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Helena Christensen Reveals Her Ultimate Aphrodisiac
A decade prior, Christensen was working an entirely different stage: Crowned Miss Denmark in 1986, the model went on to represent her home country at the Miss Universe contest before jetting off to Paris to climb the high-fashion ranks. After reaching the pinnacle, the model went on to open a store in Soho, collaborate on a lingerie line after years of posing for Victoria’s Secret, and embark on a career as a successful photographer. Her latest passion project, however, is fragrance. Serving as creative director for Strangelove NYC alongside company founder Elizabeth Gaynes and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, Christensen developed DeadofNight—a luxe perfume oil centered around exotic oud, an ingredient the model describes as the “truffle of the perfume world.” She said of experiencing it for the first time: “The scent was almost like a primal scream happening in your head. Anyone who’s smelled pure oud can probably attest to this.” In honor of Copenhagen Fashion Week’s kickoff today, we asked the woman who hails from this capital city about scent and how she’s seducing an entirely new set of fans.
I heard that there is a “right” way to apply fragrance. Can you tell me how it’s done?
It’s not for everyone—everyone applies their perfumes and oils differently—but part of creating this perfume-oil is learning how to apply it. We all sort of rub or dab [our wrists] together and you’re not actually supposed to be doing that. Just add it [to your pulse points] and leave it.
I’ve definitely been doing it all wrong. Why shouldn’t you rub?
In the process of rubbing it, you’re actually moving around the molecules and the scent becomes completely different. You can do it, but you’ll get a different scent than what was originally intended. If you apply and leave it so that the oil just rests on your skin and doesn’t get touched, you’ll basically get the original scent.
Who taught you to leave perfume undisturbed?
That’s what I learned from the perfumer we were working with, Christophe [Laudamiel]. It was one of those moments where you’re like, “Oh, so every single woman I know has been doing it wrong her entire life?” You know, you rub it behind your ears, you rub it on your wrists, you rub it everywhere, and you really make sure it gets in there! It doesn’t mean the scent is going to be any less beautiful, but to have the original scent, you just put it on and leave it.
Where do you apply fragrance?
Out of habit, still on my wrists, which I also learned is a fine enough spot to put it on. But there are other spots you can apply and actually have a bigger scent—meaning it actually lasts longer and smells deeper—like behind the ears or right above your chest. Putting it on your hand is something that I’ve been told to do because that’s where [the body’s] main pulse is. An oil kind of travels a little bit because it’s got that fluid quality, so whatever is left over on my hands or fingertips I’ll rub in my hair—that way I can sort of smell it around me all day long.
Why oil over a traditional eau de toilette or parfum?
I have always been a huge lover of perfumes, scents, oils—anything in that category. I think there’s something really personal about oil because it seems like a much more intimate way of applying [fragrance], because you’re not just spraying it and that’s it. You think about where you’re going to put it and where it “works” on you. It kind of builds up on you and reacts with your own scent and becomes very personal. It almost becomes a scent that’s [unique] to each individual. And the fact that oil doesn’t have any alcohol in it makes it feel more authentic. This oil has pure oud in it, which not a lot of perfumes do—most of them use synthetic.
Seeing as oud is a relatively new concept in the West, what should men and women expect when they wear it?
The first time that I smelled it, I found it to be a very unique scent: very earthy, musky, dark, and mysterious. It’s definitely not a scent that I had ever smelled before. It was potent, and at the same time, it had an after-scent that grows on you in a way that I’ve never [experienced]. I think it’s definitely for people who are adventurous and curious and want to try something different, and I feel that almost every personality reacts to it, but in a good way, which has been interesting…It’s probably the aphrodisiac [factor].
Since oud is an aphrodisiac, have you received any type of feedback that alludes to its power to attract?
A lot of cabdriver offers! [laughs] You really get a lot of reactions to it. I don’t know if it’s because of the aphrodisiac element or whether the scent is just very special, which I obviously think it is. It took almost four years to create it, and there are so many different notes in it. It really was a long process to get it completely right…I always tell my girlfriends—my single girlfriends: “If you want to go out and have a nice evening, put it all over and see what happens!”
Before you created your own fragrance, did you gravitate toward a certain perfume or scent?
I have a lot of fragrances that have sort of followed me throughout my life. Some of the latest ones that I’ve loved have been Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel, which is actually a men’s scent, but for some reason I’ve always been drawn to male scents—there’s something musky, dark, earthy, and spicy about them. I like old scents a lot, so Jolie Madame by Balmain…I have a lot of old bottles since I’ve been collecting perfume since I was a teenager. I have some beautiful scents, but some of them you do not want to open anymore! I actually love Narciso Rodriguez scents, and I always, always, always will be in love with Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel. There’s a Dior scent that I also love called Mitzah. I don’t even know if they produce it anymore [Editor’s note: They do], but Mitzah was the name of one of Christian Dior’s muses. I got my last bottle in San Francisco at a department store, and the lady who sold it to me told me the whole story of the muse, and those stories behind scents are so beautiful and interesting. And Jo Malone always makes beautiful scents. I could talk about fragrance for hours because there’s something just so extraordinary about scents in that when we smell something, it kind of transports us to some time in our life or some emotion that’s really strong. Whenever I smell something that has pine in it, I’m immediately taken back to my childhood, running around in my grandparents’ garden in the summer and playing with the neighbors’ farmhouse dog. The scent of pine brings it back and I'm so grateful when it happens because it’s one of those free, beautiful experiences in life.
What’s next for you?
We’re working on our second scent. The next one will be Melt My Heart, and it has iris bulbs, chocolate, and oud again.
Iris and chocolate is an interesting combo. How did you come up with that?
Obviously we have an amazing perfumer, Christophe Laudamiel, who inspires us and guides us, but I will just brainstorm and say, “These are all the scents I love!” And when your whole life [is surrounded by] scent, I think you have somewhat of an idea of what could be an interesting combination…I’ll sit down with Elizabeth [Gaynes] and be like, “I just passed a flower store and smelled a beautiful smell and I found out it was this flower. Let’s try to use that.” And everyone loves chocolate, so why not try to use the chocolate scent? When you look at all the perfumes that are out there, there are many great combinations, but when you add the oud, it becomes completely different.
I imagine with two aphrodisiacs—chocolate and the oud—it’s going to be quite sexy.
You’ll be on fire!
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