Indie Fragrances That’ll Make You Swoon

There are many reasons to seek out niche or indie scents over mass market perfumes, not the least of which is their cool factor. Since small-scale indie scents tend to be driven less by market considerations than artistic ones, their perfumers can take more risks. This often means that you’ll not only smell intriguing, you also won’t smell like everyone else.

Many indie perfumers have also gone green, attempting to source organic, non-synthetic, perfume ingredients that are kind to the environment. Whatever their angle, the following indie perfumers and scents will give you an invisible edge — and who isn’t looking for that?

 

1

Founded in 2000 by natural perfumer Alexandra Balahoutis, Strange Invisible Perfumes uses only organic, wildcrafted ingredients. Even the alcohol SIPs uses is 100% organic, beverage-grade, grape alcohol. Anyone who thinks a natural perfumer has a limited palette compared to perfumers who use synthetic notes has yet to smell SIP’s aptly named Epic Gardenia; Magazine Street, a mysterious fragrance inspired by New Orleans that combines a lemony magnolia flower with vanilla, vetiver, and botanical musk; or Black Rosette, an intriguing mix of black tea, rose, spearmint, and leather.

Strange Invisible Perfumes Black Rosette Eau de Parfum, $220, available at Strange Invisible Perfumes.

2

Perfumer Christopher Brosius doesn’t hate allperfume — he just hates ordinary, synthetic-laden perfumes. Lauded for his representational scents that smell like dirt, snow, and mittens, the one thing his perfumes never fail to do is surprise. With his newest scent, Invisible Monster, he conjures up a rare, lemony-scented Chinese orchid growing on a verdant jungle riverbank. The savage bitterness of green galbanum and woods makes for a bracing and enlivening experience. Rounding it off: To Yo Ran orchid, sumac, galbanum, vetivert, oakmoss, cedarwood, and accords made to smell like the islands of the Susquehanna River. 

CB I Hate Perfume Invisible Monster, $85, available at CB I Hate Perfume.

3

Italian brand Blood Concept’s newest addition to its roster of blood-inspired scents is RED+MA, composed by daring perfumer Antoine Lie to evoke the soothing smoothness of milk and the metallic aspect of blood. As goth as that sounds, RED+MA will seduce more than it will frighten: Fruit, floral, and creamy lactones rest on a base of smoky woods, finished off with a stunning metallic flourish. 

Blood Concept RED+MA, $196.40, Blood Concept for locations.

4

Cabaret superstar Justin Vivian Bond and perfumer Ralf Schwieger joined forces with iconoclastic French perfume house Etat Libre d’Orange to create The Afternoon of A Faun, inspired by legendary ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinski’s performance in a ballet of the same name. The perfume transforms from a luscious floral to a myrrh-rich chypre base, echoing the ballet’s scandalous and — yes, we’re going there — erotic unfolding. With bergamot, pepper, cinnamon, incense, rose, immortelle flower, orris, jasmine, myrrh of Namibia, moss, leather, and benzoin. 

Etat Libre d’Orange The Afternoon of a Faun, $149, available at LuckyScent.

5

Handmade in NYC, Lurk keeps things potent and natural by using essential oils — no water or alcohol fillers in these little beauties. That results in exceptionally gorgeous, long-lasting, complex scents that smell like the real deal. RSW 005, our new favorite eau, features deep, earthy florals mixed with warm sandalwood for a heady, yet not overpowering floral scent. 

Lurk RSW 005 Perfume Oil, $55, available at Lurk.

6

Artist Anicka Yi and architect Maggie Peng dare to politicize perfume by paying tribute to the controversial former leader of the Japanese Red Army, Fusako Shigenobu. Their perfume Shigenobu Twilight blends aromatic shiso leaf, citrusy yuzu, violet leaf, pepper, cedar, and nutty heart notes. If that weren’t impressive enough, the fragrance’s bottles rest in cedar wood cut into one-of-a-kind geometrical shapes.

Anicka Yi & Maggie Peng Shigenobu Twilight, $160, available at Ooga Booga Store.

7

Tuberose and jasmine can often have a heavy, bubblegummy sweetness, but don’t be fooled into thinking this perfume is kid stuff: Heeley’s Bubblegum Chic is decidedly grown-up and ready for a well-heeled soirée. A seductive jasmine and playful tuberose — along with fruit notes and white musk — conspire to create a good time for its wearer. 

Heeley Bubblegum Chic Extrait de Parfum, $230, available at LuckyScent.

8

With Molecule 01, Berlin-based perfumer Geza Schoen pays homage to one ingredient: the minimalist but shape-shifting perfume molecule Iso E Super, a woody, amber-scented ingredient best described as velvety. This now you smell it/now you don’t fragrance has a cult following for its sheerness and its subliminal powers of seduction. Consider it a mood ring for your skin. 

Escentric Molecules Molecule 01, $135, available at Barneys.

9

Australian perfumer Naomi Goodsir doesn’t compromise leather’s badass reputation with her boozy, fruity, and rich Cuir Velours. The leather in Cuir Velours is broken-in and supple, softened with a surprising peach note. A stunning, multidimensional leather that only seems well-behaved, it’s comprised of leather, tobacco, rum, cistus labdanum, incense, and immortelle. 

Naomi Goodsir Cuir Velours Eau de Parfum, $150, available at LuckyScent.

10

Vetiver, the dried roots of a tall grass native to India, is an indispensable perfume note. Perfumer Isabelle Doyen pays homage to this peppery, lemony, and even dusty note in the third in a series of vetiver fragrances for Swiss niche perfume house LesNez. Turtle Vetiver Back is a civilized, yet still raw, vetiver that combines a soft, woody violet with a powdery aspect.

LesNez Turtle Vetiver Back Eau de Parfum, $125, available at LuckyScent.

11

Perfumer Kedra Hart of Opus Oils in Hollywood has a neo-Film Noir/pulp novel sensibility, and her big hearted, larger-than-life natural perfumes follow suit. Babylon Noir — “the scent of seduction” — officially launches on Valentine’s Day this year, and will be sure to seduce you with its fresh, green, fruity, and musky beauty. 

Opus Oils Babylon Noir, $95, available at Opus Oils.

Additional reporting by 

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