Perfume: Articles of Interest #9

The world of high-end perfume is surprisingly lucrative, considering that scent is often the most ignored of our senses. But one can’t judge a scent solely by the brand and shape of the bottle. With the right amount of attention, perfume can be a key to a whole olfactory world.

Photography by Austin Hobart


Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.

This second season of Articles of Interest features six interlocking episodes examining luxury and our collectively held ideas of glamour across the United States, from Chicago to Canal Street. Think of it like a podcast concept album, with recurring themes and threads that examine the ways we signal success and authenticity in America.

Articles of Interest was written and performed by Avery Trufelman, who spoke with Rachel Syme, Miranda Gordon & Gino Percantino from Mane, Barbara Herman from Eris Parfums, Suzanne McCormick from Method Products, Pamela Dalton from Monell Chemical Senses Center and Antonia Kohl, founder of Tigerlily Perfumery, for this episode. This season was edited by Chris Berube, scored by Rhae Royal and fact-checked by Tom Colligan; mix and tech production by Sharif Youssef with additional mixing by Rae Mondo; opening and closing songs by Sasami; photography by Austin Hobart and graphic design by Helen Tseng.

Special thanks to natural perfume maestro Mandy Aftel, perfume critic Chandler Burr, bottle designer Chad Lavigne, as well as Dana Bruno and Bibi Praval at Mane. Thanks as well as the whole 99pi team for support, insights, and edits, including Joe Rosenberg, Emmett FitzGerald, Vivian Le, Sean Real, Lasha Madan, Kurt Kohlstedt, Delaney Hall, and Katie Mingle. And Roman Mars is the fresh and clean scent of this whole series.

  1. iamthelab

    Curious what role the growing essential oils market has played in the personal perfume industry?

  2. For me, the scent of perfume has the same relationship to emotion as music. Eduard Hanslick, the 19th-century music critic, opined that music does not elicit emotions, but _memories_ of emotion. When I hear Beatles Abbey Road, I remember my relationship with Deborah A (I have other examples), and when I smell Lilies of the Valley (popular back in the 60s when I was in high school), I think of my crush on Linda H. Fortunately, all good memories.

    Thank you, Avery, for the sweet aroma of another season of AOI.

  3. Mish

    Very interesting! Loved this episode.
    I am a foreigner living in Japan and I realized how fragrance is cultural when I wanted to buy toiletries but they all have strange smells to me. Dove soap is a brand here too, looks the same, but quite different in its smell. 15 years and I still can’t get used to it… I bring them back with me from visits…
    also, in Japan, and perhaps China, they had interesting incense games where people smelled 3 incense burners one after the other and then had to guess if they were all different, all the same, or some the same and others not. I’ve tried it- you’d think you’d be able to tell…. but no. So hard!

  4. Gnosmic

    Wondering what fragrance you were describing at the end. My guess is Santa Maria Novella “Nostalgia.” If I’m wrong, what is it? Inquiring fume-nerds want to know!

  5. Paul

    The story kept my mind thinking back to reading Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume. Thanks.

  6. Lou

    Ages ago, I was an in-house graphic designer for a fragrance company (who will remain nameless). I was also not into the fragrance world but I went through fragrance training as part of the job, the world was in a recession so I had to play ball, and oh the things that I learned about the industry! Some of those thing can not be discussed on this feed but I have to say this really took me back!

    I’m loving all of this content. Thank you!

  7. Sue Harris

    I am someone who is extremely sensitive to scents and odors. People who wear a cloud of perfume that lingers in the air cause me to cough, and immediately get a stuffy nose–sometimes it burns my eyes. I am loving working at home because a man in my office (a large open space) wears a very strong scent and I end up miserable all day. Every time he walks through the office it stirs it all up again and I can’t take it. I smell it first thing I walk in and throughout the day.

    I used to love subtle scents, and I will now and then wear a light scent, but those heavy scents like Poison, or the scents that are pumped into the air at places like Abercrombie are too much.

    I also have a very hard time with fabric softeners–the booster products make the smells so strong that I don not know how anyone can use them. I have switched to so called unscented products because I literally can not sleep well in bed linens that are heavily scented. So to those who work to mask scents I send a huge thank you, maybe it is still a scent, but it is not an overbearing one.

  8. Melissa M

    Wonderful podcast! I too am not impressed by perfumes that are mass marketed and that tend to fill the room. Happy to see the name Gino Percantino, who has done some remarkable work for Phlur. His niche fragrances (Sandara, Añoranza) are balanced, well-structured, and highly unique, without being strange/off-putting.

  9. MarkS-A

    Where did the idea that “people didn’t bathe back then” come from – wasn’t there a bowl and towel in the bedroom, with a matching jug of water? I think it’s dangerous to assume that without synthetic fragrances and cleansers people will smell bad. I think you should do an episode on deodorants and bust a bunch of ‘scent’ myths.

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