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Gone are the days of having one bottle on your vanity, one scent to define you for a lifetime. We are, after all, in a fragrance renaissance: today’s scent seeker, faced with a plethora of choices, is trading in the rigid notion of a signature scent for a more adaptive fragrance wardrobe. Having access to a collection of perfumes gives us the chance to scent facets of our lives, highlighting different moods, occasions and personality traits. Fragrance can be an important element of our sense of style and creative expression, one that’s just as impactful as the clothing we wear or the way we carry ourselves.

Intrigued, but not sure where to begin when it comes to building your own collection? Here are some tips for wading through the ever-expanding fragrance market and finding what suits you.

First, consider the weather. Much like a woollen knit befits a crisp autumn day, each perfume has a perfect seasonal pairing. Hot temperatures go well with light, airy scents: think bright citruses, delicate florals, fluffy musks. (If that sounds right up your alley, consider sampling Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Aqua Universalis.) As it gets colder out, you might catch yourself seeking warmth and weight in your fragrances, which can be found in spices, woods and resins. (One standout in this category is Sycamore from Les Exclusifs de CHANEL.)

Fragrance notes aside, you might want to look at concentration — as in, the ratio of fragrance oils to alcohol in a perfume — which has an impact on a scent’s longevity as well as its projection. Concentration is the difference between an eau de toilette (often around 5–15% aromatic compounds), an eau de parfum (15–25%) and an extrait de parfum (25%+). Generally speaking, the lighter the concentration, the easier a fragrance is to wear in hot weather.

Another factor is the context in which you’ll be wearing the fragrance. Professional settings call for pleated slacks, dressier shoes and subtle, discreet fragrances. Depending on where you work, you might want to opt for a quiet and intimate scent — something that doesn’t balloon in an elevator. (The Jo Malone fragrance collection is a great starting point for this scent brief; try the Wood Sage & Sea Salt.) In personal spaces, you have the flexibility of reaching for fragrances with more heft and projection, scents that announce your arrival and make your presence known. (Armani Code scents, for women and for men, are cult classics.)

Looking internally is just as important: what aspects of your personality do you want to emphasise with a scent? What mood do you want to create for yourself? Perfume’s ability to transport us elsewhere is its superpower, and we’d be remiss to not harness it. Maybe the desired effect is light and breezy, like the most effortless version of yourself. (One shortcut to vacation mode: Acqua di Parma Fico di Amalfi.) Or maybe the ideal perfume should have the same emotional power and confidence boost as wearing your favourite leather jacket. (In which case, consider Acqua di Parma Leather.) Whatever it is, reality is yours to design — and scent is an incredible tool to keep in your arsenal.

Finally, a note on subjectivity: unlike how we think about sight and sound, there’s nothing objective about smells. Taste is unpredictable, as is how a perfume reacts to each individual’s skin chemistry. So sample liberally, and trust your gut. Nothing in perfume is a hard or fast rule. The beauty of fragrance, after all, is in the nose of the beholder — wear what brings you joy!

Tracy Wan is a fragrance expert and educator who studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery