Fragrance for a social-first demographic (Melrose Place by OUAI)

Seventeen years ago, my well-traveled friend was staying with me in my small, rented room in an old house on a dingy alley in Philadelphia for a couple of months. I have many distinct memories of that time with her, but the one that comes to mind now is of her raving about this amazing store called Sephora that sold all kinds of makeup and skincare products. I don’t remember now whether she was excited because she’d been to one in New York or because one was opening in Philly.

That was the first time I heard of Sephora, and eventually I started shopping there as well and signed up for a membership card; with that, I have gotten a nice “birthday gift” from them each year—several of those minis were great introductions to products that I later bought in full sizes, from eyeliner to lipstick to face cream to body oil and hair serum.

This year’s gift set was from OUAI, which I hadn’t heard of because it’s a “social-first” brand and I am not on the typical social media platforms. The box exuded a coconut scent and I thought, “Oh, no…” Luckily, that was only from the body wash. The shampoo smelled orangey, and the leave-in conditioner was rosy—a very nice rose, in fact.

The last item was a perfume sample: Melrose Place eau de parfum. I didn’t have high expectations, and figured it would be something pretty but not much more. The sealed plastic packaging read, “A velvety rich rose fragrance with hints of bergamot, lychee, cedar-wood and white musk.”

I wore it today as my pollen allergies seem to be subsiding. It was my first time wearing a new fragrance after exactly four weeks of wearing familiar ones. Melrose Place is rosy all right, but also… orangey, and shampooey. I looked up the notes—top: Champagne, Litchi, Red Berries and Pink Pepper; middle: Rose, Peony, Freesia, Bergamot and Jasmine; base: White Musk, Cedar, Sandalwood and Amber.

Champagne? I love a good champagne top note, such as that found in Les Liquides Imaginaires Dom Rosa or État Libre d’Orange Remarkable People. However, this perfume was not sparkly at all; rather, something was pushing back against my nose, making the sweet notes seem denser. Especially the lychee. Perhaps it was champagne that had gone flat, because there was something sticky in the way of hair spray that smelled very synthetic. Melrose Place felt like a “templated” fruity floral, veering into functional fragrance territory. The dominant peony and freesia notes were probably to thank for that.

Looking further into the perfume and the brand, it was hard to find the name of the perfumer. In the press, the owner was described to have “enlisted a star French perfumer” who remained unnamed. Minus points for that. So far I have found only the Parfumo website crediting Linda Song as the perfumer (who appears to be based in NYC and working at Givaudan).

The brand’s own website also mentions only “a traditional fine French perfumer.” The descriptions of the scent, however, are far more evocative: “We bottled the good taste of Melrose Place. Smell like LA sunsets and valet parking” If you open the TELL ME MORE tab, you get the product details, which include: “Smell like you only eat avocado toast.”

All of these pithy lines based on marketing insights from engaging with their Gen Z customers constantly on social media? …No comment.

I’m not even sure if it’s supposed to smell expensive, because it doesn’t. If you only ate avocado toast, you’d be a relatively cheap dinner date.

I grew up without television, except when visiting or on extended stays with relatives, but I do remember seeing an episode or two of the soap opera Melrose Place (which aired from 1992 to 1999) in the background on occasion. Melrose Place the perfume feels a bit like watching a soap opera. It’s very “not me,” and also not like an accessory. It’s more like sitting at a distance and taking in a scene that you know is fake, from the storyline to the makeup; detached, yet absorbing the fantasy drama. You are surrounded by it in the moment, but you can step out at any time.

The perfume becomes more of a dry rose on the drydown, an improvement from the synthetic fruity heart phase. However, longevity is moderate, so by this stage, the rose and I are both ready to move on.

7 thoughts on “Fragrance for a social-first demographic (Melrose Place by OUAI)

  1. I vaguely remember sampling these at Sephora. I remember they seemed pleasant and as Daniel mentioned not overpriced.


  2. Haha. Great description! I saw this line in Sephora some time ago and sprayed the Bondi one on a card. It was a generic powdery citrus rose with anchoring musky notes. It wasn’t very beachy, instead more like a shampoo, which would make sense given they’re a haircare brand. The only good thing is they don’t seem to be overly expensive.


  3. Ouai do a whole line of these “places” perfumes. None have appealed to me but I’m really not their audience.
    I seem to remember reading something when they launched in the UK, that because there were such great comments about how good the hair products smelt they decided to make a perfume line to reflect them.
    Functional smells as fine fragrance


    1. The shampoo and the leave-in conditioner I tried did smell quite nice, appropriate for those products. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working for them as a business.


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