“A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting”
My love of clothes, shoes and handbags is well documented but when it comes to fragrance I’m no expert. Fortunately I know someone who is. Lesley Kerrison’s love of fragrance is at the very heart of her personal style. And her current collection of 70, carefully edited perfumes is to die for!
Lesley’s passion for fragrance is well know to her friends and I’m thrilled she agreed to share that love with Style Stuff.
When did your obsession with perfume begin?
It goes right back to senior school when I found myself longing for Cachet, Smitty, Geminesse and anything by Lentheric!
How does perfume make you feel?
Let’s turn that question on its head… If I’m not wearing perfume I feel naked. Heaven forbid If I ever forgot mine I would have to steal a squirt of someone else’s! It’s a real mood altering substance for me. My sense of smell has matured over the years and I know what I like – empowering, bold fragrances that kick the door in and announce my arrival. Smells that give me confidence. Take Hermes Merveille – it’s upmarket, reeks of money and I feel wealthy when I wear it. And the coconut and lemon balm hit of Creed Virgin Island Water transports me to the warmth of summer in the most delicious way.
What was the first perfume you remember?
It has to be Smitty. I can see the TV ad with a girl jumping for joy and the strapline “Smitty did it”. It was catnip to my teenage self.
And the first perfume you bought for yourself?
Paris – by Yves St Laurent. It was so overpowering that my mam banned me from spraying it indoors. I took great umbrage at the time but when I look back I completely understand.
Which perfume holds the strongest memories for you?
Probably my most evocative perfume was Angel by Thierry Mugler which I bought in Dallas, Texas in 1994. Angel worked on your pheromones apparently. Ground-breaking olfactory mumbo jumbo that I fell for hook, line and sinker. Fellas were going to be dropping at my feet at the merest whiff of it. It was a new generation of fragrance for sure. To be honest I wouldn’t wear it now, but it was a different story then when no-one in the UK had even heard of it. I loved being ahead of the curve and worked my way through the entire Mugler family before I realised that Thierry and I had run our course
Penhaligon Halfeti is also very poignant for me. A strong, traditional and somewhat masculine smell – one of the new unisex smells that are very en vogue right now. It takes me back to the incredibly sad day, two years ago, when we lost my first grandchild William. It was my perfume of choice at the time. My daughter in law now wears it because it reminds her of a time she wants to hold dear. And when we both wear it, it takes us straight back to that day in the hospital and all the emotion that went with it.
I find it fascinating that fragrance has a parallel ability with music – to act on both sides of the brain at once. And that’s how our olfactory senses can whisk us straight back to a time, place, perfume, outfit, feeling from yesteryear in a similar way to listening to a personally meaningful song.
How do you choose a new perfume?
It’s a process that’s evolved for me. Most importantly I understand the notes that I’m looking for, namely, Amber, Patchouli, Vetiver, Oud, and Leather. Floral and citrus have their place but they’re not for me.
I’ll track down hard to find fragrances abroad and get an extra thrill when people in the know comment on them. And if it’s been discontinued even better! I recently made a wonderful discovery of a fragrance called Castelbajac, pronounced Castelbyac, that I first bought in Amsterdam. A beautiful scent – it smells of cherry brandy and almonds.
I don’t go shopping that often but when I do I’ll hit the counters at Harvey Nicks for my fix of spritzes from the more unusual fragrance houses. Frangrantica.com is a great place to start if you want to understand the notes in the perfumes you already love.
Which perfume will you give as a gift this Christmas?
That’s easy – Molecule 1. It’s been my signature scent for almost a decade. Often I use it as a base and layer another fragrance on top. The most amazing smell with only one single note that surrounds you in a bubble of olfactory heaven. I’m not exaggerating I promise. I could talk about it all day and if you haven’t tried it you should. You can read about it online or better still ask me and I’ll give you the full lowdown. There are 8 in the Molecule range and it won’t surprise you to know I have 6 of them!
And if it was easier to get hold of – Hien Le1 from the Berlin designer Mark Buxton would be on the list too.
And if someone was looking for the perfect gift for you?
Another 13 by Le Labo. I discovered it in Selfridges in Manchester… sprayed lots on my arm.. went to bed and when I woke up I absolutely LOVED it and didn’t want to shower!
Lesley is no stranger to fame. She once appeared in a book called Shoes and Shopping – and here’s the picture to prove it …