The Trendsetters: The creatives behind the buzziest consumer trends
Matthew Herman and David Kien
Co-founders, Boy Smells
First created as a living room candlemaking project in 2016, former fashion professionals Matthew Herman and David Kien’s Boy Smells has gone from side hustle to powerhouse fragrance startup, appointing retail veteran David Duplantis as its CEO last year. Since then, the “genderful” brand (their take on gender-neutral) continued on its growth trajectory with retail expansion, launches in new product categories and a continued focus on unique celebrity collabs. Following its first physical pop-up in November 2021 in Los Angeles, the brand made its debut at Sephora in August this year. In September, it launched the latest collection in its ongoing collaboration strategy, with icon Grace Jones. Herman and Kien recently continued Boy Smells’ push from candlemaker to full-fledged fragrance brand, expanding into body care in October with scented hand wash and lotion launched in time for the holidays.
You saw the candle boom in 2020, and then launched fragrance in 2021. What are people buying now?
Herman: “We’re seeing our fine fragrance business take a bigger part in the Boy Smells universe. Fragrance is up 100% to last year, and we also just launched in Sephora. Fragrance is dominating the business at Sephora.”
Is that the future of fragrance gender neutrality?
Herman: “There’s a lot of sexism embedded in fragrance notes, like, ‘Women are supposed to smell like flowers or fruits because they’re fragile or delicate,’ and, ‘Men are supposed to smell like musk or woods because they’re strong or animalistic.’ I don’t think those binary definitions of gender apply anymore.
I do think the gendering of fragrance is something of the past. ‘Genderful’ fragrance is the future and feels more mainstream now than it did when we started the brand in 2016.”
Grace Jones was a major get, in terms of collaborators. How do you select your partners?
Herman: “We’re really about these people who are provoking the status quo.”
What are you seeing, in terms of DTC versus wholesale sales, and what channel are you focusing on?
Herman: “Wholesale is up 5% [in its proportion of total sales], compared to last year. We’re seeing that customers are returning to retail and want to go and experience products IRL. Our two biggest partners are Sephora and Nordstrom.”
Will you be expanding your product lineup?
Herman: “We’re coming out with hand wash and lotion. This will be our foray into personal care. And then we’ll have additional categories and category expansions next year: We’ll be doing a new format for home fragrance, and we’ll launch two new fine fragrances.”
Kien: “We’ve been working on the hand washes and lotions for years now. They are going to be very design-driven and the antithesis to the Aesop hand wash that is so pervasive. We’re excited to give an alternative to someone who likes color.”
What are your plans for physical retail?
Herman: “We learned so much from our pop-up. We had an insanely high conversion rate, which was fantastic. Next year, we will continue to explore that opportunity if the right thing comes along. There are no firm plans, but retail is definitely in our three-year plan.”
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