On Tuesday, the brand makes its first foray into the category with its five-piece Cologne de Parfum collection for all genders. Made up of entirely new scents that don’t draw directly from Boy Smells’s existing home fragrance portfolio. Still, it will have crossover appeal for existing fans of the brand, assures Boy Smells co-founder Matthew Herman: Like with candles, “we always try to approach traditional notes in a new way, [with] new perspectives on what might seem familiar,” he says. The colognes were created with Robertet, a natural fragrance, flavor and ingredients supplier based in Grasse, France, by perfumer Jérôme Epinette.
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In anticipation of the launch, Herman let Fashionista in on what went into the development process for the fragrances, how creating wearable scent is different from making candles and why the brand prioritizes a “genderful” approach to its products. Read on for the highlights of our conversation.
How did the fragrance launch come about?
Personal fragrance has always been the next natural step and is, in a lot of ways, the best articulation of our values. We love to use the word ‘genderful’ when describing the brand — it’s kind of the opposite of genderless. Rather than be a blank slate, we prefer to simultaneously embrace masculine and feminine together into pro-gender-multiplicity. I really believe this spectrum resides in everyone and should be explored, embraced and celebrated. We’re all mixed bags of unique qualities and have the ability to tap into a spectrum of gender power. We call it a personal mixology. And our goal is to channel this modern sense of identity into the products closest to us. These fragrances that we’ve been working on for the past two years are made to bring out your most mighty and authentic self.
Tell me about the process of developing and choosing the scents. They’re largely floral and aren’t direct interpretations of existing Boy Smells candles. Why did you decide to go with new blends?
Working in fine fragrance, which we are calling Cologne de Parfums, it opens up a new palette of scent notes. We get to use the highest-quality fragrance and natural materials of advanced master perfumery, things that are more rare and expensive than we’re able to explore in candles. Home fragrance and personal fragrance are different — we may do some crossovers in the future, but right now we’re too excited to explore new ideas rather than rest on past successes. We still bring our hallmark approach of mixing traditionally masculine and feminine notes together, notes that reflect the complexity of modern identity. If you like our candles, you will love the Cologne de Parfums.
How exactly is the personal fragrance development process different or similar to the home fragrance development process?
Olfactive, it’s a totally different experience. You’re smelling the fragrances on yourself and in a blend of all-natural alcohol and water. It brings the scent to life in three-dimension. Top, middle and base notes turn into surround sound. Also, the chemistry of how it wears on skin changes your relationship to it. The approach to candles is about your environment. It’s also very personal, but in a different way. One commonality is that we always try to approach traditional notes in a new way, [with] new perspectives on what might seem familiar.
Inclusivity, particularly when it comes to gender identity, has been central to Boy Smells from the beginning. How important was it to bring that into the personal fragrances, and how did you accomplish it?
Each scent embodies a juxtaposition of masculinity and femininity. This mix implies a permission to harness your power from wherever you find it. Boy Smells is known for signature ‘genderful’ combinations, working to develop our world of full-spectrum representation via scent. I think about my friends, people we admire and are inspired by, the way we think about identity and the way we express ourselves is unique. These scents are made for identities without boundaries.
Tell me about the packaging and aesthetic of the fragrances. Where did the inspiration for the design come from and what is it meant to evoke, if anything?
One really unique element of the packaging is that we’re beginning usage of a flexible secondary mark. With a line gesture that references both male and female anatomy drawings and a keyhole created in the overlap, the Boy Smells ‘mark’ is all about unlocking your inner mixology of ‘genderfulness.’ This mark will be featured on the fragrance packaging as a blind emboss on the top of the fragrance packaging.
The bottle and cap are very architectural, like a roman column. We love playing with neoclassicism, creating a modern history or rewriting historical references with modern perspectives. The cap combines the shapes of a chalice and phallus, a coded reinforcement of our ‘genderful’ universe.
Was there any other inspiration for the collection as a whole?
Each scent has a story to tell, and we wanted to really bring to life a Modern Reverse telling on Mythologies. When it came to the Cologne de Parfums collection, we wanted to reexamine tales from the past — of allegory and parables about how we should go through life as ‘perfect’ people. These figures usually shape norms and reinforce traditional values. Since Boy Smells refuses constructs embedded in the social fabric and values ‘genderful’ expression as an unlimited source of personal power and fulfillment, we wanted to reframe these stories in the context of today, shifting the narrative toward self empowerment rather than self imprisonment.
Do you have a favorite scent in the bunch?
Violet Ends, with notes of violet wrapped in smoky papyrus and tobacco leaves and sensuous, fruity rhubarb is one of my favorites.
The Boy Smells Cologne de Parfums collection launches on Tuesday on BoySmells.com and in select retailers. Click through the gallery below to see each of the five scents, along with their fragrance profiles and pricing.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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