D.L. STEWART: Perfumers are cashing in on the sweet smell of nothing

The fickle fads of fashion never fail to mystify me. Untucked shirts for men? Partially untucked blouses for women? Unshaven cheeks for men? Pricy jeans that appear to have been run through a shredder for women? T-shirts and sneakers that sell for hundreds of dollars?

And now I have a new puzzle: unscented perfume for women and men.

As The New York Times reported last week, “When Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Off-White (and longtime collaborator with Kanye West) decided to introduce his first perfume, he had only one request: He wanted it to smell like nothing.”

The result was a scent called Elevator Music, which has been described as “barely detectable to the human nose.” It contains soft notes of violet, bamboo and musk “so subtle that it nearly disappears on wrist contact.” The price of this disappearing stuff is $275 for 100 milliliters (.4226 of a cup.)

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One might wonder why anyone would pay $275 for an essence that might only be detectable to a cocker spaniel, but that’s because one is woefully uneducated about perfume. When a German perfumer released a similar “antiperfume” a decade ago, it became “one of the top selling niche fragrance of all-time.” And when Elevator Music was introduced in Paris earlier this month, it’s reported, “a stylish mob formed outside the gallery venue.” Which is sort of like what happens when new basketball shoes or video devices are introduced, although those mobs form outside Walmarts and tend not to be all that stylish.

Elevator Music isn’t the only new perfume that has no similarity to your mother’s Shalimar or your grandfather’s Aqua Velva. According to The Times, “millennials (and the Gen Z-ers slinking up behind them) are averse to pouring on a prepackaged personality. Instead, they simply want a concoction to help them smell like their glorious, unique selves, only better.”

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So there’s also Concrete, which reportedly smells like a city street after it rains. I’m not sure which street, but if it’s one in Manhattan, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to smell like it. And Holy_Wood, which smells like the inside of a day spa sauna. Which doesn’t sound all that appealing to me, either, but it’s probably better than smelling like the inside of a men’s club locker room.

It all seems a little silly to me. But if people are willing to pay $275 for less than a half cup of something that has hardly any smell, I want to get in on that racket. So I’m proud to announce the development of my own essence, which I will be selling for $275 a gallon.

I’m calling it Eau de Tap Water.

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