International Women’s Month: Anne McClain

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“Beauty and brains” seems about the right description for Anne McClain, freckled Ivy League graduate. McClain spent her childhood between her native Rhode Island and her mother’s homeland, Japan. She graduated from Brown University in 2005, and was one of 12 people accepted to the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in 2009. Within a month of graduating, McClain founded MCMC Fragrances, which is now carried by Birchbox and Anthropologie. (MCMC’s best known product is their Dude No. 1 Beard Oil, which fragrances almost every beard in Brooklyn.)

Our last International Women’s Month post was dedicated to Yosh Han, a pioneer of the current generation of independent perfumers. Anne McClain strikes me as a direct spiritual successor. Both women built their perfumery careers without nepotism or insider connections. Both chose to work independently rather than within fragrance firms. And both have achieved a thrilling level of success, as evidenced by the fragrance collections that both have been asked to create for the gigantic Anthropologie. Both inspire me deeply!

Pharrell Williams Girl

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After years of watching Anthropologie have all the fun, Sephora is finally getting in on the niche/mass-market collab game. They’ve partnered up with Commes des Garcons and the very busy Pharrell Williams to create Girl, “a stylish wood-based fragrance for girls and boys that strikes an attractive balance of masculinity and femininity”. I loved the concept of a Commes des Garcons fragrance at Sephora prices, but admit to being a little nervous about the execution. I’m happy to report that Sephora got everything right, from the juice itself (a lavender and cedar blend as smooth as Pharrell’s ever-so-slightly autotuned vocals) to the adorably whimsical bottle and perfectly-priced 10 ml option.

Much like Pharrell himself, Girl is pleasant and interesting without being overly challenging. It’s as unisex as its tagline suggests: the notes are traditionally masculine, but the cedar note is sweet enough to make most men think twice. Girl is unquestionably the best celebrity fragrance of the year, and a very good perfume by any standard. I like it much better than I thought I would from the notes list (which starts with my nemesis, orange blossom). In fact, I’ve been talking about Girl so much that Daisy bought me the 10 ml bottle just to shut me up. It’s earned a spot in my purse, and I find myself reaching for it most days.