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Fragrance Wardrobe: Eric Buterbaugh on the Perfume People Stop Him on the Street About

eric buterbaugh

 Eric Buterbaugh

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’ve launched 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.

"Celebrity florist" sounds like the type of fanciful dream job that doesn't exist in real life, much like the person who names nail polishes or selects the scents that waft through the lobbies of your favorite hotels. Except it does exist (as do both of the latter), and Eric Buterbaugh is living proof. The famed floral designer has evolved his flourishing career designing grandiose arrangements for the likes of Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and even British royalty (he was the first American called upon to design the florals for Princess Beatrice's 18th birthday at Windsor Castle) to that of a perfume line creator. His namesake line, Eric Buterbaugh Los Angeles, is a carefully-curated and delightfully unexpected line of scents that reflect Buterbaugh's own obsession with flowers and fragrance, a passion he's held since he was a young boy growing up in rural Oklahoma. We catch up with the charming celebrity florist on the eve of his birthday and ask him about his rotating Fragrance Wardrobe.

The fragrance you remember most as a child:

"It may have been from my grandmother—Chanel No. 5—and through her, I liked it for myself too at some point. I felt like my grandmother was elegant and she was a lovely human being and she did things like set a beautiful table...she wasn’t even that fancy, she just carried herself really well.

I did a magnolia fragrance [for my line] recently. Where I grew up in Oklahoma, we had a magnolia tree in our backyard and my grandmother would always float magnolia sets on the dining room table—I’m sure there’s a connection there."

The first fragrance you bought for your fragrance wardrobe:

"I was addicted to fragrance, so I can’t even remember. My cabinet when I was a little boy had 60 bottles of Guerlain. There were a lot of Guerlain things I loved. When I was 8 or 10 years old, I was buying important perfumes and keeping them on my counters. It was always a part of my life and always a passion in my life. But there was one funny thing—when CK One launched, which was unisex, I loved it. I thought it was beautiful. My family and I travelled a lot growing up and they allowed me to pursue it. I also distinctly remember that Polo cologne in the green bottle. Going somewhere like Neiman Marcus to smell things and bring stuff home—that was exciting for me. It’s the same as everything—you smell things and all of a sudden you’re drawn to things and you don’t know why. "

 The fragrance you wore when you fell in love:

"I was attached a long time to Santa Maria Novella’s Melograno. That was a big one for me, always. I still love it. I can’t even remember where I came across it. But also it's something with that particular brand—I also had the bath salts and bath oil and soaps, so I was really able to dig in. [Laughs.] That fragrance reminds me of velvet. It feels like silk-velvet—not cotton velvet. I’ve just unpacked a jacket I’m wearing tonight, which is a dusty-pink silk velvet. I just brought it out of my suitcase and it feels so wonderful on your hand. I love pink. I love every shade of it. I love those dusty pinks a lot, but I also like powder pink, I love hot pink...I always have. I have noticed that more men are feeling more emboldened to wear it; I think it’s a very strong thing for a man to do. Pink as a note would be freesia. I don’t know why—it’s not pink, but it’s the first thing that popped in my head. I like to say what pops in my head first."

The fragrance in your carry-on:

"When I’m travelling, I wear my Apollo Hyacinth, which is from my line. I've loved it from the beginning, especially for travelling. It’s sharp, clean, a little powdery—it’s something that makes me happy and calm and I always have it with me. I keep some on the plane too. That kind of clean smell feels like daytime to me. You run around in it and it just makes you happy. It’s funny, I don’t know why, but I've always been drawn to certain fragrances that have a bit of a powdery smell. If you have a little touch of powderiness, I’ll like it."

Your "one with nature" fragrance:

"I spend a lot of time in Sun Valley. It’s just so nice there because you’re in nature so much. There’s a ranch there that has a river running through it. So it’s very interesting, all the smells there, between grasses and the water from the river that runs through the property. There are a lot of mossy smells too; I know a lot of fragrances can have a little bit of dirt and moss. My Apollo Hyacinth is made from the root as well as the flower, so you have a bit of that earthiness. Don’t let this fool you though—I’m not that big of a nature person! It’s a place for me to check out and cut off. When I am there, I’m in a blanket by the river and really when you do stuff like that, the smells of nature come to you."

Your power-suit fragrance:

"I think the most powerful fragrance, especially from my collection, would be the Fragile Violet. It’s by Alberto Morillas, who is such a genius and it’s such a complicated fragrance and it moves around so much. It’s really amazing the way it moves… the way it goes on is one thing and in 15 minutes it’s a completely different thing. In an hour it’s another thing, so it keeps you guessing, which is wonderful. I love juxtapositions on everything. And this fragrance is quite different on everyone who wears it. There’s something that’s exciting about that and makes it powerful. 

I think florals notes can be powerful, especially for men. It’s funny, my friend’s husband—he’s a bit of a manly-man and was resistant to wearing floral perfumes. When I first launched, we had a sultry rose fragrance and I gave a little sample spray bottle to him and said, 'Just try this and let me know how it goes.' I told him it was for market research. [Laughs.] And literally in three days he was back and bought several bottles. He goes, 'I didn’t know how exciting this was—people come up to me and compliment me, the woman washing my hair at the barbershop wanted to know what I was wearing!' And I think until you experience that as a man, you don't know how exciting it can be. I think sometimes it’s a challenge with these 'strong men,' but if you forge through, they eventually get the point. [Laughs.]"

Your birthday suit fragrance:

"I have a new fragrance—a Saffron Oud and I’m obsessed with it. I wear it during the day, during the night, whenever. The reaction from the people on the street is a big part of it; people stop me everywhere and I love it! I'm wearing it tonight for my birthday dinner—there was no big reason in choosing that. It’s just a little new and I like to wear something a little new. Also having a brand like this, it’s very fun to play with different things because everyone pays attention to what you have on and you can see how people react to things and that’s always fun. I’m the same way about clothes—if I’ve got something new, I’m dying to get it on. [Laughs.] I’m getting a lot of attention this year on my birthday so I’m having fun with it. And I’m excited to smell good."

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