Mary-Louise Parker on the Power and Pleasure in Finding a Signature Scent

I love perfume — the idea of it, the packaging of it, the sight of it on a dresser. I love how mysterious it can be.

“Very interesting,” murmurs Olivier Royère, the co-founder of Ex Nihilo, a perfume house in Paris. He is watching my 12-year-old daughter, Aberash, choose a scent from one of the crystal flacons he has offered her. An appointment with Olivier, complete with the customization of your own fragrance, feels like meeting with Willy Wonka to design your own chocolate bar. We’ve come to this glimmering jewel of a shop on rue Saint-Honoré for a special fragrance session. It’s a terribly fancy affair, so we made sure to wear our trenchcoats.

Olivier invites us to the corner of the boutique where eight snow-white domes await. They are the vases de senteurs from which you select your base scents without being plagued by what Olivier describes as “nasal fatigue.

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