Linda Wells Chats Fragrance


In anticipation of being the first-ever editor in chief inductee into the The Fragrance Foundation’s Hall of Fame at the organization’s Awards on June 12, Allure’s Linda Wells spoke with Cosmetic World to share some of her fondest fragrance memories, proudest editorial achievements and predictions for the industry in years to come.

Linda Wells
Linda Wells

Cosmetic World: What is your earliest fragrance memory? 
Linda Wells: From an early age, I was always super attuned to fragrance. My mother wore Balmain’s Jolie Madame when I was a little girl, and I remember her leaning in to kiss me goodnight and the scent just staying with me when she left.

As a young girl, I also loved my Tinkerbell fragrance set and, in school, I remember addictively sniffing the mimeograph paper whenever we’d have a test. My first “grown-up” fragrance was Love’s Fresh Lemon and then, later in my teens, Halston—in the Elsa Perretti bottle.

CW: How has fragrance coverage evolved at Allure in your eyes since its founding?
LW: In the beginning, it was a challenge to write about fragrance in a way that would at once excite and be easily comprehended by our readers. Fragrances are often spoken about in airy, vague and flamboyant language—which can be intimidating to people.

I’ve also found that American women don’t necessarily embrace fragrances in their lives the way that European women do. For us, fragrance is either used on special occasions or commoditized: we tend to miss the daily pleasure that it can provide.

CW: Are there any scent stories or initiatives over the years that you’ve been particularly proud of?
LW: Frédéric Malle writes a column for us called “The Fragrance Guy,” and his voice has brought such style to the magazine. He explores a specific theme and then deftly breaks it down.

In our “Smell This” feature, we ask people outside of the world of fragrance—sommeliers and florists, for example—to blindly test scents and react without knowing the packaging, branding or any background information.

One of my proudest editorial moments was a feature filed by Jhumpa Lahiri, who wrote all about her love of fragrance for us—and then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for her short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies.

CW: What are some of your favorite fragrances?
LW: Part of my job is to try new things all the time—meaning I don’t necessarily have a signature scent. That said, there are certain fragrances that I always go back to.

Reliable favorites include: Serge Lutens’ Fleurs D’Oranger and 1000 by Jean Patou—I love things that are complicated with rich notes like woods and amber. I also love Chanel’s 31 Rue Cambon, and there’s something totally powerful and bright and eye-opening about Dior’s Eau Sauvage. Estée Lauder White Linen is another lighter and more tranquil favorite.

CW: In what direction do you see the industry moving in years to come?
LW: The behavioral impact of fragrance has always fascinated me. I’d love to see fragrances used holistically on a larger scale to change people’s moods and influence their feelings—to reduce aggression on the subway, for instance, or to improve moods in a hostile setting.

When you walk into a spa and smell the eucalyptus and lavender, you feel like you’ve already had a treatment. That’s a powerful effect, and I’d be interested to see how it could be mined to reduce stress, manage pain and as a means of healing in the world.


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