Marie Kondo was right about a lot of things – you should let go of things that no longer bring you joy. But she didn’t count on short-sighted folks like me who were too preoccupied with the present grief to see a future where I could enjoy an object again.

I picked up a habit of selling off things that I no longer use, thanks to the decluttering habit that I picked up at the height of the trend in 2015. What started out as a cathartic practice backfired – when you get rid of something, you can’t always get it back when you want it the most.

In my 20s I was consistently in a rush to move forward, and holding on to scents meant clinging to the past. Oddly enough, 30-something year old me fears the past a lot less. I think it’s because I have developed an appreciation for those experiences, especially the unpleasant ones because they are often a catalyst for growth.

Though, it might also have to do with enough time passing. I no longer am immediately reminded of painful memories in that phase in life, and I now can just enjoy the scent the same way that I used to. Given enough time, everything is new again.

A perfume corner at home

One of the first things I did when I moved to New York was to take a jaunt down to Hermes and buy myself perfume.

Six years ago it was aspirational – I could be young and full of dream, having used up all of my savings to move to New York City for a magical residency1 someone like me would never dream of. Never mind that I was paying way too much for a small Bed-Stuy bedroom sublet with no laundry shared with an older lady with an anxious white dog, both too hungry for affection.

I would spritz on this beautiful leather perfume from it’s slim but hefty glass travel bottle – the only size I could afford. It was abstractly floral, powdery on the opening but dries down to the most luxurious, buttery suede you can imagine. It smells like I stuck my face into an expensive leather handbag. I loved it.

It made me feel like I lived in a world of quiet elegance. The idea of subtle luxury, defined by a personal knowing rather than an outward showing. It is the feeling of wearing a piece of clothing that you know is well made, every stitch solid, materials thoughtfully sourced, meant to last decades.

I used up that small travel spray quickly, and splurged on a full bottle with an early paycheck from my next job – the first of which where I started earning well.

And then… I sold it. I still don’t understand why I did that. I loved the scent and wore it for a few years. Something happened and I’m still not entirely sure what was going through my mind at the time.

Perhaps I had just gone through the end of a romantic relationship that I had hoped would last many more years?

I had developed a habit of getting rid of fragrances at the end of every phase of life. I thought that scents are associated with memories, and once it has been tainted by an unpleasant one I can never wear it again. 2

But… why? I had enjoyed that fragrance for so long. Why let the bad memories interfere with the simple pleasure of a precious perfume?

I dug up a small tester vial I somehow still held on to and spritzed it on my wrist. I closed my eyes and inhaled. Once again I was enveloped in a familiar image of powdery florals and buttery suede. I still love it, unmistakably. I was going to bring her home.

And yet, when I had tried to look for it again – It was sold out on the online store. I panicked – there were whispers of discontinuations3 and die-hard fans desperately scooping up back up bottles. I called the nearest store in Manhattan. No luck, there were none left in the country.

In a moment of panic I scoured eBay and Mercari. None available, only testers. Upset, I spent several more days probing every fragrance retailer for a bottle. No luck.

Dejected, I decided to content myself with the little sample vial I held on to and started researching alternatives. There are many leather fragrances out there, surely one will cut close enough?

Hermes perfume display at a Bergdorf Goodman event.

That weekend, I ended up at the perfume basement in Bergdorf Goodman4, where they fortutiously had an Hermes beauty counter. Not just any Hermes counter though. The perfume I was looking for is part of their exclusive series, typically only offered at the standalone boutiques. Every now and then, it can be found at a department store counter like at Bergdorf, but rarely.

A lovely sales associate by the name of Jose noticed me checking out the collection. I checked out their latest release, a violet and dark leather fragrance5 that I quite enjoyed. I told him I liked it, but there was one other leather scent that had a special place in my heart. I tell him that it was one of the first nice things I bought for myself when I started to earn good money. He loves it too, and we both gush for a moment.

A lady standing nearby asks me which scent it was that I so loved. We spritz a blotter for her to smell. She thinks its too smoky and turns back to the Aerin counter.

I asked Jose if they had it in stock. Jose shakes his head, but told me he would check in the back and he disappears for a bit.

When he returned, he said that he had one left, but he was holding it for a customer at their request. Dejected, I thanked him anyway and started taking about another perfume on the counter.

He pauses, raises an eyebrow and says, “You know what? I’ll sell it to you.”

My eyes widen. “But, your customer…?”

“It’s alright. Hopefully they will restock before they come back.”

Jose disappears into the back room again and re-emerges with a chunky orange box. He opens it and slides the large, rectangular bottle out of its pouch. My heart skips a beat.

I clasp my hands to my chest and thank him profusely. There it is, that precious gem of a fragrance.

I am never letting you go again.


  1. Said residency was at Recurse Center 

  2. See this older post. I still regret getting rid of Lavandula, it has been discontinued and costs too much on the secondhand market nowadays. 

  3. It is fairly common for companies to discontinue perfumes, particularly if they have a large repertoire. The Hermessence discontinuations remain an unconfirmed rumor, but to me it seems like they are not as well stocked as before, probably due to supply chain issues. 

  4. As a side note, NY Times has this fascinating piece on the Bergdorf experience. It gains its magic from the spirit of never saying “no”, consistent with my experience. 

  5. Hermes Violette Volynka.