Fragrant Chatter — The Founders' Q&A
“Where genderless is a blank canvas, genderful is a celebration of all identity without bounds — painting with all the colors in the paint box.”
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT Matthew, Sally and David inside Boy Smells' Pico Union warehouse circa 2019.
“It’s our version of neo-inclusion, acknowledging that one’s full spectrum of self is always unfolding and developing.”
Matthew Herman and David Kien would like to explain why fragrance for the body is the natural extension to scented candles. After penetrating the home fragrance market with their instantly recognizable black and pink candles, it was time for a genderful collection of fine fragrance. And yes, the word is genderful, not genderless. Please, there's no reason to get it twisted.
Tell us about the decision to create a line of fine fragrances — was it always in the plan?
We’ve been fragrance lovers from day one, and always knew that we wanted to expand this way. We’re so excited that the time has finally come for us to bring this to life! Scent is a sacred and intimate part of your daily ritual. Our goal is to channel a modern sense of identity into the products closest to us. These fragrances, that we have been working on for the past two years, are made to bring out your most mighty and authentic self.
How did you come up with the name Cologne de Parfum?
It is an intentional provocation of the traditional gendered scent categories in the industry. We definitely are seeing more products that are targeted toward all genders, but we wanted to create our collection to play with how traditional fragrances are gendered and named. We decided to name our fine fragrances “Cologne de Parfum” to disrupt traditional ideas of fragrance and introduce a product to celebrate gender diversity, rather than restrict it.
What was the inspiration for the collection?
The unifying theme for this collection is modern mythology. Each fragrance was inspired to rewrite social archetypes, reimagined into a realm of scent and color. It is permission to reject the outdated social constructs. To build new identities beyond the binary definitions that society trusts upon us. We wanted to really bring to life a modern reverse telling on mythologies — reexamining tales from the past. They are 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.
What about the aesthetic of the bottle? Is there a significance to the design?
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 bent perspectives. The bottom of the cap shape is the form of a chalice and the upper part is a phallus, a combination of masculine and feminine iconography — a coded reinforcement of our genderful universe.
“We decided to name our fine fragrances 'Cologne de Parfum' to disrupt traditional ideas of fragrance and introduce a product to celebrate gender diversity, rather than restrict it.”
What was the process like for creating these five unique scents?
We always start with visuals and emotions, the subtle connections between art, idols, pop culture, architecture, and design. Each of the five scents carry with them their own unique and modern aura, encouraging users to activate their personal mixology. Using unexpected combinations of woods, florals, spices, and fruits, they are ultimately meant for bold and authentic expression of self.
The actual process for fine fragrance was a very intricate and intimate one. It differed from candle scent development in that there is a much more personal aspect to it — all the way down to how the ingredients will interact with the chemistry of the skin. That being said, we still brought our hallmark approach of mixing traditionally masculine and feminine notes together, notes that reflect the complexity of modern identity. We wanted to use the highest quality fragrance, natural materials, and advanced master perfumery techniques so that these five new iconic scents stood out on their own.
Why ‘genderful’ vs. ‘genderless’?
In a homogenous market where most products are marketed as either male, female or genderless, we use the word “Genderful.” It’s a celebration of identity without boundaries. It’s our version of neo-inclusion, acknowledging that one’s full spectrum of self is always unfolding and developing. If you want you can think of genderful as the antonym of genderless; where genderless is a blank canvas, think of genderful as painting with all the colors in the paintbox.
Matthew, what is your favorite scent?
This is impossible to answer. I wear different ones on different days, to evoke different vibes. That said, over this past fall and winter I have been wearing Violet Ends and Suede Pony a lot. But, I am looking forward to spring, where I expect to be wearing Flor de la Virgen much more.
David, what is your favorite scent?
I don’t wear a lot of fragrance — I never have my entire life, growing up. I’ve only blind purchased a bottle of Green Jeans from Versace when I was 18 or 19. Only recently have I gotten to appreciate the scent on the body. I still don’t wear fragrance today, but I have a bold affinity for fresh green scents. And Tantrum fits that bill. Plus the name really speaks to me on a personal level.
June 29, 2021