Valentine’s Day, the best day to share the love in your life, has always been one of my favorites holidays. Every Valentine’s Day, my father would bring my mother a huge red heart filled with Italian chocolates from Perugina on Fifth Ave in Manhattan. My love of love hasn’t been confined to February, either. When I was a little girl, my favorite song was “Love Makes The World Go ‘Round” from the musical Carnival. My mother used to play it on our record player and we would sing it together. Even now, hearing that song brings back cherished memories that I share with my special loved ones.
Valentine’s Day was also the setting of my first weekend trip to Seattle. I was visiting my boyfriend Peter, who loved to surprise me with beautiful things. He took me to a sweet fragrance boutique downtown to choose a special new scent for myself. The owner, Nasreen Rehmat, asked me a few questions and immediately brought me over to her counter, where a bottle of Joy perfume sat waiting. She put a dab on my wrist, and I was immediately swept up in the floral aroma of the sweet jasmine notes. I trusted Nasreen’s instincts and, with Peter’s approval, chose Joy for my Valentine’s Day gift. That was in 1987. For many years, the signature carved crystal bottle adorned my dressing table. I recently decided to go back to visit Nasreen. I am happy to say that Parfumerie Nasreen just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary and still resides in the same location, in the lobby of The Alexis Hotel.
Parfumerie Nasreen, is a unique boutique filled with elegant colored glass bottles of perfumes, of all different shapes, glistening on glass shelves. When you walk through the door, you will be struck by the colors, scents, and love that fill that petite space. The delightful owner Nasreen is brimming with passion for her love of perfume and her business philosophy: To help customers find the scent of their dreams. She believes that perfumes “can be the source of intense, emotional and extraordinary experiences. Perfumes stir up our desires and passions, drawing us into unexplored journeys of our emotions and the lost paradise of our memory.”
Nasreen, formerly an intensive care nurse, has always had a love affair with perfume. When her husband opened a pharmacy 33 years ago, they saw an opportunity for her to play with her hobby. But soon, she outgrew his space and opened her own boutique parfumerie. Since then, Nasreen has witnessed the business evolve and developed a wealth of knowledge. As her store carries both classic scents and niche brands, she has traveled all over the world to discover the most exclusive fragrances, each one with its own story. Nasreen has helped thousands of customers find their signature scent and boasts a loyal customer fan base, including famous names such as the late Dr. Maya Angelou (whom Nasreen remembers as, appropriately, a “phenomenal woman”).
For the shop’s thirty-year anniversary, store associate Valleri Flannery surprised Nasreen with a book filled with pages of notes of gratitude and memories from her many customers. So many beautiful sentiments were written spanning her thirty years in the business, many of them testaments to her storytelling and personal relationship with every bottle. In one particularly special note, Nasreen’s close friend Meredith congratulated her on her thirty years, and praised her personal connection with each customer: “I cannot hear the word network without thinking of you, and the network of friendships that you have created and nurtured from around the planet through your passion for fragrance and your genuine celebration of each person you meet!”
Another customer wrote:
I remember the first time I discovered Parfumerie Nasreen…I had recently begun collecting unusual and distinct perfume bottles. Of course, I love wearing fragrance. But if not for Nasreen, I may not have discovered the magic, memories and stories behind each fragrance in her store. Nasreen is truly passionate about the art and development of each and every bottle of sweet nectar that arrives in her little storefront at the entrance of the Alexis Hotel.
Valleri Flannery is just as passionate about the perfume industry, and enjoys the science behind fragrance as well. “Fragrance changes with a person’s body chemistry, and that is what makes wearing perfume so personal,” she told me. The fragrance one chooses will mark a memory in someone that can last a lifetime.
My mother still wears her signature White Shoulders perfume, and my aunt Ada always wore Chanel #5. Every time we hugged I was enveloped in their scents and now when I smell those perfumes I am reminded of them. My father always wore Brut cologne, and his aroma lingered in the air from his goodbye kiss long after he left for work each morning. Recently, my sister and I were able to treat my conservative father to a bottle of Creed–now every time he wears his new cologne, he thinks of us!
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, perhaps Nasreen’s words can act as a guide to us all, whether gift-giving or simply showing someone how much you care. “Perfume is a creation of an act of love! It must have a soul which reflects that of the man or woman who wears it.”
*Parfumerie Nasreen boasts over 700 distinct fragrances in store, and is located in the lobby of the Alexis Hotel at 1005 1st Ave in downtown Seattle. The Alexis itself is the perfect place to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The chic boutique hotel is offering many special Valentine’s Day packages that can be custom prepared–you can arrange for champagne, chocolates, rose petals, and more! The Alexis is pet-friendly and also home to the Chroma Salon and Spa and The Bookstore Bar and Café.