When I asked Philippe Guerlain if Jicky was made for women or men, he looked at me and said, ‘Probably for men, but by about 1900 it became clear that men weren’t buying it, so we put it in a new bottle shaped like a champagne cork for women.’ However, about 10 years ago Guerlain asked me to change the gender classification again.
Despite evolving conversations around gender fluidity, fragrance is the one space that continues to be defined by strict binaries of feminine and masculine. Florals and delicate smells traditionally have been assigned as feminine, while stronger and muskier scents as masculine.
Patrick Kelly, founder of an innovative fragrance label, Sigil, doesn't subscribe to such archaic restrictions.
— Read more at Sigil Is the Genderless Natural Fragrance Label Disrupting the Mainstream at PaperMag. (Note to aspiring perfume brands: there is not much left in the mainstream fragrance industry that hasn't already been disrupted a thousand times over and then some. You will not be the first.)
While decoupling fragrance and gender may seem like a modern idea, art historian Jessica Murphy points out that it is really an old idea.
For the majority of it history, fragrance has known no gender. She sees the industrial revolution and resulting commercialization of fragrance as the period when it came to be partitioned into two genders. Before this time, fragrance was lawless — the scent of a rose or a strong musk was open to all.
— Our Dr. Jessica, quoted in Why Men Are Realizing That Smelling Like a Desert Rose Isn't Half Bad at Inverse.
Sadly, fragrance lovers are scared to trust their instincts, since the seductive bludgeon of commercial marketing has successfully indoctrinated would-be frag fiends into accepting the pink vs blue division. His’n’hers fragrances didn’t even exist until the advent of 20th century marketing, when perfume companies realised that they could shift twice as much product if they convinced customers there was a difference between smelling like a lady and a gentleman. Before then, a person was free to splash a flash of violet, or lavender, or rose, or eau de cologne, regardless of the equipment they were packing in their pants.
— Katie Puckrick would like you to reconsider your gender-based assumptions about fragrance. Read more at Exploring the relationship between perfume and gender at Vice.
According to a recent article in Pret-a-Reporter, the gender-free niche fragrance market is up 24 percent over last year, and is currently experiencing double-digit growth. "Five years ago there were fewer than 200 new niche fragrances, but last year alone there were over 1,000 new launches, and probably 950 of them were gender free," Amy Bourne, North American regional marketing director for International Flavors and Fragrances' told the website.
— Read more at Smelling Like a Dude (or a Lady) Is So Passé at Esquire.