A naked and partially disassembled cyborg, recharging from a hanging nutrient tube while sitting on a couch in front of his exotic shoe collection. He's holding a bottle of Fetish
Return to Perfume Home

Fetish was a quarantine impulse buy. I was in its target market back in the late 90s when it was launched. I remember seeing it on drugstore shelves and admiring the cool bottle, but I never owned it or knowingly knew anyone who did. I could not remember what it smelled like, or if I ever knew what it smelled like. Maybe I used a tester and decided I didn't want it, and the memory was lost. Well, now I have some. It's like I unified the timeline! I am together with the perfume that alternate past me bought when it was relevant.

Fetish cologne was just one part of a big collection of makeup and body care for teens that spun out of the success of Nail Fetish manicure products. The word 'fetish' was theoretically stripped of sexual meaning, reduced to being a synonym for 'obsession.' "What's your fetish?" asked the Fetish brand. "Clothes? Makeup? Phones? Nothing that actually involves arousal, right? For god's sake, our marketers are targeting 12-year-olds. Please say that your fetish is phones, and say it in a way that doesn't involve grinding on them. Also, we are only asking girls. This house of cards will fall if boys get any input, thank you." "Well, I read this story on alt.tasteless where-" "WE SAID THANK YOU."

Packages of the Fetish solid cologne had a photo of a questionably-legal girl/woman on them wearing a mesh top, pleather miniskirt, and the boots that the cyborg up top is wearing. She wouldn't have been out of place on the set of The Fifth Element. It's a very tech-chic, very late-cyberpunk look. It's even fun, as long as I don't imagine having to actually wear it myself. That would not be fun. It looks super uncomfortable. Print ads got pretty salacious. You can see one of them on Fragrantica's profile for Fetish. A definitely-not-legal girl who is more glitter gel than human brags about sexually stimulating men, then telling them to fuck off. It's actually pretty punk rock of her, as long as she's armed. Men sometimes get mad when you tell them to fuck off. Look, the name Fetish bothers me, okay? 12-year-olds! Couldn't they have just called it Connect, or scent.com, or some other cyber-jargon name that would spare me from having to think about sixth graders discussing their fetishes? Fucking Christ.

Anyway, the Fetish bottle is a joy. I even drew it, because of how much I like it. It's so simple: a frosted (sometimes it was clear, mine is frosted) glass tube with a colorful plastic top and a squiggly clip. The clip was designed so that you could wear the bottle on your clothes or a purse strap(see the print ad). This probably worked okay for the little .33 oz. bottles, but I wouldn't do it with my 1.7 oz. ones. In any case, it looks cool, very colorful, kinda sciencey. The bottles would have fit in as a prop on the set of Beakman's World, or as an alternative to the helix bottles that Resident Evil viruses were stored in. It came with a little holder that kept it upright on your dresser next to your box of stretchy tattoo chokers and wet look hair gel.

The fragrance itself is also extremely 90s. Fetish is a citrusy aquatic floral, which was super on-trend back then. It's also 90s in the sense that my bottles are 20 years old at the youngest. The citrus top note has noticeably turned. It's got a mild spoiled grapefruit smell. This isn't a huge deal. When that part settles down, Fetish smells exactly like its packaging and marketing would suggest: plasticky, straight-lined and cool (temperature). It's sweet and green. There's nothing fleshy or even organic about it. The flowers are artificial. There's a little clean white musk note that's also artifical. I mean this in a nice way. It feels deliberate. It feels like you could download it. If an Angelfire website had a smell, that smell would be Fetish. The cologne formulation is light and not long-wearing, unsurprisingly. I like that. It feels good to be able to apply fragrance from the cute bottle liberally and frequently.

I wish I had some CK One around to compare Fetish to. They would surely have eaten at the same lunch table. What I do have is some Healing Garden Waters Perfect Calm. That came out only a little later, 2001, but it had decade inertia. It smells similar to Fetish. Similar notes have deteriorated and similar notes persisted. Perfect Calm is slightly spicier. I prefer Fetish, which aged better for some reason. Maybe Healing Garden wasn't bullshitting about being made from real essential oils. Those are often unstable.

My current mood where I'm listening to vaporwave eight hours a day and pining for the opportunity to run around unsupervised in a closed mall is enriched by wearing Fetish. I'm glad I got some. I'm even enjoying the sexy aesthetic it was marketed with, now that I'm not part of the underage target market. 12-YEAR-OLDS. GODDAMNIT. No wonder Cuties happened.

- 9/16/20