Scent Selector: Gemma Watts
There’s something refreshingly frank about Gemma Watts. Aside from the fact that the girl looks like she kidnapped a few cherubs and sucked the lifeblood out of them (those lips…), the Melbourne-based beauty blogger, content producer and presenter is developing a reputation for having some serious substance behind her style. This is a woman who started a spreadsheet of her favourite fragrance notes for heaven’s sake. Her love of scent is certainly sincere, and I’m thrilled to share this Q&A with her.
(image: Gemma Watts)
Do you have any scent memories from you childhood, weird or wonderful?
Hairspray. Specifically Cedel in the pink can. I danced for 18 years and every time I smell Cedel hairspray I feel like it’s a hot November night at the Karralyka in Ringwood.
A favourite smell from outside perfumery? I believe the kids call it IRL?
This will sound a bit wanky but I love the smell just after it’s stopped raining. So I guess the scent is… water? Grass? Mud? (Ed: That would be petrichor, Ms Watts!)
And what attracts you to a fragrance, the notes, the story/sell, brand?
Definitely the notes. I definitely have brands that I gravitate towards but for me it’s all notes- I know what I like and I know what sits well on my skin. When I was first getting into fragrance I actually made an Excel spreadsheet of my favourite perfumes and listed all the notes to see the patterns- I could not be more of a Type A personality if I tried.
Favourite fragrance note? And one you can’t stand?
Favourite it vetiver but others that are in the vast majority of my most-worn perfumes are musk, bergamot, cedar, vanilla, amber and patchouli. Love tobacco too.
I don’t think there’s really a specific note I can’t stand, but fruits and florals just don’t sit well on me (citruses and white florals excepted). YSL Baby Doll was my first “real” perfume (after graduating from Stitch fragrances) and I don’t think I’d be able to stomach it now. My next grown up fragrance was Thierry Mugler Angel- same deal there, too sweet for me now. Probably says something about my personality too.
The biggest trend in perfume at the moment?
I feel like there’s a growing mainstream interest in niche perfumeries, which is nice to see and I think it may have a bit to do with the Mecca effect (honestly no bias now), particularly how they introduce new and relatively unknown companies via their Trove stores.
And one you wish would quietly die?
Maybe an unpopular opinion, but celebrity scents- not because they don’t smell nice (some of them do!), but I hate the idea of anyone putting their name to something they weren’t 100% involved in. I highly doubt the One Direction boys sat around a table deciding on notes together.
A bit of a curly question – how do you feel about the way the fragrance industry (and the beauty biz in general) represents women? Should or shouldn’t look or smell pretty to be successful? Do you think much about how your ‘look’ represents you to the big wide world that apparently exists outside Instagram?
I have a LOT of feelings about being taken seriously and looking a certain way. I’m a 25 year old woman who’s been running her business solo for 18 months, and while I’m lucky now that every single client I work with takes me seriously and understands that I know my shit, I’ve worked for clients before who thought I was a kid doing this for shits and gigs. Whether or not that was based on my approach to beauty, who knows, but I can say confidently that it had nothing to do with my work ethic. I’ll leave that one there for now. (Ed: standing ovation!)
What’s the scent you would wear on a Saturday night? How would you describe the feeling of wearing it?
The sexiest scent I own is Tom Ford Black Orchid. It’s mainstream, people know it but my GOD I feel sexy when I wear it.
I talked at length yesterday about niche fragrances and now I want to talk about a classic, long-time firm favourite- Tom Ford Black Orchid. It's spicy, earthy and a bit balsamic with notes of truffle, patchouli, incense, musk, amber, vetiver (my favourite) and hints of dark chocolate and vanilla. It's sexy in a bottle. Good for Valentine's Day regardless of who or what your plans are. @tomford #TFGifts #sp
And ditto for a job interview?
Le Labo Thé Noir 29. I get asked about this more than any other fragrance when I wear it, so for me that makes it memorable. I know fragrant choices shouldn’t be made based on other’s reactions, but for a job interview you want to stick in their mind. Scent is our sense linked most closely to memory, after all.
Maybe Ellis Brooklyn Myth? It’s more feminine than a lot of what I’d ordinarily wear, and I don’t know that a wedding is the best place for me to whip out my heady spices/musks/tobaccos. I’d hate to draw focus, you know 😉
And what about on a dude?
I love Le Labo’s more unisex scents on men, but the most basic of all men’s fragrances gets me every time without fail- Acqua Di Gio. Every time.
Favourite new release fragrance and why?
Gilot by IIUVO. I’ve never smelt anything quite like it (which as I write that sounds a bit silly- fragrances should never smell alike).
Favourite classic scent, and why?
Hard to define “classic,” but my first “proper” fragrance as an 18 year old was Narciso Rodriguez For Her and I still love it. The original YSL Paris always reminds me of my mum- she doesn’t wear it so much any more but she wore it all the time when I was younger and when I went on exchange to France in high school and felt home sick, I went straight to a YSL counter and grabbed a sample. I immediately felt like I was home again.
(Image: Gemma Watts)
And finally, what do you love most about fragrance?
I love that even more so than makeup or an outfit, fragrances can become a part of your personality. For me, fragrances are less dictated by trends and more by a feeling.
You can bask in Gemma’s glow over at her appropriately named Glow Journal.