Ashley Benson’s Fragrance Line Is a Love Letter to New York and Paris

The gender-neutral collection is deeply rooted in memories.

Ashley Benson Perfume

ASH By Ashley Benson

Upon walking into The Ned NoMad — a luxury hotel situated in the 1903 Beaux Arts Johnston Building in Manhattan's NoMad neighborhood — Ashley Benson is sitting in an area closed-off by full-length velvet curtains. Dressed to the nines in a black patented leather coat, fire hydrant red nails, and a lip to match, she looks up and smiles ear to ear.

We're here to talk about ASH By Ashley Benson, the star's first solo business venture and its two initial fragrance launches: The Eighth and East 12th.

Both are inspired by her favorite areas in two of her favorite cities: Paris and New York City. While Benson lives part-time in Los Angeles, it's these two cities she says inspire her the most and speak to the complexities of scent and energy she's drawn to.

The Eighth is the brand's Parisian-inspired fragrance. With notes of bright bergamot, soft musk, and creamy cashmere wood, those who have been to the French capital will be able to identify the scent's on-the-head je ne sais quoi. On the other hand, East 12th is inspired by Manhattan and balances the dualities of the city with a blend of delicate rose damask, intoxicating black cedar, and zesty orange. It's a little edgier, with a punch true New Yorkers will identify immediately.

If you haven't already guessed it, Benson's perfumes are tied to memory, and she told us all about them. From her globe-trotting grandmother whose elegance inspires the star, to the rapper she says is the best smelling person she's met to date — and why it took over 60 variations to find the right scents for her debut.

ASH By Ashley Benson fragrances

ASH By Ashley Benson

To shop: $79 each;

InStyle: Why did you decide to create ASH By Ashley Benson?

Ashley Benson: I got the call to do a fragrance line at the beginning of 2020, and it was so random because two months prior I went to Morocco on vacation and went to a fragrance merchant in Marrakesh in this amazing cave-like situation with candles and this older woman and tea. And I sat there for three hours and that was the first time that I was presented with all kinds of different notes of scents — I took my time and figured out what I liked and created my own scent there.

So, when this came about, I wanted to do it because I had such a fun time creating this sent in Morocco and I wanted to bring to life a personal connection to me. I think scent does that for everyone.

The first two fragrances are inspired by New York and Paris — why is that?

New York and Paris have been some of my favorite memories. Paris is my favorite place ever — I've been there so many times for work and for pleasure. [And] living here in New York has changed my life in a very drastic way. I moved here six years ago right after I just ended Pretty Little Liars, which was a huge part of my life, and I didn't really have many friends here, but I always told myself I wanted to move to New York. So, to start, I wanted two scents that remind me of both places. And they're genderless, too. I want everybody to be able to wear anything I create

The bottles are so unique — tell me about them.

The tassels remind me of room keys of certain hotel rooms — and I'm always in a hotel. But I bring candles, incense, all of my perfumes so that when I walk into my room after a long day of work, I can feel like I'm at home. The fun thing about the tassels is they remind me of being away and at a hotel. And with the Parisian one, I just did a really nice delicate red. And then the New York scent, I did a leather tassel because New York's more grungy, raw, and black is a color I think represents most New Yorkers.

What does New York smell like to you?

New York has many scents. This isn't even a scent, but how I feel when I'm here is independent, raw, kind of edgy — but then there's beautiful parts. There's so much going on in New York. It's very busy and you're constantly taken by different smells all the time. I'll walk down the street and it smells like garbage and then I'll walk to Tompkins and it smells really fresh.

What does Paris smell like to you?

Paris smells to me firstly of just baked goods and coffee, but then there's a lot of floral scents, a little hint of roses. It's romantic, it's sexy. I think of dim lighting, candles, red, the street lights in Paris. The Hotel Costes has a masculine scent to it. It's a mix of feminine and masculine for me and very fresh but also something very dark and mysterious and kind of sexy. The Crazy Horse smells of elegance and is also a little dirty and a little sexy. I go there straight off the plane every time too because I just love that show so much. And I love when it rains and that "after rain" smell, even here, anywhere. But especially there, just with all the flowers and walking over the bridges and seeing all the streetlights — it just brings you into a different kind of world

ASH By Ashley Benson Fragrance Launch

ASH By Ashley Benson

What's your first fragrance memory?

It has to be my grandma. I would have been able to smell her at two years old, but I will say the memories started happening at five or six. Her bathroom was always amazing. She had all of her perfumes on these antique trays. She wore Chanel perfume and Elizabeth Arden's Red Door — those are the two ones I'd always see on her vanity. My grandmother traveled all over the world and always made me want to do the same — I was always in awe over her and her experiences in different countries and places. She's been everywhere, she's done everything. So, that kind of inspired me. I think it really started there.

So, how do you wear fragrance?

Fragrance has played an important part in my life ever since I was little. As I got older, I found myself mixing different scents together and creating something unique, and every one of my friends always asks me what I'm wearing. If I'm at work, the wardrobe people are like, "Oh my God, you always smell so good when you leave your clothes here. What are you wearing?" So, I've always kind of been very aware of scent — one thing about me is I'm a very clean person. When I'm on set, I always have [fragrance] in my bag: it's my perfume, my lotion, a candle, and incense.

It seems like you're that friend that everyone says smells good. Who's the best-smelling person you've ever met?

A$AP Rocky. It was a one-time, run-in thing. I was picking up my friends, we were going to get tattoos and it was middle of the day. He was walking out and was saying bye to my friend, and we hugged. He was wearing this huge fur red jacket and just smelled expensive — if that's a thing. And I was like, I don't know what he was wearing, but it was musky and just very manly but just so chic. I don't even know, but I wanted to keep that forever. I'll never forget it, and that was six years ago when I moved to New York.

If you could bottle a memory, which one would it be and why?

My first trip to Paris. It was my first time in Europe ever — I was on a press tour for "Spring Breakers" and I'll never forget it, it was so crazy. Me and Selena [Gomez] and Vanessa [Hudgens] went to this mall, and when we came out and there were thousands of people outside screaming. I wasn't used to that because we were only on the second season of Pretty Little Liars, and in L.A. there are paparazzi but people are just locals there, and European fans tend to be so passionate. It was just really crazy to see all these people support us. Selena and Vanessa had been dealing with that as intensely at an earlier age because of their careers, so it was really nice to experience that for the first time with them. I've known Vanessa since we were 10 and I've known Selena since she was 14, so they're like my sisters. They made me feel very safe in an intense situation. It opened me up to a whole different world and how to handle myself in situations like that,

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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