In conversation with... Odette Toilette

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Lizzie Ostrom aka Odette Toilette, and I host events all about scent. Lots of themed workshops which involve lots of sniffing and learning, whether on the Ancient Greeks and perfume, or the scents of the 1930s.  Some are private events and others are ticketed and open to anyone. I’m currently writing a book about the history of perfume in the 20th century, and co-host the podcast Life in Scents which is an interview show all about smell.


Where did you work beforehand?

I worked as a freelance PR and Marketing consultant - mainly for events - though never in the fragrance industry. Perfume was a hobby which became my job after I started hosting the nights for fun.


How do you relax/switch off?

A jog on the Woodland Walk in north London. It’s a disused railway line, now an incredibly narrow park. It’s so overgrown and secluded that you’d never realise there are houses ten feet either side. Otherwise lighting a scented candle is for me instant calm.


Favourite book?

My favourite writer these days is Elizabeth Taylor. Not the actress, but a novelist writing in the middle of the 20th century who was dismissed at the time as a ‘women’s writer’ and who’s been reappraised lately. Her books are utterly readable, like slipping into a deliciously warm bath and then getting a jolt just when you start to feel soothed…. In a Summer Season is particularly good.


Favourite film?

The Big Sleep (and film noir in general), Spinal Tap, Back to the Future.


Favourite blog/website?

For journalism then definitely Longform.  For lifestyle, visual inspiration and travel then the blog Orlando and the Fountain, written by an interior designer whose life is like something from an Evelyn Waugh novel. His photos are lovely.


What’s your guilty pleasure?

Working in bed. Only countenanced now and then. There’s something so naughty about having a serious phonecall when they don’t know you’re in pyjamas.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Whoever first warned me about Parkinson’s Law, that work expands to fill the time available.


What are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been enjoying Susanne Sundfør’s music. When working at my laptop I do love a Gregorian chant.