L.A. Archetype: Perfume Spritzer

When it comes to her work, fragrance expert Loretta Owens likes to spray it, not say it

➻“I started out in cosmetology, but my real passion was fragrance. I’ve always had the knowledge and gift for blending notes.”

➻At 56, the Harlem-born Owens has worked at the beauty chain Sephora in the Westfield Century City mall for ten years. Besides helping customers find their ideal scent (she’s the one who mists those paper strips), Owens mixes existing brands into unique creations. She claims to know every perfume on the store’s shelves—more than 100—by nose.

➻“Let’s say you’re looking for Gucci Eau de Parfum II, which we don’t carry anymore. I remember the notes, and I have two fragrances I combine to smell exactly like it. We’re the composers of the cosmetics world.”

➻At $215,000 for 16.9 ounces, Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty is the most expensive scent in the world.

➻Every perfume consists of three notes: top, middle, and base. Top notes tend to be citrusy or clean (orange zest, lavender) and are the first to fade; middle, or “heart,” notes add body and skew spicy (cinnamon) or floral (rose); richer base notes (vanilla, musk, sandalwood) linger the longest.

➻“The first perfume I fell in love with was Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps. It was the big thing in the ’80s. I’d recognize that anywhere.”

➻Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first stars to design a signature scent. With more than $1 billion in sales, White Diamonds remains a best-selling celebrity fragrance.

➻“I listen to my clients and their concerns. Some have allergies, and others have a vendetta against vanilla.”

➻The Annette Green Fragrance Archive, a permanent installation at downtown’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum & Galleries, has a rotating collection of 500 perfume bottles. Green, the president emeritus of the Fragrance Foundation, donated the bottles in 2005.

➻“My number one tip: Never rub the perfume once it’s been sprayed. The friction will inhibit the top notes, and you won’t get the full effect. Always spray and let dry.”