Home LifestyleFashion & Style When did perfume stop being about sex?

When did perfume stop being about sex?

by YAR

When a new Yves Saint Laurent perfume came out in 2001, Tom Ford, the house’s creative director at the time, threw a sensational party at the Paris Stock Exchange, where he displayed a group of virtually naked models in giant Plexiglas. container. The fragrance was called Nu, French for “naked.”

cute wells, the Allure’s founding editor-in-chief and partygoer likened Mr. Ford’s evening to a “human aquarium,” filled with models “squirming” in their underwear. It was like a ball pit one might find at a kid’s birthday party, except it was bigger, filled with alcohol, and filled with nearly naked adults.

“It was all these bodies,” Wells said. “It was all this meat. It was like an orgy.”

An event like that seems unimaginable today, and not just because rampant hedonism became taboo after #MeToo. The whole marketing ideal has changed: most designers and brands don’t use sex to sell perfume, and people don’t buy perfume to have sex.

For decades, perfume marketing made seduction a priority. Fragrance was a bottled way to help someone find a mate, a construct that feels incredibly irrelevant since we now have dating apps, a more efficient and consistent way to find a mate than having someone catch your scent and fall in love with you. you.

“It feels really old-fashioned and a little offensive,” Ms Wells said. “Now we all think, ‘Is this advertiser going to tell me how I’m supposed to feel or that I want to have sex because of his fragrance or that I want to become an object because of his fragrance?'”

Today, brands talk about fragrance in terms of places and how it will make the wearer feel. Smaller niche perfume brands like Byredo or Le Labo advertise themselves as “gender neutral”. These brands do not play with outdated gender constructions and singular messages about sex and sexual orientation. It is not a competition for which perfume is the sexiest; it’s about which one can spark the strongest emotional connection.

According to Rachel Herz, a neuroscientist and author of “The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell,” perfume shifted from marketing “direct themes” like power or sex to encouraging a “personal journey.”

This journey could be one about self-empowerment or being the best “you,” which is what Glossier sells with Glossier You. According to its website, the fragrance “will grow with you no matter where you are in your personal evolution” because “it is not a finished product. He needs you.

Other fragrances take customers on a different journey. Harlem Nights by World of Chris Collins takes patrons into a speakeasy with notes of musk and rum that evoke cigars, high-end liquor and 1920s nightlife.

So when did perfume stop being about sex?

Culture, above all else, has had the most far-reaching effects on the perfume industry, especially in the last five years.

Traditionally, perfumes were designed for either men or women, rarely both, fueled by multimillion-dollar campaigns that portrayed traditional gender norms or hypersexualized imagery. Remember the Calvin Klein Eternity ads from the 1980s with Christy Turlington and Ed Burns? What about that sultry 2010 Gucci Guilty campaign with Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans? Both seem heteronormative in the current cultural climate.

A younger generation with more fluid interpretations of what constitutes gender, sexual orientation, and romantic relationships is leading the conversation. “Gender neutral” and “genderless” have become mainstream concepts, an integral part of fashion, makeup, and fragrance, and are no longer on the sidelines.

A rise in unisex and genderless fragrances followed. In fact, many of the craft and niche labels that have gained wide appeal have never gendered their fragrances. Byredo has been marketing its fragrances as unisex since Ben Gorham founded the line in 2006. The same goes for Le Labo, Escentric Molecules, DS & Durga, Malin + Goetz and Aesop.

“Your gender, your nationality, your sexual orientation, it doesn’t matter,” said Chris Collins, founder and CEO of World of Chris Collins. The 12 scents of the four-year brand are genderless. “There shouldn’t be a distinction,” he said.

For global fragrance powerhouses, gender and romance remain the quintessence of mainstream appeal. While Dior’s ad campaigns are not overtly sexual, the brand presents distinct feminine ideals through the Miss Dior women’s campaigns, which have featured Natalie Portman since 2011, as well as the gold J’Adore Dior ads, in the that Charlize Theron has channeled a Greek goddess for 18 years.

“Romance isn’t necessarily old-fashioned,” Herz said. It’s the depictions of romance that are more abstract, he explained, because “things are less heterosexually defined” than they were a decade ago.

During the pandemic, with stores closed and limited ways to try perfume before you buy it, Suzanne Sabo, 45, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, “blind-bought” a perfume to treat herself. The first fragrance she ordered was Tom Ford Beauty’s Jasmine Rouge, which she discovered through an online ad.

“There was nothing sensual or sexual about it,” said Ms. Sabo, a grant writer at a technical high school. “It was so basic: it was a description of the scent. I felt like a new woman just wearing the perfume on sweatshirts at home. I felt like a million dollars.”

Ms. Sabo’s Tom Ford fragrance collection has grown to include Lost Cherry, Soleil Blanc, White Suede and Bitter Peach. “It’s not like we live in the rich part of town,” she said. “We are middle-class moms who were stressed.”

Rachel ten Brink, general partner at Red Bike Capital and founder of the Scentbird perfume line, saw customers starting to adopt this mindset several years ago.

The top response from a 2015 survey asking Scentbird customers why they wore fragrance was “how it made me feel.” Attracting the opposite sex was number 6 or 7, Ms. ten Brink said.

Others use fragrance as a vehicle for self-expression. Carys Bassett, an IT consultant and cybersecurity specialist from Bath, England, wears perfume to stand out, like a statement coat or shoes.

“I like my presence to linger after I’ve left the room,” said Ms. Bassett, 37. “I’m not so worried about sex. I like to make a statement.”

Smaller independent brands are often more creative in their approach to perfume making, highlighting individual ingredients and notes or using a story to attract customers. The fragrances are often stronger, bolder, and more expensive than the department store stalwarts, synonymous with a “free gift with purchase.”

“Craft scents have always been more about scent, notes and ingredients, and less about image,” said Larissa Jensen, beauty industry analyst at NPD Group. Fragrance bottles with lemons, oranges or lavender are the “visual descriptors” that draw people in, she said. “You’re not looking at an ad that just shows a man’s bare butt.”

Dina Fanella, a 50-year-old special education teacher in Las Vegas, searches for unique fragrances. She doesn’t like mass-produced perfume for the same reason she doesn’t like big hotels: she feels generic.

“I started choosing small, handcrafted fragrances that had more pure and exotic combinations,” Ms. Fanella said.

His interest in fragrances predates the pandemic. He discovered independent perfumers like Sage Goddess and the House of Oshun online community, whose founder Lulu Eye Love, makes her favorite scent, Shut up and kiss me.

For Ms. Sabo, Maison Francis Kurkdjian was her entry into the world of expensive artisan perfumes. The label, through a collaboration with Baccarat, had some viral fame on TikTok.

“Of course I have Baccarat Rouge 540,” he said, as if everyone should know. Ms. Sabo discovered the fragrance on TikTok and bought two bottles, a $300 eau de parfum and a more concentrated $425 “parfum extrait,” because a YouTube review said she “smells this at every high-end restaurant in Manhattan.”

“At that time we couldn’t even go to a restaurant,” he joked. “We were ordering takeout from DoorDash.”

Before the pandemic, Ms. Sabo had never spent more than $100 on a perfume.

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