Who: Chris Collins, fragrance designer. If you’re looking at Chris Collins thinking he looks familiar, it could because of his appearance in two decades worth of Ralph Lauren fashion campaigns as a brand ambassador. He started life wanting to be a doctor and was heading to pre-med school when he started modelling. Now, with the help of a few influential friends (we’re looking at you, Kilian Hennessy) he’s launched an impressively stylish collection that we’d urge you to sniff out. All three scents are a tribute to his home neighbourhood of Harlem, New York, inspired by its rich cultural history and current renaissance as the cool part of town.
Today I’m wearing a citrus that I’m trying for my next launch, but usually I’m either wearing one of my three fragrances, Harlem Nights, Renaissance Man or Danse Sauvage, or possibly layering all three.
Fragrance is a very emotional journey of the current and of the past. I consider myself to be very attuned to my emotions and it’s very important to me to help others connect to their emotions through my stories.
It kind of took me a minute to understand that fragrance is fashion. Fragrance is the ultimate invisible accessory, so my years spent in fashion actually helped with my design ideas. Fragrance and fashion don’t have to be separate, it can be part of your fashion ritual.
Of course I’ve been influenced and inspired by the people I’ve worked with. When I started I was making fragrances for other people to love, but I realised that you can’t and wont please everyone. So eventually I said to myself, I can only make what I love and hope that other people will follow my journey. It was a huge learning process but now I’m way more comfortable and it’s a total joy to share what I love.
My position is unusual, it’s very rare for a person of colour to launch a fragrance brand. I think I’m the first African American niche brand owner, so I had to bring it, that’s why I took my ass down to France to figure out this world, I needed to immerse myself in it, to understand it completely. Killian said that because of my past in fashion, I couldn’t just come up with a mediocre fragrance, I needed to get it right. So I listened. I’m not the perfumer but I am the designer, telling stories with my fragrance. I worked with great perfumers, but these are my scents.
This could be a ‘see it, be it’ moment, one hundred percent. Some people have no idea about niche fragrance, they know the Macy’s market but that’s about it. I have to be way out in front of my brand to say ‘this is a new perspective and my journey is very interesting so let me tell it through my fragrances’.
To wear my fragrance I usually take a few spritz on my neck and on my wrists, I don’t put too much, just put enough so I can smell it and hopefully other people will enjoy.
You also never rub! Y’know most people’s first reaction is to rub their wrists together because that’s what they know, but that breaks the molecules, so just spray it, let it air and evolve on its own. I usually put it on fabric too, often a scarf and I tell women to put it in their hair because it lasts longer and when you move your head it gives this airy sense of the scent.
I don’t have my own candle line yet but I do burn scented candles at home and I love room sprays. Just like I love scent for my body I love scent for my home, I like all my surroundings to have a great scent.
It’s funny, I’m intrigued by the very animalic scents, that kinda stink, you know? I was smelling one fragrance with someone, who said ‘This smells like elephant pee’. I’m like, first of all, how do you even know what elephant pee smells like? And second, ok, I like that! It gives this different perspective from the florals and woody notes. So I’m going to play around with that. Obviously, you have to go easy, but I find those scents intriguing, that’s the kind of weird thing that I love to play with.
When I started, I really didn’t know how things worked, so I walked into Fred Segal’s out in Los Angeles, with the bottles in my bag and said to the sales woman ‘is your buyer here? She looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘She’s busy!’ But I said I’d wait for her. And after a very long wait, she said ‘Ok, you’ve got 15 minutes’. So we started talking and she tried the scents and then…it was three hours later. And now I’m stocked in Fred Segal.
The World Of Chris Collins fragrances are available at Jovoy.