HOW TO PLAY FRAGRANCE MAD SCIENTIST

Cocktail your perfumes like you're Sarah Jessica Parker (no, really!)
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Liza Herz
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Cocktail your perfumes like you're Sarah Jessica Parker (no, really!)
Stash SJP oil; Bonne Bell Skin Musk; Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon; Egyptian Musk Oil

Stash SJP oil; Bonne Bell Skin Musk; Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon; Egyptian Musk oil

Most of us have read all kinds of stuff about skincare cocktailing, but what about mixing fragrances to get a custom scent? Won’t anyone recognize the daring and the genius that is perfume cocktailing?

For example, did you know that Sarah Jessica Parker is a fragrance mad scientist? Her story of perfume success begins with her own custom blend and takes us to her brand new genderless perfume, Stash.

a dirty and sexy beginning

When creating her very first celebrity fragrance for Coty, Parker was inspired by the “dirty, really sexy” scent that she herself wore – a mix of three perfumes, one of which is a relatively inexpensive drugstore find.

But Catherine Walsh, then Coty’s Vice President of Marketing, nixed dirty and sexy for Parker's first kick at the can, telling her: “You need to think about whether you can sell this to women. The market very well might not follow you there yet.” 

Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker

Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker

So they played it safe and in 2005 released Lovely, which was actually a pretty high point in the celeb stink game. Ok, maybe it resembled Narciso Rodriguez for Her a bit too closely, but it was floral, feminine and ethereal without being lightweight. It also sold really, really well.

Still, the fragrance geek in SJP yearned to break free: "If I get the opportunity, my next scent will be genderless. Fuller. Riskier," she told the New York Times’ Chandler Burr.*

Parker did more fragrances for Coty: Covet, a really interesting fougère (herbaceous floral) that vanished pretty quickly; some forgettable florals; and SJP NYC, a cheapie in a red plastic tube that smelled like you had just snorted strawberry Pixi Stix. Nothing dirty or risky there.

sjp stash eau de parfum

Stash SJP Sarah Jessica Parker

Sarah Jessica Parker in her campaign photo for Stash SJP

Fast forward 11 years and Parker is no longer with Coty. However she's reunited with her original Lovely perfumers, Clement Gavarry and Laurent le Guernec, finally to conceive her genderless baby. It’s called Stash and is available only at Ulta and at sjpbeauty as an eau de parfum and an oil that’s meant for both hair and skin. 

Plush with cedar, patchouli, vetiver and musk, Stash strikes a casually luxurious vibe, which makes sense because when she’s not co-chairing the Met Ball or doing Vogue shoots, Parker says she’s usually in a grey sweatshirt and jeans. (Stars – they’re just like us!)

Stash SJP eau de parfum

Stash SJP eau de parfum

To her, Stash is “old and sexy, like a sweater from a guy who was on the Eurorail too long or something.”

The new eau de perfume actually does not smell sweaty. For one thing, there’s no cumin, the "sweat" note in fragrance (used to great stinky effect in Alexander McQueen’s first fragrance, the spectacular bomb Kingdom), so it’s not polarizing or overtly masculine, and definitely not second-day-unwashed train dude. It’s still sexy – more like a man who is rumpled, but has bathed within the last 24 hours.

playing fragrance mad scientist

But back to SJP's original inspiration. We wanted to smell the blend of scents the star wore back when she started her celebrity-fragrance journey, so we gathered the component parts ourselves (thank you Amazon.com) and applied a drop of each to skin.

Parker's blend, according to Chandler Burr, is the high-end Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon, the low-end drugstore staple Bonne Bell Skin Musk, and a final quirky, unique, hard-to-replicate Egyptian Musk perfume oil bought from a New York City street vendor.

Bonne Bell Skin Musk perfume oil, Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon, Egyptian Musk perfume oil

Bonne Bell Skin Musk perfume oil, Comme des Garçons Incense Avignon, Egyptian Musk perfume oil

It’s an impressive mix. Skin Musk’s almost bug-juice-intense citrusy floral notes brighten the hard-core French cathedral smoke of Incense Avignon, while Eyptian musk wraps the whole thing in a clean, comforting blankie. And because the concoction has a musk base, it becomes a part of your skin, as opposed to just something that you wear. Maybe not suitable for the gym, but its chameleon churchy-to-sexy scent makes it a day-or-night fragrance.

SJP's do-it-yourself blend is a little more aggressive (and pricey) than Stash, but Stash still creates that genderless, lush aura. And it begs to be worn with just rolled out of bed hair and a grey sweatshirt. Win win.

Fun fact: on Janine's skin, Parker's three-scent mix flattens out to nothing special, but Stash SJP becomes more complex, bright notes cushioned in warm, smoky incense.

Stash SJP perfume oil

Stash SJP perfume oil

Even if you're not a super fan of Parker's personal scent mix, you can should copy her perfume-Frankenstein structure: one part high end fragrance, one part low (drugstore!), and one unexpected, quirky addition.

This recipe also works when you're standing in front of your closet in the morning – it's a failsafe way to prevent looking like a basic, or someone who buys the whole outfit straight off the mannequin: one designer piece, one fast fashion item and something thrifted or inherited from grandma. 

Are you a fragrance cocktailer? Care to share your secret mix?

*(Burr's NYT piece became part of a larger book on perfume creation. Worth reading.)

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