slightly sharp and medicinal eucalyptus adding a beautiful greenness. It smells incredibly full and voluptuous, the headiness can almost be overwhelming, but it’s so perfect for a hot summers day.
It makes me feel elated, sophisticated and deliriously happy. That might sound excessive and hyperbolic but the very first time I smelled Carnal Flower, I got emotional at how stunningly gorgeous it was. That (perfumer) Dominique Ropion could conjure up a fragrance so breathtakingly wonderful and evocative just blew my mind!
Fragrance is very important to me in every day life. Although I don’t work in the industry, wearing fragrance everyday is a small daily pleasure and I love the ceremony of choosing a fragrance based on my mood or an occasion.
Aside from wearing fragrance daily, I love beautifully scented hand cream, especially ones from L’Occitane and Nuxe. My candle addiction seems to have spiralled out of control during lockdown, but that’s not a bad thing. I love discovering new candle brands and my favourites recently have been Oliver Bonas, Bougie Boujees and Cloon Keen.
A pre-pandemic ritual I loved was wearing oil based attars when I went to pray at the mosque. It’s such a communal space and I am looking forward to going back to doing this.
I spray my fragrance on both my skin and my clothes. I tend to spray on my neck twice and then a few sprays over my clothes and especially my hijab. I love getting wafts of the fragrance from my hijab as I go about my day. I usually keep a sample or travel spray in my bag, for when I have evening plans and need to top up my scent. It’s usually a different fragrance and it’s nice wearing something new if the first fragrance has faded or seeing how it interacts with the base notes left behind by the first fragrance.
I had a weird relationship with fragrance over the pandemic. Losing my dad to Covid and then losing my own sense of smell and taste for about 3 months, meant that I couldn’t use my nose to ground myself after losing my dad. I distinctly remember burying my nose in his jacket and the collar of the shirt he last wore to no avail. I couldn’t smell a thing. I found that unbelievably frustrating, as if my nose had betrayed me.
However, when I got my smell back, I used it to remind myself of my dad – applying the Astral cream that he loved, buying fruits he’d fill our house with in the summer (mangoes, watermelon, strawberries), drinking mint tea before bed. I could also smell and wear my own fragrances again; burn a different candle daily and take hour long baths in rose oil infused water, which was so wonderful and in hindsight, much need form of self-care.
I tend to illustrate fragrances that I love and new loves I discover, things I am lucky enough to get sent to try or beautifully designed bottles. Sometimes a fragrance will illicit a strong response from me, I’ll either associate it with particular colours or imagine it as a texture and I’ll try and incorporate these into the illustration.
I’ve always been inspired by botanical illustrations, so I’ll evaluate the fragrance to pick out prominent notes (flowers, fruits, herbs) and usually look up the official notes online and sit down to do a few more evaluations to see whether I can pick out any of the extra official listed notes, and incorporate these into the illustration. Once I have an idea in my head, I’ll sketch it out into paper and get painting. I tend to prefer painting through the night when most people in my house are asleep and it’s just me and my music. It’s incredibly therapeutic.
I enjoyed writing about perfume and had my own fragrance blog, along with everyone else in 2013-2015! I wanted to explore a more creative way of talking about fragrance so decided to do an illustration inspired by Christian Dior ‘Bois d’Argent’ and wrote a short review on Instagram. This was really well received, so I just decided to carry on and the rest is history! I have been lucky enough to meet and work with some really wonderful people and brands over the years.
Along with many people, the unusual smells I love are petrol and petrichor, especially the smell of the air before and after monsoon rain. I also really love the smell of the air in London on sunny but frosty winter mornings. There’s something magical about the combination of freezing cold air, dew on the grass and bright sunshine.
Follow Nafia’s instagram An Illustrated Nose here