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Heretic Parfum Fragrances: Natural, Nongendered, and Nonconformist

Blended in organic, non-GMO sugarcane alcohol, these fragrances allow wearers to experience the Ayurvedic benefits of powerful plant materials

by Michael Shulman

December 12, 2023

Douglas Little / Photo: Dana Maione

Douglas Little’s path to founding Heretic Parfum included five years as the executive creative director of SexyHair Concepts, another six running his scented-candle company, D.L. & Co., and a few years producing elaborate displays for Bergdorf Goodman and Van Cleef & Arpels. Around 2013, Allure hosted a beauty conference in New York and invited Little—a charismatic multidisciplinary aesthete, creator and disrupter with a latter-day Willy Wonka vibe—to sit on a panel about emerging trends for an audience of 300 or so. There, alongside representatives of global fragrance powerhouses International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) and Givaudan, he was asked what he thought would be the “next big thing.” He replied, “The Whole Foods effect.” American consumers had become conscious of what they were putting into their bodies, and he expected that this would roll over into the beauty realm and what they would put onto their bodies. “My passion is fragrance, and fragrance will be the last frontier,” he said. “The ultimate luxury for consumers will be individuation in their products, and naturals is the solution.”

Photo: Courtesy of Heretic Parfum

At this point, the perfumer from IFF spoke up, saying, “I need to clarify for the audience that natural perfuming is nothing more than the work of housewives and heretics.” When Little asked her why she felt that way, she spoke of the industry perspective that natural perfumes don’t appeal to a broad audience, because they are too expensive and are completely unstable, so there’s no way to make a commercially successful fragrance with them.

When Little returned to his apartment, he called his attorney, asking her to investigate trademarking the name “Heretic.” “For fragrance,” he said. “It perfectly describes who I am and what I want to do.”

Working exclusively with naturally derived botanical ingredients and espousing what it heralds as “the dirty side of clean,” Heretic Parfum creates vibrant, nongendered fragrances that have been blended in organic, non-GMO sugarcane alcohol, allowing wearers to experience the Ayurvedic benefits of these fragrances’ powerful plant materials. As a result of not containing the artificial additives that allow commercial perfumes and colognes to linger as long as they do, fragrances by Heretic are sheer enough that they invite being layered together in increasingly intoxicating, personalized combinations. Because isn’t having a signature scent so 2024?

Photo: Courtesy of Heretic Parfum

In addition to staples including Bergamusk, Dirty Hinoki, Dirty Suede and Florgasm, Heretic regularly releases limited editions such as Cactus Abduction, Holi Water, Pistil Whip and Voodoo Lily. Discovery Sets, containing a quartet of Heretic samples, have become popular both with new customers seeking to get a handle on various scents as well as established clients who like to reapply when out and about. This is a particularly savvy move for a company that—while offered at traditional brick-and-mortar partners such as Bluemercury, Credo and Maxfield—sells much of its product through its online portal.

Photo: Courtesy of Heretic Parfum

Last fall, the brand released candle versions of such Heretic classics as Smudge and Scandalwood, as well as a new version of the Weeping Bust. Originally designed by Little for D.L. & Co. and sculpted by George Sellers, the Weeping Bust is a large candle in the shape of a neoclassical bust that has been cast in such a way that when the candle is lit, it “weeps” tears from the eye sockets.

Photo: Courtesy of Oye Jeannette

An expansion of the Scandalwood line—celebrating the fifth anniversary of Heretic’s collaboration with Dita Von Teese—features a bath wash and an oil-based roll-on version of the fragrance. And in time for the holidays, there’s the Dirty Santa candle, a fun and cheeky take on a fireplace fragrance (think hickory and wood smoke laced with pine, warm clove and oakmoss, with a hint of leather). The box features an image taken at a Warner Brothers holiday party in 1942, of the actress/director Ida Lupino spanking Santa Claus.

Photo: Courtesy of Heretic Parfum

Little has this bit of wisdom for those beginning to explore the world of fragrance: Do you. “If you want to smell like a birthday cake, go for it!” he says. “Slather on the icing!”