I’m guilty. I have a row of pretty fragrance bottles lined up at my desk so the pink, golden, and mint-green tonics in each catch the light from the window. But I’ve never once thought, Hm, I wonder what makes them be and stay those lovely unnatural shades (dyes and preservatives, in case you were wondering). When I met with Eric Korman, the founder of the Austin-based fragrance line Phlur, he explained how he’s changing not only the way we shop for and buy perfume but also how it’s made.
Phlur is a line of six unisex scents that smell as modern and sleek as the white-and-gray bottles they’re housed in. Instead of going to a store to spritz and sniff, however, customers explore the fragrances by reading their narratives on Phlur’s website. Based on descriptions like “reverent subtlety and a warm embrace” (Hanami), “arid spice” (Moab), or “rich, decadent, and undeniably enticing” (Siano), you choose two, samples of both ship out for $10, and if one is a match, a full-size 50-milliliter bottle is yours for $85 (minus the $10 sample fee).
It’s a unique way to shop for perfume, one that focuses on storytelling and adjectives rather than notes and accords. But what’s even more refreshing is the line’s commitment to health and sustainability. First, those dyes and preservatives are out. That’s why the bottles—which are made of recycled glass and printed with vegetable-based dye—are opaque. It keeps the formula inside fresh for one to two years.
Some of the ingredients used are definitely exotic, like Honduran styrax tree resin. But Phlur isn’t interested in sourcing materials that bleed the environment. In fact, it donates a portion from every purchase to conservation groups, like International Union and the Central Park Conservancy.
The most amazing part of Phlur, though, really is the scents themselves. You’d maybe expect ones this ecological to smell more like patchouli or essential oils. But whether they’re creamy, fresh, green, or spicy, the perfumes are impressively complex, chic, and conscientiously designed.