Chris Collins Invites You to Daydream With His Fragrances

The founder talks to InStyle about creating his own collection and how he finds inspiration through art and film.

<p>Chris Collins/ InStyle</p>

Chris Collins/ InStyle

What's the best way to find your new signature scent? One might think testing a variety of different fragrances until you find the right one is the way to go, but it can actually be less methodical than that — as is the case for fragrance founder Chris Collins. For those looking for a more whimsical approach to finding that perfect scent, it's all about going in blindfolded...literally.

"Just close your eyes," Collins tells InStyle over Zoom. "When people are smelling fragrance, they're already looking to see what's next. But now, you're here." Being immersed in it via a blindfold gives you a different, elevated experience, he says, which is why it's his favorite way to introduce people to new scents.

Chances are, you've seen Collins before, as he's been the face of multiple campaigns for Ralph Lauren. But the former model has always had a strong affinity for scents, tracing back his love for the category to when he was a kid. He recalls his dad wearing all kinds of scents that he would try to wear himself on the sly.

From there, he would save up money and collect his favorites as a teen — mostly Calvin Klein and Tom Ford, as the men's fragrance category wasn't as expansive or inclusive as it is now — and worked his way up to launching his own brand, The World of Chris Collins, in 2018. For Collins, scent has always been a powerful tool to express oneself.

"I know the importance of that first fragrance; I remember and can still smell it," he says. "I was more confident. I just stood taller. There was just something about the fragrance that made me feel like I was figuring things out. That was the moment that things started to click for me."

In a conversation with InStyle, Collins discusses how he approaches making his scents, why the best way to test a scent is to go in blindfolded, and the importance of being original in the fragrance industry. Below, read our interview.

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InStyle: You say you're inspired by stories rather than specific notes when creating your scents. Can you expand on that thought process?

Collins: I'm really inspired by the arts. I love music, art, and film. I have fragrances named after films, I have fragrances named after music. So I'm always inspired by everything that's happening. When I have an idea, I ask, "What does this emotion, feeling, or name smell like? What will it translate to?" It's personal because I can't make you understand that story. I just hope that at some point you come along for the journey and say, "Oh wow, I get this. I understand this."

When a painter paints art, they make it for themselves because they're moved by something; they paint it in the hopes that other people will enjoy it and appreciate it. So that's the same way with me and fragrance: I'm inspired a lot by my own fantasies and just raw emotions that I have. Coming up with these ideas, concepts, and these stories that I like to bring people on the journey with me — that's the fun part.

That must be fun for the chemists you work with. How do you work with them to make your vision a reality?

The relationship between me, the chemists, and the perfumer has to be a dance we dance together. We can't step on each other's toes. After a while, they kind of know my style; they know I love to create deep, sultry, and romantic scents. They'll know exactly where to start if I say, "Here's a story and this is what I want to tell." We go back and forth, and then we get to the point where this is the fragrance that I think will translate for this story the best.

I love that you named your collection "The World of Chris Collins." How did you come up with that name?

I call it The World of Chris Collins because I want to bring and immerse you into the world that I live in — both reality and fantasy. I love this kind of underworld of fantasy. It could be a little dark sometimes, but I'll bring you in and hold your hands. It's okay; don't be scared. Come with me.

Which scent in your collection are you gravitating toward right now?

This is how I answer this question every single time: my favorite fragrance at the moment is the next one — the one that I'm working on. For the fragrances that I launched, I've already lived with them for years, so I'm already working on fragrances for this and next year. Sometimes, I wear my previous creations to inspire me for the next one — like some that are in my gourmand category — so I can ask myself, "Okay, well how can I take this to another level or the next step or push the envelope a little more?"

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Fragrance for too long has been categorized by binary standards. How do you go about breaking those boundaries?

Women have always had fragrance and body care in general figured out. For men, it took a while for us to get it. The way I create fragrances, I don't make them for men or women; I just make fragrances that I love. Some may be slightly more feminine if that's the category that people want to put them in, or some may be slightly more masculine. But I never create it for him or her.

I remember buying a fragrance from my mom, Thierry Mugler's Angel, and I would wear it sometimes and I think our bodies do different things. It could come across as more "feminine" on my mom and come across a little more "masculine" on me. Everyone is everyone, and you can wear whatever you want.

So does your mom still wear Angel?

She wore it for years until I launched my own now; she now wears mine. She loves the first collection I launched, Harlem Nights. Obviously, she has all of them and can wear whichever one she wants. She loves them all, not just because I'm her son, but because she has a good nose, too. Recently, she's been loving Lost In Paradise and African Rooibos.

How would you advise someone wanting to break into the fragrance industry?

I always say, "Do something that's never been done before, or take something that's been done and do it better." Your story is really important. A lot of people connect to not just the fragrance, but the founders and their story. Before I started creating fragrance there were very few men or people of color at all creating fragrance. I wanted to make sure that I knew my history. But then I said, "You know what? I'm going to take what's already been done and I'm going to put my own spin on it." I think that's why the fragrances have been successful. People have been following the story and loving the fragrances because you have to be able to do something that's original.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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