There are two kinds of people in this world: those with blue ticks, and those without. And only members of the former group are allowed to buy a bottle of "Verified: The Sweet Smell of Validation," a new fragrance by avant garde perfume house Xyrena that's emblazoned with the same azure-colored check mark used to distinguish celebrities and influencers from their billions of wannabes. In order to spritz yourself in social currency, you'll need a Xyrena employee to vet your handles then approve the purchase. For added protection, there's a limit of one per customer.
Don't get too outraged! Xyrena is definitely in on the joke. While absolutely a real product, "Verified" is an art project as much as a perfume. The medium fits the message, right? Fine fragrances are meant to have an element of exclusivity. They're owned only by the very few. In this instance, that means those with social media clout, as well as money.
Xyrena founder and "Verified" creator Killian Wells explains that he's become increasingly interested in social media stratification, and the expanding gulf between those who influence and are influenced.
"I know a handful of people, especially in LA, who if offered the choice between a Lamborghini or social media verification, would easily choose the blue checkmark over a beautiful Veneno," he tells PAPER.
"I'm fascinated by the ever-evolving concept of social currency. In this day and age, being verified on the right platform can literally be more valuable than a degree or an impressive resume. Luxury perfume has always had its own history as a status symbol, so I wanted to translate that into the digital era."
Wells, for the record, happens to be verified on all the platforms that count. Which gives him a unique perspective.
"I've found that the allure of verification can be so intense that people will try to be your friend or, in extreme cases, your significant other all in a desperate attempt to get a blue checkmark themselves," he admits. "Years ago, I'd call these types 'star fuckers,' but now the term is 'clout chasers.' I had a guy ask me on a date recently, and then his next text was asking me if I could get him verified on Instagram." The romance ended there.
"Verified" smells as enticing as the world's most exclusive perfume should, with a fun conceptual twist. In tribute to the millennial influencers who rule the Internet, Wells developed the unisex scent by pulling notes from popular mainstream fragrances of the past two decades: crisp watermelon and grapefruit, white musk, sandalwood. (Next time you're around a social media superstar, give them a sniff to check they're the real deal).
If you find yourself craving this perfume precisely because you can't have it, then "Verified" is working. While it might seem counterintuitive to develop a product that only 0.004 percent of the world's population can technically buy, Wells (whose other Xyrena scents include a collab with Trixie Mattel, the choc-hazelnut-smelling "Hellanut," and "Cinemaniac," which contains notes of freshly buttered popcorn) might be onto something. That little blue tick has a whole lot of power. As anyone frustrated by Instagram and Twitter's ultra-mysterious verification processes knows.
"I liken myself to Andy Warhol because I love to blur the lines between commercialism and art," he says. "There's no reason why merchandise can't have an underlying social commentary."
Photo courtesy Xyrena