With the arrival of spring comes a host of new scents roused from hibernation: fleshy magnolia petals, smoky outdoor cookouts, wet sidewalk pavement, and the like. But scent—that most ravishing and primal of memory triggers—can often be so complex and ephemeral as to elude description. Not so for these eight perfume heads, a combination of artists and writers, whose reverence for scents—and the feelings, memories, and past lives they conjure—is unparalleled. Before the aromas of spring give way to summer’s trademark notes of subway fumes and hot garbage, some of CULTURED’s favorite noses, including Diamond Stingily, Kayode Ojo, and Anicka Yi, tell us what they’re wearing this season.
Jane Aldridge is best known for her pioneering fashion blog Sea of Shoes, but the writer and artist is a self-professed fragraphile. Her instinct for scent inspired her to create Fragraphilia, an online destination for fragrance fans.
“The fragrance I am most excited to be wearing for spring is Neroli Oranger by Matiere Premiere. Nothing smells as happy and optimistic to me as orange blossom, and the way it’s used in Neroli Oranger feels super dimensional and fresh. Warm humid weather seems to make this scent perform even better, so it’s been my number one wear lately.”
As one half of Ficus Interfaith, a sculptural collaboration alongside Raphael Martinez Cohen, Ryan Bush makes sculptural terrazzo pieces that bridge novelty and functionality. But the pair’s first project was a series of ambitious potpourris, an early indicator of Bush’s reverence for smells of all kinds.
“I wish I could live inside this scent. Equal parts comforting and sexy, Central Park Track Club by Joya Studio has a primal, aching quality that feels like a kiss of wet, earthy love. A wet rumble of soil slides into petrichor with a hint of jasmine before floating away into a glorious blend of lavender, oakmoss, smoky incense, and cedar. This scent is perfect for spring in what E.E. Cummings describes as a ‘mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful' kind of way!"
Kayode Ojo's sculptures transform everyday items into eerie scenes, using high end garments and objects to conjure memories and anecdotes. Often, fragrance plays a role in his work.
“I can't really get into the international will-they-or-won't-they situationship that played out en plein air in my 20s. The person who trapped me with this fragrance just had a baby and is probably ready to move on. That’s a fun story for later. xx”
The New York-based poet and multidisciplinary artist has lived many lives. Her latest perfume obsession is helping her recall some of her past ones.
"My scent of choice at the moment is Reptile by Celine. For a while, I wore Leather Petals by Régime des Fleurs and before that, Musc Ravageur by Maurice Roucel. Occasionally I will wear Mixed Emotions by Byredo. I have a tendency to mix scents as well. I think if a person smells 'good' it overrides whether or not their outfit looks 'good.' It can elevate a look. It's the most personal accessory someone can wear. Reptile makes me feel like the 12-foot male alligator I know I used to be."
Alex Jovanovich is a Bronx-based artist and critic. His work has been exhibited across the U.S. and abroad and has been included in major surveys including the Whitney Biennial. He is the reviews editor at Artforum.
“Cierge de Lune, just one of the many exquisite house elixirs from the renowned New York boutique Aedes (fka Aedes de Venustas), is a scent of sweet vampiric beauty—an antidote to all the treacly, dull-witted takes on vanilla that seem to pollute the air every fucking spring. Designed by perfumer Fabrice Pellegrin, Cierge makes me feel like a heady amalgam of Natasha Fatale and Jeanne d’Arc—it enables the kind of psychic armoring this fat, sick, and angry gay man needs in order to face the ongoing horrors of our brave new world.”
As a conceptual artist, Anicka Yi is dedicated to sensory stimulation. By focusing on touch, perishability, and pungent scent, Yi’s installations bridge the realms of fragrance, cuisine, and laboratory science.
“Each time I catch the aroma of Hakudo Rain by Aoiro, I find myself nestled somewhere between a wooded hillside and a bubbling bog just after rainfall. Moss-laden rock, fertile soil under layers of leaves broken down by time, scorched wood bathed by spontaneous rivulets—I am transported to the deep comforts of a hidden, subterranean refuge.”
Alana Johnson is a Los Angeles-based writer and scent connoisseur. This spring, she's thinking of classic florals and a light touch.
“The fragrance I'm most excited about wearing this spring is Lilac Dream by the genius Marissa Zappas. It's a heavenly scent with the perfect balance of delicate lilac petals, fresh wet leaves, and a touch of vanilla. It makes me want to take a leisurely stroll in a dewy garden draped in soft, sun-dried linens.”
Maxwell Williams is a perfumer, olfactory artist, researcher, DJ/producer, and writer based in Los Angeles. Their work puts scent in conversation with sculpture, photography, and performance to explore subjects ranging from heartbreak to global trade routes. Their genderless perfume brand, UFO Parfums, is inspired by rave culture.
“Hana Matsuri by Di Ser. Not just [because of its feeling of] gently falling cherry blossoms blanketing the ground, but [also its] feeling of freedom, of spring break. [It smells like] flossy needles of pine, [being] drunk on sparkling sake, garlands of apricot-tinged jasmine grandiflorum in a wreath around the head—each tiny flower stuck in on its own, bloody with the expression of nectar. [Together] the green moss and vetiver is a dulcet memory overlaid like calfskin vellum on an atmospheric river of soaked springtime evenings, an accouchement of leathery, vivid violet leaf and the twinkliest peppercorn.”