Boy Meets Girl
Harper's Bazaar Malaysia|June 2017

How perfumers have forsaken gender stereotypes to create more androgynous unisex fragrances.

Hannah Betts

A passion for perfume yields some unusual alliances. Who would imagine that Marlene Dietrich and James Dean shared a scent—the libidinous Knize Ten—still less Colette, Brigitte Bardot, Jackie Kennedy, and Jack Nicholson, united in their love for Guerlain’s civet-rich Jicky?

Yet, fragrance was gender-fluid long before fashion, beauty, and culture caught up. Whether in the glory years of Creed and Caron, the creations of Frédéric Malle, or commercial hits such as Dolce & Gabbana’s Velvet collection, everywhere there is evidence of a non-binary approach.

Personally, I have always been as apparently masculine in my perfume taste as I am unashamedly feminine in dress: the two creating an enchanting juxtaposition. Where once this was considered provocative, so today those who smell me barely bat an eyelid. Meanwhile, “men’s” scents have become softer, sweeter, less abrasive and “women’s” are looking beyond the bouquet. The discerning ignore such categorisations: Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest venture, Stash— an aromatic wood evoking leather and cognac—is billed as “a fragrance for humans”; Maison Margiela’s Replica collection is “gender-anonymous”.

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