Sue Kim has been sharing her passion for perfumery with online ‘strangers’ for years - many of whom have now become good friends. They share the common language of a love of perfume, enjoy exploring new scents and use this language to sometimes communicate about things they’d never share with close family or friends
I’m on the train from London heading back home to Poole, (home of Lush), after celebrating my birthday. I’m surrounded by lavish birthday gifts from friends that I met roughly three years ago through the fragrance community. Completely overwhelmed by gratitude, I’ve been thinking about my perfume journey and how crucial being immersed in the community has been for the development of my knowledge of perfumes and in making it a huge part of my life.
It was a few years back that I started to scour the Internet for information on perfumes and honestly, I can’t even remember what I was actually looking up, but I came across several groups on Facebook and decided to join them, in part because I have always worried I might be boring other friends with my passion for the topic of perfumery and nobody wants to do that.
I lurked on these groups for a long time before posting anything as I didn’t want to come off as a novice (which I was). The general sense after some time was that they were all just like me, curious about perfumes and looking for more information. I felt like I was amongst like-minded people. I actually didn’t discuss my online activity for a while as I was unsure how to explain to friends that I’d joined an online community to talk about perfumes - I was worried it might sound a bit obsessive. I suppose in the beginning, I was only mirroring what the general public might feel about perfume as something indulgent and not so much as an art form (nobody would flinch if I said I joined a group discussing Monet or an evening art club.)
It started off as a post here and there and then I found myself checking in multiple times a day. The members of various groups became a regular presence in my daily life and soon they became my first point of contact when it came to all things, even if it wasn’t perfume related. Then in 2015, a few of us decided to meet in London to visit different shops and experience for ourselves newly-released perfumes.
The point is that when you’re learning about perfumes, you have to actually smell them and depending on where you live that’s not always so easy. So on a beautiful Spring Saturday, 10 ‘scented strangers’ met to spend the day walking around London visiting different perfume shops, smelling perfumes and discussing them.
I can’t speak for everyone who attended, but I remember being very nervous. For one, meeting strangers is often times nerve wracking for an introvert like myself and secondly, online personas and real life personas are sometimes quite different and there was the additional fear of not getting along with someone in real life which might then ruin the online friendships.
Despite these initial reservations, it was such a thrill to be able to talk about perfumes so openly without boring someone for once. I also loved the fact that we were an eclectic group and that it was such a beautiful coming together of people from different walks of life by occupation, orientation, race and of course gender. I felt so comfortable with these ‘strangers’ who all shared my passion for perfume and meeting them simply solidified that shared passion.
There is something beautiful about the art of perfumery that brought us all together and over the years since that first meeting, I realise that the bond formed because we all allowed ourselves to be open about our feelings through fragrance. Through the discovery of new perfumes, we talked about our lives, our past (scent memories), and shared with each other things that sometimes we wouldn’t tell those around us.
So three years on, I am still meeting fragrance community members here in the UK and internationally and the common ground we all share - a love of and fascination for perfumery - has became our unofficial ice breaker. And while some of the online friendships have dissipated (naturally and also through some drama - hey we are just like any other community out there) some have blossomed into beautiful friendships. What brings me back to this group, constantly and no matter how busy our real lives become, is the sense of community spirit.
I invite all readers who are curious about learning more about perfumes to hop online and search for these fragrance groups, numbers of which have grown exponentially over the last few years. It’s always wonderful when new members join because it adds different dimensions to the groups and becomes more reason for the community to blossom, never losing sight of the real reason why we all came together in the first place and that was out of our love of perfumery.
Sue Kim is a Korean-American perfume enthusiast currently living in the UK. You will often find her in London, coordinating perfume experience tours and attending perfume events