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Standing Out with BORNTOSTANDOUT

Standing Out with BORNTOSTANDOUT

About the Brand
‘Tarnish the pure, defile the sacred’ could almost be BORNTOSTANDOUT’s motto, that is, if their name hadn’t already done such a good job of encapsulating their style. But rebellion is not carelessness, and provocation needn’t be thoughtless, both of which are immediately apparent when smelling BTSO’s offerings.
Even before we turn our noses to BTSO, we can admire the drama found in the subtle details. The provocative irreverence of crimson red text superimposed against porcelain white leaps out and says something directly to its audience. White stands for originality, and red for daringness. With bottles resembling Joseon porcelain, they are dignified and nod towards Korean tradition, but in the same instance turns away from tradition, and are moulded to a sensual and voluptuous curvature. In this regard, BTSO proposes a break – a sideways movement against the rules – and does so with attitude and aplomb. Such is their persona, a thoughtful yet never impulsive approach towards the creative process.

“Better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation” is one of the brand’s commandments, and can perhaps extend to perfumery more broadly. In a world where niche perfume has lost its originary sense of offering uniqueness, like a beacon of light out from the banal and the monotonous, there is great comfort found in perfume houses that continue to adhere to this principle of originality. And in this era of greater sensitivity and reflection over our place in the world, we welcome new ways of understanding the visible and the invisible realm of scent. This is, in a word, a new way of appreciating creativity and taste: because all cultures approximate the beautiful and the good, but how they do so depend on sensibilities that are uniquely their own, through a filter that can be called ‘taste’. Perfume qualifies as an art form if we accept that it wrestles with this challenge, and that perfumery approaches forms and ideals always greater than (and beyond) itself, in the never-ending and inextinguishable hope of aligning the material with the ideal.

And in the end, it is a matter of feeling, knowing that when we approach difference, we cannot help but to feel it work on us – on our minds, our preconditions, our prejudices, and our coded sense of appropriateness – like a prompt and a challenge to our old ways of understanding. By thrusting difference right to the fore, BTSO makes overt the rare and essentially unwritten missive of artistic perfumery: to make us feel.

Life, Death, and Sex

Haunted by a Freudian spectre, BTSO reminds us that we human-animals are composed of drives: forces that move us and guide us. Think intensity wedded with a sensual imprint – the ecstatic highs of Indecent Cherry, a celebration without consequence – the aphrodisiac force of cherry soaked and punctuated in a glistening syrup. Its mouthwatering effect, of acid tempered by sweetness, softens into creamy bliss - a lull of pleasurable fruity length.

Leaning on this, Drunk Lovers rounds up the most sensual yet angular aspects of the woody-ambery-musk style, furnished with grapefruit, pepper, and herbal accents. Its total effect is like a shirt impregnated with his scent, and worn by his lover the next morning.

The standout of this theme has to be Fig Porn, which, like a filter, sees the world a certain way. To expose the fig: illuminate the thing completely, wholly, nakedly, with no distractions. The glittering fruit, honey sweet and sticky with sap, its milky seedy pulp an explosion. Fig Porn glamorises the innate beauty of its fruity ingredient, in which pear is the perfect bedfellow, its shared honey-sweet ambrosia a gloss on the skins of these fruits. Decorated with smoky whisps of caramel, glistening petals of peony and rose, and long trails of sweet ambery vanilla musk, this fragrance liberates the fig note from its demure disposition.

The Sacred and the Profane

The clash of the sacred encroached by the profane has long been a theme of the most striking of art forms, and this contrast can reveal itself in subtle ways, often to heighten and emphasise.

In Dirty Rice, the pure image of milk: its soothing comforting creaminess, its sedative power, its white innocence, is here spoiled by an indeterminate dirtiness. The scent of rice, washed in a bath to release its fragrant starch, becomes a milk of sorts, nuanced with floral impressions and nutty ones alike.

And in Hinoki Shower, serene nature is the initial subject, offering a fragrant image of the forest after the rain. This is disturbed as a cigarette is butt out on the damp earth, its fatal smoke mingling with the verdant air, heavy with ozone.

Unholy Oud amps up the woody factor significantly, but not without the olfactory trick of deploying some clever and powerful synthetics, revealing a nature not though possible. A properly gnarly Laotian oud note extends its claws, its palms on an earthy floor of patchouli and incense, until it is worked at by a tender rose note.

Burnt Roses cannot be missed, which ranges a medley of roses from spiced ones to singed petals, dried roses and salted roses. A wild tangle of vines is framed with a plush curtain of incense and brightened with aldehydes, with a soft heart of lavender, patchouli, and sandalwood. Burnt Roses is dynamic and lively, the energy of fire in a fistful of wilting blooms, a floral dust scattered amongst incense smoke and ancient woods and resins. 

Irreverence and Rebellion

Drunk Saffron lives up to its name as precious stigmas of saffron infuse in a snifter of Cognac, floating in a medley that is equal parts woody as it is spicy, floral as it is honey-sweet and boozy. The delicious and drunken hue of this fragrance works around a leather note suffused around an ambery spine that becomes creamier and creamier long into wear.

In contrast, NSFW does not slacken, and offers a perfume that has gorged itself on an immense bouquet of roses. A decadent and bursting shower of many different rose extracts. Rose becomes an idea but never an abstraction, rather, its opposite: a hyperreal rose only attainable in perfumery, forming an essence to be appreciated in the most attuned of moments.

DGAF is a standout – pardon the pun – and we suggest calling it as the Italian’s do: sprezzatura. DGAF is a nominal trick, and is in fact a superb Aromatic Fougère that puts a lot of studied care into carelessness. Balance and proportion is the key to DGAF, with generous lashings of bergamot, purifying sage, violet, florals, woods, spices, and musks. The result is dry and rich, a rounded and complete fragrance where many notes across the spectrum are contained in harmony. In sum, it is a whole lot of something to not GAF!  It is of a timelessness that feels somewhat out of joint in a world dominated by timeliness – and it is in this anachronism that BTSO rebels … and excels.

Smokin’ Gun is worth great attention, too. As compelling and as matter of fact as a smoking gun, this fragrance is a complex layering of aromatic materials, to produce a warm and spicy impression. It is persistently smoky and yet at the same time lucid and vibrant – the smoke persistent yet never stifling, seeping slowly and radiating with a charming persistence, reminiscent of Lapsang Souchong tea, tobacco, peated malt, and woodfire. While the smoke begins to clear it never dissipates, as its intense darkness leads into clarity, like tendrils of smoke weaving through a dimly lit room.

View the BTSO Range