REEK is a new feminist perfume brand from created in collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney. Designed to make a stand through everyday rebellion, REEK is about empowering women through the commemoration of fierce feminists that have come before. Using the unifying and transcendent power of scent, this is a fresh and exciting take on engendering a conversation around women’s rights and identity. Twin caught up with Bethany Grace to talk badass bitches and what makes REEK smell so good.
How did Reek come about?
In our culture, we don’t memorialise our amazing women, and that means female role models are lost. In the UK only 15% of statues are raised to women, and most of those are to Queen Victoria. So we started thinking of ways we could change that. Scent is so evocative, it’s also a great means of rebellion. No one needs to know you’re wearing a scent that stands for something, unless you tell them.
Who are the women that you were inspired by when creating the perfume?
DAMN REBEL BITCHES was named after 18th century Jacobite women, as badass political activists and dissidents they were the right inspiration for our first scent. The Duke of Cumberland called them Damn Rebel Bitches because they wouldn’t give up on their cause. They were fearless. Jacobean Lady Nithsdale broke her husband out of the Tower of London in 1716 by dressing him in drag. There is no statue of her.
Scent is so individual, what ingredients did you feel embodied a universal sense of heroism, and why?
We work collaboratively with perfumer Sarah McCartney. The scents we picked all pay homage to the women of the 18th century. Blood orange peel was used as a deodorant, clary sage as a herb in women’s medicine and pink peppercorn was the most expensive thing you might have in your kitchen at the time, if you were lucky. Though perhaps not a universal representation of heroism, these are scents that speak to the real lives of powerful women – women stood up for what they believed in.
What kind of things did you look at to develop the scent – were there any fragrances of the past that inspired you?
It’s not necessarily scents from the past that inspire us but the female pioneers in perfume from history. The first prominent female perfumer was Germaine Cellier who broke into the industry through sheer determination in the mid-20th century. There was no question that we wanted to work with a female perfumer to combat the sexism in the industry even now.
How do you know when a perfume is finished, what are you looking for?
I suppose we just close our eyes, sniff and rely on our noses. For REEK it is more than just creating the right scent, it’s creating a present-day memorial. We’re currently developing a new fragrance for next year to commemorate a different set of women. Researching and coming to understand who that woman is takes a lot of work.
How do you see scent as a medium for commenting on the role of women today?
As an everyday rebellion. We still have so much to fight for, and we can’t go forward without looking back. So our first scent is about the strong women we admire, whose stories aren’t widely known, and who shouldn’t be forgotten. At REEK we believe that we need role models in order to be role models. Our campaign features women of a variety of ages and sizes, all un-retouched beautiful bitches. No retouching isn’t a revolutionary concept within the industry but we wanted to reiterate how important it is to combine no retouching with diversity – of race, of size, of age. We could have just taken photos of the perfume and it’s ingredients, avoiding any direct representation of women, but having this medium available to us we took a stand, as we emblazon on our website and t-shirts ‘BITCHES UNITE’.
What do you hope to achieve with the brand going forward?
More perfumes. More amazing women to memorialise. More feminist campaigns. More rebellion.