I can vividly remember the first time I realized that my very sensitive nose was not just for sniffing out the good and avoiding the bad, but that it could provide me with momentary escape.
When we were working on our second season of Pardon My French, the video series, I remember stepping into the kitchen at the Parisian production house we were working in and instantly being transported to my Grandmother’s house. The scent of cigarettes and stale coffee hit me in a way that totally overwhelmed me and made me long for childhood. In the stress of fashion week and production chaos, I would sneak away to the kitchen anytime I felt overwhelmed to give myself a moment of pause, and of comfort, that only a grandmother can give.
What was even more powerful was that my cousin John was there with us—he was editing our videos at the time—and he had the same sensation, the same memory. The first time we walked into the kitchen together, we took a big inhale and looked at each other with wide eyes. Yes, we both had been instantly transported; scent was a sensation to be shared in the present, and in memory. What an incredible moment to share.
And a few months after returning from our first retreat in Morocco, I discovered a fragrance at Aesop while I was walking around London—Marrakech Intense—whose spiciness took me back to the Medina and the moon and the powerful bonds with women that were formed on that first trip, a trip that would be the beginning of what would come to define the way we work. I wear that fragrance every day as a reminder of why we do what we do.
Several years after my Paris experience, and with this powerful moment in my back pocket, I heeded my friend Caroline’s advice that she shared during the filming of our Calvin Klein Obsessed project. She and her husband Michael had created custom fragrances for each other to wear at their wedding. They both still have the fragrance and wear it on their anniversary. What a touching idea, and after my strong scent experience in Paris, I thought a brilliant idea to borrow for my own wedding.
So when Josh and I went to Florence to do our wedding planning in February of last year, we went to the Santa Maria Novella pharmacy and picked a scent for each other. We traveled back to Italy in September for our wedding, with our fragrances in tow, and wore them throughout our wedding weekend and our honeymoon. We promised to only wear them on special occasions and anniversaries, and just last week, after I came back from a trip to California where Josh and I were really missing each other, he planned a special evening and I instantly recognized the muskiness on him when I first walked in the door. It was intoxicating, and again I was transported, this time to the night of our Italian fairytale.
So in moments when I’m feeling like the day is too much, or I just need to get out of New York, or could use a proverbial hug from my grandmother, I seek out scents to take me back, to allow me to escape. Sometimes it’s a candle, other times it’s a blend of tea, but even more powerful than seeing something is triggering that memory we’ve made for ourselves, one that can be sparked by something as simple as a smell.