How the pandemic ignited a celebrity candle craze

In the first few days of 2020, it wasn’t COVID-19, the presidential election or even Megxit that dominated the news cycle, but rather a candle that claimed to smell like Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina.

Priced at $75 and scented with geranium, citrusy bergamot and cedar, the curiously named Goop product — which “started as a joke,” the company said — lit up social media and was mostly met with mockery. And then, it sold out.

As it happens, Paltrow was ahead of the sweet-smelling curve. As COVID-19 swept the globe and forced us indoors, both Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner added new candles to their existing beauty brands.

October saw the birth of a new home fragrance brand from an unlikely star: octogenarian “Silence of the Lambs” actor Anthony Hopkins, who showed off his candles and diffusers on Instagram in between his usual painting, piano-playing and flower-pruning posts.

Pop superstars are getting in on the trend, too. Following the release of Taylor Swift’s surprise albums “Folklore” and “Evermore,” the Grammy winner added woodsy votives inspired by her new music to her merch store. Alicia Keys’ “soulcare” line launched in December, featuring a sage and oat milk candle with a scent as comforting as her velvety voice.

To be sure, celebrities venturing into fragrance is nothing new; back in the 2000s, it was tough to name a pop star who hadn’t hawked her own. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez all currently oversee billion-dollar perfume businesses, while Rihanna, Beyoncé, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston are among the many others who have launched self-branded scents.

And Drake’s Better World Fragrance House — whose star scent Carby Musk “actually smells like Drake,” according to the product description — is already shaping up to be 2021’s hottest celebrity brand launch.

But in an age where evenings are spent curled up on the couch instead of out on the town, it makes sense that candles would take over the humble eau de toilette’s turf.

According to NPD Group’s 2020 report on fragrance consumers, 49% of scent shoppers wore their favorite fragrances less often last year, as a result of lifestyle changes related to the pandemic. But a whopping 85% report using home scents in the same time period, with candles as the most-used example.

“I think everybody in our company feels really blessed to be able to work on a product that seems to bring people a lot of joy and comfort right now,” Boy Smells co-founder Matthew Herman told Page Six Style.

His buzzy, “hyper-inclusive” candle and intimates brand — whose direct-to-consumer sales increased by approximately 1,000% in 2020 — was among the first to team up with a celeb on a special scent. Last February, Boy Smells partnered with Kacey Musgraves on “Slow Burn,” a rose gold-hued votive named after the track from the country singer’s Grammy-winning “Golden Hour” album.

“I think we bought 5,000 for the first production run, and they sold out in 30 minutes,” Herman recalled. “Now, we’ve made something like 90,000.”

Musgraves initiated the idea of a collaboration when she direct-messaged the brand on Instagram, Herman said, adding that her progressive values and vocal support of the LGBTQ+ community made the partnership a no-brainer.

The musician was heavily involved in every aspect of the candle’s creation, from visiting fragrance houses to personally penning a poem for the marketing materials. Herman said this sort of hands-on involvement is key when it comes to a successful celebrity team-up.

“You can really tell when someone’s just slapping their name on something,” he explained. “I’m glad that we did one that feels really genuine and authentic to our brand and that happened naturally, and we would definitely be open to doing another one in the future.”

In other words, don’t expect this hot trend to flicker out anytime soon.

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