The Secret To Being Scentsational

Perfume is the invisible accessory you should never leave the house without. But the art of determining which spritz to wear when, where and with what is not easily mastered. Turning to a true nose for answers, we queried Venice-based botanical perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis of Strange Invisible Perfumes, which recently unveiled pristine new packaging and a remodeled boutique on Abbot Kinney, about her scent strategies.

A Q&A With Alexandra Balahoutis:

What is your personal favorite scent from the Strange Invisibles collection? “I shouldn’t play favorites, but I can’t help it. I adore Dimanche, and Peloponnesian for men.”

Do you have any tips for layering your scents? “I love to layer Black Rosette with Magazine Street. I also love lavender with darker, more sumptuous notes.”

Do you transition scents from day to night? Season to season? “I do. I have a perfume that I made especially for myself. I’ve been wearing it for about a year, but I wear Dimanche every Sunday and usually one or two more times during the week. I also douse myself in Prima Ballerina when I wake up, before I shower and get dressed. I love waking up to lime, sage and rose. I throw on a silk thing of some sort by Gregory Parkinson and spritz myself wildly before heading downstairs to get the French press going. I usually stick to the same scent for a while and then switch, but I always work others into the mix here and there.”

How do you go about applying perfume? “I begin misting at the wrist and go all the way up my arm across the décolleté, and down the other arm ending at the other wrist. Then I spray the fragrance three times into the air and walk through it. This only applies to botanical perfume. If you do this with your average scent containing some synthetics, it will be insanely overpowering. Botanical perfumes wear demurely.”

How often should one reapply their perfume throughout the day? “It truly depends on the fragrance. If it is rich in base notes and fixatives and seems to last a long time, then perhaps reapplying once or simply in the evening is enough. If the fragrance is more about top and middle notes, a floral for example, you may need to reapply it once every four hours or so. Synthetic fragrances usually hold their own lasting all day, but this is the same quality that makes them overwhelming to a lot of people. Botanical scents should be applied more generously and reapplied when desired.”

With Valentine’s Day coming up, is there a specific scent you recommend for the occasion or on a date night? Dimanche and Aquarian Rose are both excellent for Valentine’s Day. They are both perfectly romantic, modern scents.”

Tell us which scents you’d suggest for the following occasions: Office: “Musc Botanique.” Weekend Lunch: “Dimanche.” Girls Night Out: “The Rose with the Broken Neck.” (boutique only) Post-Workout: “Prima Ballerina.”

Lastly, what is your advice for finding your best personal scent? What is the ideal testing process when sampling a perfume? “You should be very grounded and in tune with your taste and senses when choosing a scent. Don’t think about anything other than what you love and what excites you. When sampling, always ask to begin with something you are likely to appreciate. If you start by smelling something you know you probably won’t like (a floral and you dislike floral fragrances for example), it may put you into a hypercritical mode right away. The most important thing to remember is this: If you have to think about it too much, you don’t like it enough. It should strike you quickly as being compelling and beautiful.”

Availability: Strange Invisible Perfumes ($265 and up). Visit their newly remodeled boutique at 1138 Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice, CA 90291.