When Calvin Klein released CK One back in 1994, it was probably the first fragrance to be marketed as unisex and redefined fragrance boundaries. The gender-neutral (mainly fresh, citrus) notes aimed to create a balance of male and female elements for a juice that could be worn by everyone. Fast-forward almost 30 years and the unisex fragrance market has expanded enormously, with CK One still holding its iconic status as the fragrance that set the trend in motion. Now, with the growth of gender fluidity, genderless scents have become even more popular. They blur the lines between traditional male and female scents, with no clear-cut boundaries between aromas. Niche fragrance houses have taken this trend to an olfactory level that has us entranced. Here are three of our current favourites for fresh spring days.
Comme des Garçons Zero (R2,925 for 100ml EDP)
Zero is first and foremost a fragrance that celebrates minimalism and simplicity: “the antithesis of excess” as it’s described. Fewer ingredients have been used (just six, to be precise), 95% of which are of a natural origin in an effort to reduce impact on the environment. That means no synthetic colourants, UV filters, phthalates, palm oil or palm oil derivatives. The rich cedarwood is hand-harvested and extracted using hydroelectric power; the seductive Haitian vetiver is equitably sourced. There is a fresh whiff of bergamot, earthy musk, rose and a varnish accord. The gender-neutral scent is housed in a fully recyclable glass bottle, made of 15% recycled glass and the outer package uses 40% recycled consumer waste. The smell of the future!
Maison Francis Kurkdjian 724 (R3,975 for 70ml EDP)
While Francis Kurkdjian’s first perfume composition – Le Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier – might have been outwardly targeted towards men, Kurkdjian quickly broke down boundaries while still holding high the tradition of luxury French perfumery when he set up his own perfume workshop in 2001. His niche collection of unisex fragrances is “composed of rare perfumes that unite man and woman in a shared story, a shared wake. Like a unisex wardrobe, these masculine/feminine fragrances garb the body with their scent trail: beautiful, elegant, and timeless with pure lines, exceptional ingredients and perfect notes.” His latest release is 724, a fresh and vibrant perfume inspired by the energy of New York – the city that never sleeps. He describes it as: “24 hours of scented living, seven days a week.” The musky, floral, urban fragrance is crisp, clean and fresh, with notes of Italian bergamot, jasmine absolute, sandalwood and white musk.
Ex Nihilo Outcast Blue (R5,415 for 100ml EDP)
Ex Nihilo fragrances will never be in your face, but they certainly make a statement – by balancing fruity and floral notes with deeper aromas to make them casually genderless. The name Ex Nihilo comes from a Latin expression, loosely translated as “a new creation with no previously known reference”. Since inception in 2013, the Parisian fragrance house has cultivated an outsider mindset, creating its own conception of personalised luxury. Its Iconoclaste collection is intended to celebrate free thinkers, and the latest addition to the collection (which includes Citizen X, French Affair and The Hedonist) is Outcast Blue, created by self-made perfumer Jordi Fernández. It is a blast of sensations: from spicy saffron and peppers to sensual cedarwood, while patchouli, vetiver, oak moss, sandalwood and tobacco give a rebellious twist. It’s rather addictive and once you explore the brand, you may well find yourself stocking up on other variants. Hint: get a whiff of The Hedonist!