Floating on a little raft in an idyllic cove off Capri, a muscular man in a skimpy swimsuit stands over a woman sunbathing in a white bikini. The camera zooms in and pans across his crotch. He jumps into the water. She eagerly follows. They climb back on the raft, water dripping from their sinewy bodies in slow motion. She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him. He pulls the string on the bikini top.
Sex sells fragrances. Dolce & Gabbana ran that commercial in 2010 (and a similar ad three years later) for Light Blue, one of its cologne labels. But it could have been an ad for nearly any high-end fragrance over the past two decades. The message is simple: Spray this, get lucky.
Now some labels are bucking the trend, betting that a younger set of customers doesn’t crave hyper-sexualized, gender-defined fragrances. Phlur, a new fragrance startup in Austin, sells unisex scents that shun lustful industry norms. Each fragrance is portrayed more like a luxe candle than a magical spray that will turn you into a sex magnet. That isn’t what the modern consumer wants, said Eric Korman, Phlur’s founder and chief executive.
“The same gender stereotypes and generalizations that have applied over the past 25 years don’t apply today,” said Korman, 45. “They don’t resonate.”
He points to the great divide between manly colognes and feminine perfumes. There was a time when men didn’t mind wearing florals. Over the years, however, brands have hammered home the partition between musky male scents and flowery female ones. Korman, a former head of e-commerce for Ralph Lauren, wants to let shoppers decide for themselves.
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