The New York TimesThe New York Times

When Did Perfume Stop Being About Sex?

By Rachel Strugatz

23 Jun 2022 · 5 min read

Editor's Note

Perfume is adapting with the times—heteronormativity no longer sells. Artisanal scents aim to evoke a less generic aura, but it is one that will cost you.

When a new Yves Saint Laurent perfume came out in 2001, Tom Ford, the creative director of the house at the time, threw a sensational party at the Paris Stock Exchange, where he put a gaggle of practically nude models on display in a giant plexiglass container. The fragrance was called Nu, French for “nude.”

Linda Wells, the founding editor-in-chief of Allure and a partygoer, likened Ford’s soiree to a “human aquarium,” teeming with models “writhing about” in underwear. It was like a ball pit one might find at a children’s birthday party, except bigger, alcohol fueled and packed with nearly naked adults.

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