Breeality Bites

I made my own signature fragrance and it smells like a tanning salon

Coco Chanel once said, "A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future."

I ensured my future when I married my perfume in 2008...literally. Since I had to spend a year jumping through the FBI's hoops to have my last name legally changed to Davies, I decided to add a second middle name. "Coco" is what I chose, after Coco Chanel, the creator of my favorite perfume of all time, Coco Mademoiselle. I figured, you get to pick all kinds of things -- clothes, careers -- that define you, so why not make my name exactly what I wanted?

See Also: - Breeality Bites: The two rules of thrift-store shopping - Review: Panic! At The Disco with Fun. at the Ogden Theatre, 6/28/11 - Photos: The art and people of the 2012 Cherry Creek Arts Festival

After hearing about Scented Studio, the create-your-own-perfume joint in Cherry Creek North, I was intrigued. This place was really going to let me, the amateur of amateurs, make my own scent? Knowing my taste in everything else in life (I like my clothes tacky and my men gay), this was going to be a disaster. But even so, I made an appointment for my own personal "Scent Journey" and packed my bags for the land of coconut and cake batter.

My relationship with perfume has been a long and dramatic one; I came of age in the era of the aerosol scent spray. It began with a can of Malibu Musk, followed by the never-ending quest to complete my collection of every Designer Imposters body spray made between 1989 and 1993. Then there was Exclamation! and Debbie Gibson's Electric Youth, which cost much more than the $2.99 cans of Primo! (a favorite Designer Imposters Giorgio knock-off.)

I stepped into the big leagues with Liz Claiborne's Realities, and eventually, when I was hired by a department store at the age of nineteen to sell make-up, my perfume hoarding went to the next level. (Disclaimer: If you received a makeover at the Clinique counter inside Foley's Cherry Creek from a teenage girl who looked like Gwen Stefani with braces between 1999 and 2001, my apologies. I received no formal training.) I was making money hand-over-lipstick-test-striped-fist, blowing my commission-inflated paychecks on Hypnotic Poison by Christian Dior, Elizabeth Arden's Green Tea, Lancome's Miracle and Hot Couture by Givenchy.

Then, while on a Jamaican cruise, I met Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle in the duty-free shop. Since that fateful clash of nose and bottle in 2000, I have never strayed. I cannot go anywhere -- not even the gym -- without her. I might even forget to brush my teeth in the morning, but I never, ever leave the house without Mademoiselle. And as I prepared for my appointment at Scented Studio, I had to remind myself not to put on any perfume. Scented Studio keeps the decor simple -- the place is clean and sparsely furnished. There are no images of presumed sexy people having almost-sex on the walls, no pictures of pretty flowers, busted celebutards or scrawny girls in futuristic situations in strategically placed advertisements, like most beauty product-hustling stores. Once you begin your "scent journey," you understand why: When we smell stuff, we aren't just using our noses. We're taking everything around us into account -- context is everything. (Which is why I had a hard time paying attention to Scented Studio's fragrance-making introduction video, because that awful song "We Are Young" by church campers Fun. was playing in the background.)

Scented Studio itself already smells -- which is inevitable, but mildly distracting. But the place does its best to keep you on task during your journey (which I recommend taking with a friend, because it's way more fun to watch someone else sniff the tiny paper strips with scents on them) with lots of helpful information. There are 23 scents to go through, so the experience is an intense one, but it's broken up with the old coffee bean-sniffing routine, a bottle of water and a few trips outside to cleanse your scent palette.

Still, being the owner of a nose that can smell a stranger's fishy breath coming down a hall before they enter a room, the journey was a hard one; after just five tangy sniffs, everything started to smell the same. It helped that there was a very nice couple, Brice and Leah, on this scent journey with me, who were there to help make scents for each other. (Can you imagine how many people would still be married if they were allowed to pick out what their partner smelled like? Brice and Leah were smart.)

As we smelled our test strips, we were encouraged to take notes on what we liked about each anonymous scent, but I just became overwhelmed and too worried that I would pick out something I hated later. Though these are blind smell tests, Scented Studio gives a little information about each, but keeps it to a minimum because staff knows how easily influenced we humans are by what we "think" we like.

Instead, Scented Studio goes by what it calls "the law of attraction," meaning: if you are attracted to a scent, it will probably smell good on you. For me, that meant I created the perfume equivalent of a socially overzealous teenage girl who smokes cigarettes behind the mall and works at a tanning salon. That scent is officially (because Scented Studio lets you name your own up-to-five-scents creation!) called Janet's Beach Party, and as anyone around me when I'm wearing it can attest, it does make me smell like said fictitious teenager.

For now, I'm going to stick to letting the pros handle my perfume-making. But if you want to create a custom fragrance -- or body butter, bath salt, diffuser, car scent, candle or any other number of items -- make a date for a scent journey at Scented Studio. Staffers will walk you through a one-on-one or group consultation on how to make your own unique perfume, and you can name it whatever you want. How cool is that?

Just be aware: Janet's Beach Party is already taken, so don't try to steal my scent.


KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies