Highsnobiety

"I wanted it to smell like a rich, evil woman's Birkin bag," Sable Yong says of her latest project, a collection of razor-sharp essays on vanity titled Die Hot With a Vengeance. 

The book isn’t literally scented — turning its pages won’t yield an aroma besides the sweet, starchy scent of freshly printed pages. But Yong, a former beauty editor at XoVain and Allure, has created a perfume to accompany the volume, which hits shelves on July 9. 

It’s a bold scent that captures Yong’s frank, no-holds-barred musings on beauty conundrums like post-breakup glow-ups, our morbid fascination with plastic surgery “gone wrong,” and the commercialization of self-care. Yong created Die Hot With a Vengeance, the fragrance, in collaboration with Hoax Parfum, a boutique olfactive design house founded by perfumer Joey Rosin. 

While it was Rosin's first time creating a scent based on a book, he often uses art and media as a jumping off point for his work. "I’m also a musician," he told Highsnobiety over email. "What does John Coltrane’s 'A Love Supreme' smell like? How do I make a top note that feels like Betty Carter’s unbridled improvisations? Can I compose a fragrant ballad? These are all the types of questions that guide my research-driven process."

On Tuesday, readers will be able to get their hands on Yong and Rosin's finished product: A limited run of 250 bottles will be available for purchase at Yong's website

Ahead, Highsnobiety chats with Yong about the process of translating writing to scent, smelling versus creating perfume, and how a spritz of Die Hot With a Vengeance makes her feel.

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Highsnobiety: There's a very funny chapter in your book about fragrance and body odor. Did this chapter in particular inspire you to launch a perfume with the book?

Sable Yong: No, not in particular. I always wanted to create a perfume in general, but I did not necessarily want to create a brand. I don't want to be a girlboss, but the book launch seemed like a perfect opportunity to create something. Book merch is such a thing now in the literary world, but people don't need more tote bags.

HS: Tell me more about the development process. How did you initially connect with Joey and Hoax Parfum?

SY: Joey is actually a listener of "Smell Ya Later," the podcast I cohost with my friend [beauty writer Tynan Buck]. Sometimes we chat in the DMs, usually about perfume-related stuff. Around last November, I had offhandedly mentioned that I was thinking of doing a fragrance for my book. [Joey] was like, "I would absolutely love to do this… Knowing your taste, I think we could really make something cool.”

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HS: In addition to hosting “Smell Ya Later,” you've written a ton about fragrance. What was it like being on the other side of things and actually developing a perfume?

SY: I'm obsessed with fragrance and the fragrance world but when it came to creating, I was very chaotic and inarticulate about expressing the things that I wanted. When given a blank slate, I was just like, "Everything — let's throw all these things in there." And Joey was like, "Okay, well that's going to smell insane. We need to pare it down to just a few of these ideas." It was a huge learning curve for me.

HS: Did you go in knowing what you wanted the fragrance to smell like?

SY: I definitely had an idea. The brief that I gave to [Joey] was that I wanted it to smell like a rich, evil woman's Birkin bag.

HS: Okay, that's amazing.

SY: I sent him mood board imagery of film noir femme fatales, and ‘70s and ‘80s beauty and makeup. Very dark, saturated, jewel tone imagery. We also did a smelling session. I went to his studio and brought over a ton of fragrances that I really like. We talked about what I like about them and what I want to take from each one. So for instance, I love the smell of vintage makeup and vintage lipstick, which a lot of times comes from iris or orris root. Boiling [Die Hot With a Vengeance] down to a scent profile discounts a lot of the nuance involved. But I would say it’s a warm, spicy, gourmand leather. Lowercase gourmand, capital leather.

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HS: What are the edible notes in it?

SY: There is vanilla, amber, a little bit of plum, and patchouli. When [Joey] proposed adding plum, I was skeptical of it — I'm not really a fruity, floral scent person. But he was like, “No, no, no. The plum helps to bring out this facet of the leather and this facet of the orris." That was really interesting to me.

HS: You mentioned the image of an evil woman's Birkin bag. How does that tie in with the overall vibe of your book?

SY: I use the word “evil” playfully. It’s a very devil-may-care attitude — women doing what they want and breaking out of expectations. That's the vibe I'm going for. I just wanted it to make me feel sexy and mysterious and complicated.

HS: How are you envisioning people wearing the perfume? Is it something that you'd recommend smelling while you read the book?

SY: I envision people wearing it every day, hopefully. I set out to make an evergreen scent that is appropriate any time of day or night or season.

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