Is Perfume No Longer Sexy?
The NYT thinks so
A piece in the NYT wants us to believe that the days of “sex sells” are totally over for perfume marketing. It leads with a description of the 2001 launch party for YSL’s Nu which featured “practically nude models” and one fragrance maven’s reaction to it.
“It was all these bodies,” Ms. Wells said. “It was all this flesh. It was like an orgy.”
You have one guess as to what Ms. Wells named the line of cosmetics she launched in 2018 when she was Chief Creative Officer at Revlon.
While her article meanders all over the map, author Rachel Strugatz finally manages a theme sentence. It makes two central claims:
Most designers and brands aren’t using sex to sell perfume—and people aren’t buying perfume to have sex.
To support the first claim, she points to popular niche brands like Le Labo that don’t label their scents as male or female.
“Your gender, your nationality, your sexual orientation—it doesn’t matter,” said Chris Collins, the founder and chief executive of World of Chris Collins.
Yeah, none of that matters when you live in the World of Chris Collins. “Hi there! I’m Collins-fluid Two-Spirit from Collins World looking to meet other cis-Chris folk in a non-threatening safe space.”
Who is Chris Collins? He’s the “scent storyteller behind his own fragrance brand.” Try his new perfume Self Referential. (Just kidding.)
Another Strugatz source pooh-poohs the importance of the whole male-female attraction thing.
Rachel ten Brink, a general partner at Red Bike Capital and a founder of the perfume line Scentbird, saw customers start to adopt this mentality several years ago.
The top response from a 2015 survey asking Scentbird customers why they wore fragrances was “how it made me feel.” Attracting the opposite sex was No. 6 or 7, Ms. ten Brink said.
So Scentbird has obviously evolved beyond that outmoded duality, right? Not really. Their current Find Your Scent quiz begins with “What type of fragrance are you looking for?” and offers two options: Feminine and Masculine.
Here’s another set of response options:
Ms. ten Brink’s company is still playing the “sex sells” card for all it’s worth. This makes her look like a facile poser angling for another trophy quote in the Times.
According to Strugatz another thing driving sexy out of perfume marketing is “a younger generation with more fluid interpretations of what constitutes gender, sexual orientation and romantic relationships.”
Well, that certainly complicates marketing. What constitutes sexy for each of the myriad genders and orientations?
Dear Fragrance Advisor,
I am a gender-nonconforming pansexual. I’m going to meet up with a Collins World two-spirit who presents as “they/them”, wears a dress and has a penis. What scent should I wear to make myself attractive?
Anxious in Austin
Fuck them. Wear something that aligns with your inner spirituality and empowers your self-directed journey. They should affirm your choice whatever it is.
But let’s get back to Strugatz’s second claim: that people aren’t buying perfume to have sex. Is she serious? Apparently so.
Fragrance was a bottled way to help someone find a mate, a concept that feels incredibly irrelevant since we now have dating apps, a more efficient and consistent way to find a partner than having someone catch your sent and fall in love with you.
So you both swipe right and arrange to meet IRL. And on the big day you . . . don’t bother with scent. The app has spoken. You probably don’t need to brush your hair or put on a clean shirt.
It makes one wonder: Is the Strugatzian younger generation even into sex? The whole meeting-someone thing is time consuming. It cuts into social media time and online gaming. Plus sex can be awkward and messy. Online porn is so much more . . . efficient.
According to a survey in the Daily Mail, Gen-Z and millennial office workers avoid phone calls because they are too stressful—they prefer texts and emails. If phone calls are too stressful for you, what are the odds you look forward to physical intimacy?