Breaking Binaries

Posted by Roja Parfums on


The birth of conceptual perfumery packaging came around at the turn of the 20th Century thanks to Francois Coty and René Lalique, who were the first to create a specifically-designed commercial bottle, label and box.

By the 21st Century, the commercialisation of perfume led the marketing and packaging of it to evolve in a way that catered toward gendered tastes. As shelves became more saturated with choice and fragrance houses had to find new ways to vie for customer attention, one way to cut a prospective shopper’s options in half was to prescribe gender to their bottles.

By the 1990s, the industry had become saturated with overtly gender-marketed products. It was with the launch of CK One that the first major mass-market undoing of these norms began. Its effects are still at work to this day.

Small, niche and luxury fragrance houses have been key players in not prescribing their offerings with a gender, instead opting to “put the scent first”. With their increase in popularity in the past few decades, it only serves to make this new approach the new norm.

That isn’t to say that the concept of “For Him” and “For Her” has been totally erased – there are still some residual benefits to the method. It is something many of us grew up with and habits are hard to break. But who knows, in a few decades time, we may find the concept defunct, entirely.

Till that day comes, come with us as we explore gendered perfume in more detail: How does it work, how do we use it, and how can we bring a new perspective to some of our “gendered” scents?  



When it comes to gendering a perfume, the interesting thing to note is that the ingredients don’t fundamentally change. In reality, a Rose on a woman’s skin will smell feminine, whereas a Rose on a man’s skin will smell masculine. It is the way the Rose is worked which dictates whether the accord becomes obviously “masculine” or “feminine”.

A traditionally “masculine” accord will be based more around earthy materials like Woods and Mosses, with a proclivity for the easy-going freshness of Citruses and Herbs. Meanwhile, a traditionally “feminine” accord is expected to be sweeter, usually based around a large quantity of Florals and Gourmand notes.

However, the notes themselves are not prescriptive. Flowers will almost always be present in a masculine accord for the nuances or effects they lend its overall delivery. A Rose can be geared toward a male demographic by using just a touch of other flowers and burying it into a green and earthy bed. For a female demographic, it’s more likely to be nestled around a more prominent bouquet, with the sweetness of Vanilla and Fruits. 

Whilst these are the general ways in which accords are gendered, the question really is: “does it matter?”. At the end of the day, the magic of perfume is that there really are no rules. According to Roja: “We each have a distinct “Olfactory Fingerprint” which forms throughout the course of our lifetime, based on our individual experiences with different smells, at different times and places”.

So, as our taste in scent is never the same as the next persons, we should simply live our lives doing what feels right for us. Chosing a perfume you love - not one you think you should wear – only ensures we feel natural wearing it.

Bergdorf Goodman


Looking through our vast collection, one will find that 11 references read “Pour Homme” 15 “Pour Femme”, and 29 don’t read either. The final question becomes: “Why do Roja Parfums gender some perfumes and not others”?

It all comes down to knowledge level. Some prospective customers may not come to us with a wealth of knowledge on the perfume industry, so there is a need to guide them into the collection. Just like we said in the start, it helps make them feel comfortable and know where to start exploring. Here at HQ, we find this is true for many of our new friends, who as they learn and explore the brand more, will often graduate outside of the binary.

In the spirit of fragrance being a wonderfully disruptive art, we wanted to pull out some of our own gendered references and explore why even their suggested names don’t necessarily need to be taken as gospel.

Enigma Pour Homme

Sitting within the men’s Parfum-Cologne and pure Parfum collections, this isn’t a masculine interpretation of the female Enigma but its own entire creation.

In stores, it is no rarity to find those who identify as female being drawn to the eye-catching amber bottle and reaching for it. It is even rarer to not see them sniff it and become completely addicted.   

An incredible juggling act is at play in it: The dryness of Woods and Tobacco are smoothed by the sweetness of Heliotrope, Vanilla and Benzoin, as a hedonistic burst of Cognac transforms the whole thing into a smoky, boozy cherry cola sensation.

It’s perfect for those who feel tired by or don’t identify with overtly-feminine fragrances. Appearing both “masculine” and “feminine” at the same time, it caters to those who seek something genderless but find many “unisex” offerings are insipid or simple.

This really is the magic of Enigma – it is so unique, it’s liquid lightning in a bottle.

Enigma Pour Homme


Sweetie Aoud

Back in 2015 Roja had the idea to create an Aoud with a distinctly Gourmand twist. The palette can often be associated with saccharine mass-market creations but in true Roja fashion, he set out to craft a Gourmand that was mouth-watering whilst remaining completely luxurious. 

For the effect, he created a unique Patisserie Accord, which he expertly blended onto a bed of Aoud, Frankincense and Woods. The resulting scent is that of freshly-cooked pastries underscored by a smoky haze and a woody warmth to give it depth and lasting power – all whilst remaining distinctly Gourmand.

The scent itself is unique enough, but what really surprised us when we launched it was how a fragrance initially made with a young, glamorous Arabic woman in mind suddenly became like kryptonite to men.

Sweetie Aoud remains an icon to this day. It is a shining example of how a truly delicious scent can be made sophisticated and genderless. This isn’t sweetness that makes one think of the sickly celebrity scents of the 90s but one that wraps the wearer up in a cocoon of indulgence.

Sweetie Aoud 

Enigma Aoud

A re-imagining of our infamous Enigma Pour Femme, Enigma Aoud re-imagines the formula with an exotic twist. A fresher opening is made deeper in the base, where a central note of Aoud Wood has been introduced alongside the creamy bed of Sandalwood.

Due to it being an interpretation of a Pour Femme creation, it was initially categorised in the same way. But it became clear that men were not purchasing it from the website, whilst in stores, it was selling equally among both genders.

It’s a great example of everything discussed in this article - how the ingredients themselves don’t dictate a gender but the way they are styled does: As Enigma Aoud becomes fresher, less floral, and dryer due to the Aoud and Sandalwood base, it immediately becomes more “unisex” as a result.

A fresh, fruity and woody scent with an exotic undertone, Enigma Aoud is perfect for those who love the smooth and enveloping sensations of a fruity Aoud-based scent.

Enigma Aoud

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