If Gwyneth Paltrow adores a fragrance, you’d better take note. The goop entrepreneur has immaculate taste and a highly evolved aesthetic with a penchant for clean beauty products. When she discovered Heretic Parfum by Douglas Little, a New York- and Los Angeles-based perfumer, Little’s line of small-batch, limited-run fragrance collections (made without chemicals or GMOs) finally gained some hard-earned recognition. Indeed, few brands are doing chemical-free fragrances at the luxury level, but, just as there’s a desire for locally produced food and drink, there’s a market for artisanal scent experiences.
“There’s a little bit of heresy in the work I’m doing,” says Little, whose scents are available at Barneys New York and on the Heretic Parfum website. Dirty Ginger, one of the scents in the Heretic Parfum line, is a nod to redheads (Little is a natural one) and to the Medieval practice of branding redheads as heretics, which also helps to explain Little’s choice of brand name.
“The fragrance world is going through a revolution,” Little says. The idea of choosing your scent based on whether Jennifer Lopez looks hot on a poster is becoming increasingly obsolete. Instead, according to Little, people “want a scent that represents who they are” – something New Yorkers crave. In New York City, where people can now sign up for clean-beauty walking tours, the holistically minded consumer is more likely to be interested in a fragrance that works for their body and lifestyle than a run-of-the-mill marketing campaign.
Little’s business was doing well, but its tipping point came in 2016 when the organic perfumer found Paltrow in his Upper West Side living room, which is also his olfactory lab. “When Gwyneth walked into my house, it was a moment. But she was very low-key and deeply interested in finding the right fragrance for goop.”
Surprised by how daring Paltrow’s fragrance palate was, Little collaborated with the lifestyle guru to create a line of “mystically charged” fragrances. One example is Incense, goop’s Fragrance Edition No. 3, which Little describes as “esoteric, and inspired by smoky wood and cabins in the icy snow.”
Little’s clientele is niche, but the perfumer wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s not aiming for mass appeal. “The essences I use are unusual, and have a true shelf life of two years,” he says. “Because each scent collection is handmade and not mass produced, each run is made up of about 100 bottles.” Little, who has almost two decades of experience as a perfumer, is intentionally targeting a clientele who can appreciate handcrafted, small-batch luxury products. “Fragrance is such an unnecessary personal pleasure,” he says, playfully.
In addition to Paltrow, Little has collaborated with mistress of seduction Dita Von Teese. “Our take on sandalwood, Scandal Wood, is provocative and mind-bending,” he says.
But you don’t have to be a starlet to be transformed by fragrance. Perhaps a whiff of Little’s androgynous cologne will help you tap into your “true self,” as the perfumer hopes, or encourage you to feel a little more glam. So while a fragrance isn’t likely to change your life, it can help you explore unexpected notes.
An edgy take on aromatic notes distinguishes the Heretic Parfum line from its competitors. Little’s collections feature traditional notes like rose, neroli and jasmine, but with an added kick (black pepper, for example) to give a twist of spice. The cheekily named Pistil Whip exudes strong floral notes, with an undertone of something that’s not quite patchouli (it’s a difficult scent to place; it’s ethereal yet potent) to build complexity.
In New York City – where humidity can reach unbearable levels – a signature scent is crucial. Heretic Parfum provides exactly that, leaving every customer smelling uniquely stylish.