Life Style

Fragrance Wardrobe: Phillip Picardi on What Power and Sexuality Smell Like

Your perfume isn’t just how you smell—it’s how you feel when you get dressed in the morning, for a night out, for a boardroom meeting. It’s just as much of an accessory to how you present yourself to the world as your clothing (and let’s not forget its close ties to memory and emotion). With that in mind, we’re launching Fragrance Wardrobe, a new scent series in collaboration with The Fragrance Foundation that highlights the rotating perfume “wardrobes” of our favorite tastemakers through key points in their life. Get to know them better via the scents they choose to wear.

Where Phillip Picardi goes, change follows. Impressive resume aside—digital editorial director at Teen Vogue, founding editor of Condé Nast’s Them, editor-in-chief at Out—it’s the immense change that he’s brought on in each of these roles that’s set him apart from his predecessors. He’s a champion for challenging outdated notions of gender, masculinity, and even youth—he was, after all, one of the first to venture that teens could care as much about their next president and social justice as they did about clothes and makeup, and that the LGBTQ voices deserved their own platform that was nuanced, thoughtful and beautiful. The fact that both of these things are now widely accepted is a true testament to the Picardi effect.

Not to detract from his vast accomplishments, but can we also acknowledge the fact that he happens to smell really, really good while spurring media change? Those who know Picardi knows that he always smells of something intoxicating, which isn’t surprising, given his beauty background and current role as grooming contributor for GQ. So, what fragrance does Picardi wear when he wants to feel powerful? What scent did he fall in love to? What scent would he never wear again? Ahead, Picardi shares his Fragrance Wardrobe.

The fragrance you remember most as a child:

“I distinctly remember the smell of garlic sizzling in olive oil on a frying pan—to me, that’s the scent of home. My family is Italian-American, and cooking was such an important part of our daily rituals. When the garlic hit that oil, you knew it was ON! That combination is truly the beginning of so many lovely, comforting dishes.

Other than that, my mother is a big beauty buff, and I credit her with my interest in all things cosmetics and even my pursuit of being a beauty editor earlier on in my career. She loved the Trish McEvoy No. 9 Blackberry and Vanilla Musk fragrance. Because she wore it so often, it just became a part of her signature.”

The first fragrance you bought for your fragrance wardrobe:

“The first fragrance I wore was Curve for Men by Liz Claiborne, and that’s because my older brother had two bottles, so he let me take one from his bathroom. When I look back at that era of scents—Fierce by Abercrombie, Joop for Men, Polo Black, Obsession by Calvin Klein—I truly realize how one dimensional this view of masculinity was. Curve was nothing like my flamboyant personality, and it certainly had no notes in it that I would eventually come to identify as things I love. It was just what I thought I should love!”

The fragrance you wore when you fell in love:

“I worked for Frédéric Malle when I was a freshman at NYU, and had to learn the ins and outs of his entire perfume collection. Musc Ravageur really enchanted me—both because of its beautiful vanilla-clove-cinnamon-musk notes, and because the incredibly chic French woman who trained me told me she sprayed it whenever she wanted to be more seductive. I followed Helene’s lead by making it my go-to for any date nights, so that smell mixed with my leather jacket definitely reminds me of the fragrant courage I used to muster before meeting a gentleman. I was wearing it with a cashmere sweater (I love the way nice fragrances blend with cashmere!) when I met my now-fiancé.”

The fragrance in your carry-on:

“I have two! My fiancé and I went on a trip to Tulum and Quintana Roo, and we were told to do lunch at a boutique hotel called Coqui Coqui. After we had a delicious lunch, I went through their collection of scents and discovered Rosas Frescas. I think rose can sometimes get a reputation of being mature or powdery, which is funny, because roses can often feel quite cool and brisk and fruity! This one really captures that clean element of the flower. My fiancé steals it from me, and I must say, it smells so gentlemanly and sexy on him! We get compliments every time we wear it.

My other is a candle. The makeup artist Troy Surratt once told me that the Dior store on Avenue Montaigne in Paris sells a limited edition candle called “Muguet,” or lily of the valley. This bloom was Monsieur Dior’s favorite flower, so he took it very seriously—and that’s why this candle is so special. It truly smells like you’ve walked into a greenhouse after it’s been lit for a few hours. Plus, the store usually updates the glass or design of the votive each year, so I usually don’t know how they’ll look until I get home. They are delightful objets and keepsakes that remind me of some of my favorite travel times with friends during Paris collections. (You can also wear the personal version of this fragrance. It’s called Diorissimo! Shop it online as it’s hard to hunt down in store.)

Your “goes with everything” fragrance:

“This really rotates for me, based on season and also based on moods, of course. Right now I’m wearing a beautiful Acqua di Parma scent called Osmanthus, which is floral and very sophisticated. Generally, I’ll wear that if I’ll be around people or at an event. Otherwise, I’ve been drawn to Frédéric Malle’s Bigarade Concentree (if the weather is warm), which smells like cedar and zesty orange peel. If it’s cool outside, I love L’Eau d’Hiver by him, as well. I don’t know how it smells, other than like your best friend wearing a big sweater and giving you a much-needed hug.”

Your power-suit fragrance:

“For me, power and sexuality are all one in the same. When I knew I’d be up for a difficult boardroom meeting or if I know I’ll want to turn heads, I still choose Musc Ravageur. If it isn’t broke…don’t fix it!”

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