Fragrance Wardrobe: Bee Shapiro on the Scent That Makes Her Feel Like She’s on Vacation in Bali

Bee Shapiro has been covering beauty for the New York Times for over a decade. She’s written robust rundowns on emerging trends and profiled the fascinating beauty routines of celebrities like Keke Palmer, Serena Williams, and Alicia Keys. If you asked Shapiro what her favorite subject to write about is, she’d quickly tell you fragrance trumps everything else. “I’ve been a perfume lover since my teenage years,” she says. “I find perfume can define so many moments, eras, and memories in our life. From a writer’s perspective, scent is so fascinating.”

Shapiro’s passion for perfume extends beyond writing about it in her column. In 2015, she launched the clean fragrance brand Ellis Brooklyn. The idea for the company came to Shapiro while she was pregnant and growing increasingly conscious about what she was putting on her body. She noticed sustainable and toxin-free fragrances were far and few between. “I felt like I had something to say in [the fragrance industry] that was completely different from what is out there,” she explains. “I wanted to bring a different viewpoint—one of a diverse female creator who has a direct lens on what we want to smell like and the reasons for wearing fragrance.”

Ahead, Shapiro discusses her fragrance style, the first fragrance she ever wore, and the scents that make her feel the most comfortable. Keep scrolling to get to know Shapiro through her Fragrance Wardrobe.

How would you describe your fragrance style?  

I love my fragrances to be effortless. I don’t want a fragrance to be overwhelming. I want it to accent and enhance the wearer. I also like to challenge myself to create scents that are appealing for everyday use. In fragrance, it’s much easier to create something very niche. But creating something lovable, wearable, and so good you’ll want to wear it every day is tougher to accomplish.

What was the first fragrance you ever bought and why? 

My first memory of branding and coveting a fragrance was Victoria’s Secret body care collection—I wore Love Spell ($15) when I was 13-years-old and graduated to Eternal Sunflower ($24) in high school. I dabbled in Calvin Klein ck one ($79), too—it was so cool then.

Do you still wear fragrances even when you don’t leave the house?

Absolutely. I wear fragrances to set or change my mood. I feel pulled together when I wear fragrances. I have always thought we should wear scents for ourselves. Then if we are confident with how we feel and smell, it boosts our attractiveness to others. In contrast, the traditional way of speaking of fragrances was always about attracting others first.

What was your go-to WFH scent over the last year?

I always love Ellis Brooklyn’s Myth ($100). Something about the combination of white musk, jasmine, and white cedarwood brings beauty and calmness to my day. I found myself spraying West ($105) more during this time—it’s a bold citrus, bohemian scent. It wasn’t a blend I reached for all the time before. However, while working from home, I love how West would energize my day.

What is the fragrance that brings you comfort?

For me, that would be Myth because it’s all the things I think about when I’m cozy: Clean sheets, warm skin, and a whiff of florals in the breeze. If we’re talking about everyday scents, I love the smell of cooking rice. It’s probably because it reminds me of my childhood. Also, I was in Bali many years ago, and the smell of cooking rice and wafting notes of coconut and spices there around dusk was magical.

Bee Shapiro

What scent makes you feel most powerful? 

I love a woody and citrus mix when I want to feel empowered. One of my first tastes of independence was doing little solo hikes in the Seattle area where I grew up. I love scents that smell of being outside when I want to feel strong. From my line, I usually pair West and Iso Gamma Super ($100) together.

What scent makes you feel most comfortable?

There’s something about musk that makes me want to get cozy and comfortable. I like to consider the texture of scents as well if we’re talking comfort. Myth and Super Amber ($105) are two of my cozy faves. Super Amber is so intriguing because it has this cashmere feel.

Is there a fragrance you spritz on to bring back good memories?

There’s an old-school fragrance I used to wear when I was in law school that I love to spritz when I’m passing through duty-free. I used to wear Jean Paul Gaultier La Femme ($104), and it brings up feelings of youth, exploration, and fun.

What do you smell when you want to unwind and destress?

I’m a big lavender fan. I don’t love the essential oil that much because it can get astringent if it isn’t mixed with other notes. If I can get my hands on fresh lavender, though, I’m all in.
What’s your favorite candle right now? 

My favorite candle is our Pseudonym Terrific Scented Candle ($60)—a Capri fig and sandalwood beauty. It’s rich but also escapist. There’s something about fig that reads fresh and illicitly creamy.

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