scent memories

Rachel Zoe Loves the Smell of Burnt Matches and Licorice

Rachel Zoe. Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Zoe Fragrance

Scientific studies confirm that, of all the senses, smell offers the best recall. In “Scent Memories,” the Cut asks people about the scents they associate with different times in their lives.

Next up is stylist and designer Rachel Zoe, who recently launched her first-ever fragrance collection. A wardrobe of four distinct scents, Warrior (tuberose musk), Empowered (sweet vanilla woods), Instinct (bergamot musk), and Fearless (cedarwood rose with coconut), the collection is intended to help you get dressed depending on your mood. The Cut caught up with Zoe to talk fire places, french toast, and where to find the best mosquito repellent.

My first scent memory is: Definitely this great, smoky, cedar, fireplace-y, cold weather, snow smell. I grew up skiing from a very young age, in very cold, snowy places like Colorado, and there would always be fireplaces burning. That smoky, warm fireplace smell is what made me realize there was a strong association between scent and an experience — that smell was really something that can transport you. It’s funny, I was just skiing, and every time I go, it’s that specific scent that still brings me back to growing up, being in the snow, and skiing with my family.

Happiness smells like: That smell of my kids. It’s that fresh smell from when they’re babies, and they’re still little enough where they just smell so fresh and pure. It’s that smell of pure happiness and innocence.

Love smells like: Being up in the air, flying. Flying over places like the Colorado mountains or the Grand Canyon, uncorrupt and untouched nature. When you look out, and you see forever. You see sky, you see ocean, you see sunsets, and you get that full feeling of utter love and contentment, because you see the most beauty in the world. There’s something so extraordinary about that. It’s overwhelming.

Heartbreak or loss smells like: Stale, sunken, complete darkness, with no light. I know this sounds so crazy, but it probably smells like whatever those environments in a lot of U2 videos smell like.

Friendship smells like: Fresh air and brunch. It smells sweet, almost like French toast, and really, really rich at the same time, like a nice glass of wine. It smells like things you catch up over.

Regret smells like: The inside of a volcano. It smells like lava. You want to get out, and you want make it stop, but you can’t. I’ve had regrets, and it kind of makes you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand or trapped in lava.

Success smells like: Diamonds, if they had a smell.

The worst smell is: I have to tell you, I have the most sensitive sense of hearing, and the most sensitive sense of smell, so I smell things people don’t even smell. When I was pregnant, it was extra bad. One of them would certainly be fertilizer, and I really hate the smell of gasoline.

My ideal vacation smells like: An amazing tropical oil, with coconut or sandalwood. It smells like being at St. Barts and just rubbing everything they have on the island all over yourself. Even their mosquito repellent smells amazing—just natural oils that repels the mosquitos.

My home smells like: A lot of really earthy smells — cedar, tuberose, a little sandalwood, a little musk. I have different candles, and different oils, and different things around the house that mix with some flowers that always permeate from outside — fresh garden roses, gardenia, bougainvillea, and jasmine, things like that. It all combines, and whenever I walk in, I know it’s home.

The first thing I smell in the morning: My children. Literally. And like I said, thankfully, they still smell fresh and innocent and pure and delicious. If you ask any mom, it’s that fresh baby smell, it’s like the purest form of life. They just smell good. They just do.

The last thing I smell before I go to bed: A chamomile mint tea, which is very fragrant. I also use a lot of clean products on my face. I put on a lot of serums that have essential oils, and that’s always the most calming thing to go to sleep with. It gives you that spa feeling before bed. I like eucalyptus, which is very calming and nice to breathe in. Hugh & Grace is one of my favorites. It’s completely clean, and their night serum and their oil are just amazing. I use them on myself and on my kids. I love to use products that I can use on both of us because they’re that clean.

A scent or smell I love that others usually don’t: I love the smell of black licorice and fennel, that anise seed. I think it works for you or against you. Whenever I say how much I love it, people are like ugggh … I also love the smell of basil, but I don’t know if that’s one people are repulsed by. I love a burnt match; the smell right after you blow it out. Once you realize the house isn’t burning down, and you’re like, Wait, ok, everything’s fine. I love that smell.

I smell like: People always tell me that I have a scent, and I’m like, what does that mean? “You smell like Rachel.” What does that mean? I would say that I always smell fresh. I never want to smell too fragrant. I like a bit of a powdery feeling, and I’m usually wearing notes of tuberose, musk, and gardenia; earthy meets floral, not too girly. I like a mild clean scent though, where people will say hello to you, and they’re like, “Oh, you smell good.” Not like, they’re way over there and they say you smell good, you know what I mean? They have to get close.

Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Zoe Fragrance
Rachel Zoe Loves the Smell of Burnt Matches and Licorice