Sure, Ashley Benson Wants To Do It All

That's why her fragrance line ASH by Ashley Benson is simply the beginning.

Димитър Андонов
Димитър Андонов 10 януари 2023

Photography: Frankie Batista

Can you hear the scream? It’s my teenage self, running a Pretty Little Liars fansite throughout the entire course of the show. That’s what I tell Ashley Benson when she hops on Zoom for our interview and brightens the screen with a big smile like we’ve known each other for a very, very long time. Her response to my confession is exactly what I’m thinking – ‘Oh My God’. However, we are not here to talk about the pop culture phenomenon that cemented her superstar status. We will dissect her latest business venture, ASH by Ashley Benson.

Meeting a few days before the holidays, Ashley is finishing up some last-minute tasks and is getting ready to visit her family for Christmas. Her mom tries to get a hold of her during our call, but we stay focused on the topic – the fragrance line and its two initial launches - The Eighth and East 12th.

Both inspired by her favorite cities in the world – Paris and New York, the perfumes actually help you understand the person behind them better. ‘I feel like with scent, you get to know me right away’, Ashley confesses while we go back and forth on everything, slightly turning the conversation into an ode to the two cities and all their mysterious yet beautiful sides.

While The Eighth embodies Paris with notes of bright bergamot, soft musk, and creamy cashmere wood, East 12th is inspired by The Big Apple and is ready to take you by surprise with rose damask, black cedar, and zesty orange. But as it’s safe to bet, ASH doesn’t stop there. The brand founder has big plans and is already working on fragrance #3. You better get ready!

Sure, Ashley Benson Wants To Do It All

Was creating a fragrance something you planned, or it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s an interesting thing to do, let’s try it’?

Years back, I never thought about it. I have always been into fragrance. I used to mix oils and perfumes to create my own scent with different brands I like. The opportunity came about two and a half years ago. When I found out, I literally jumped on it. It was a very cool thing to explore. So fun, so far.

And the feedback is awesome!

Yeah, I’m so happy. Everyone seems to be enjoying the scents.

What’s your first fragrance memory, if I can put it out this way?

My grandmother. I got introduced to beauty growing up and being in her house. She had this amazing glass tray with all her perfumes, lipsticks... I felt like I was in a store. She always had a specific scent, so I could always smell her in the room. It all started with watching how she took care of herself. She was a very elegant woman. She still is, always dressed, with red lipstick, hair-perfect. I looked up to her when I was little. Still do.

If similar to spirit animals, we have spirit cities, mine would definitely be Paris. It’s impossible to not fall in love with it...

I fell in love with Paris the first time I went there. It’s the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to! There are so many emotions you can feel – you are so inspired, you are excited, romantic, you feel like the world is yours. You can also be alone there, walk around, even if you don’t speak the language. I don’t. I kind of understand it, but I always feel like I’m in a movie, and I never want to leave.

How about your relationship with New York? I know you spent some years there before going back to LA.

It was a dream of mine to live in New York ever since I was younger. Finally, when I was 26, I moved, which is really scary. It’s a big city, and I have been only for work here and there. But I wanted to challenge myself and be immersed in this different world. I love New York so much! I wasn’t going to permanently move there, I was going only for 3 months. I came back to Los Angeles 5 years later. I still have my place there. New York will always be a special place for me. Forever! I love everything about it.

So it’s really as magnificent as it looks?

It is! I think Paris and New York are pretty similar because you can do the same thing – you walk out your door, get your coffee, grab a bagel or croissant, walk around, go to a park, visit some amazing restaurants. You can explore different things that LA doesn’t really offer. In Los Angeles, you are always in your car, you are stuck in traffic whereas in New York and Paris, you just walk around.

What does your day look like there?

I have my routine – I wake up, get my coffee, go sit in the park, I will read, write, or listen to music, and then walk for hours. I love being alone in New York, I eat, people-watch, see where the day takes me. I’m always surprised because I always run into someone I know.

Really?

Well, I hang out in certain parts of the city, and a lot of my friends live in the same area. It’s really fun to explore and see what happens. I can leave my house at 11 AM and not come back until midnight. You never know. One of my favorite things to do, especially in the fall, is getting a city bike and ride to Central Park. A lot of times, I’ll bring my scripts and memorize my lines there. Even being surrounded by so many people, you can still find a quiet place and this sense of peace.

Ashley Benson

Some people tend to define a place by the food they’ve tried, others by the sightseeing they got to do. Do you remember them by the scent?

Hotel Costes in Paris is something that I would recognize by scent. When I first went there, the hotel smelt like its own fragrance. The room sprays, candles, I bought everything. It was very much ‘me’ - romantic, sexy, mysterious. In New York, I feel like the scent there is more food-based. There are a lot of hot dog stands, pizza, and pasta.

I always tell people I haven’t visited a place if I haven’t tried the food.

I’m a big foodie too. New York is the best place for that! You can get something different on every corner, and it’s always amazing.

If a scent can transport us through time and space, where and when would you like to be transported right now?

I think I want to be transported to Paris. (Laughs.) In the 20’s.

Ooh, the 20’s.

The scent would probably transport me to a speakeasy with jazz singers. Everyone is wearing really nice dresses and suits, I can think of people talking, drinking, dancing, and smoking their fancy cigarettes. I love speakeasies, I love jazz music, and I love Paris, so something like that would be my dream world.

Please, invite me if it happens.

I would absolutely do that. It would be so much fun!

How much time did you spend working on the fragrances though?

It started in 2020, and we launched in November 2022, so about two years from start to finish. I think it took six or seven months to start talking about what sort of things I want to do, if I want just one fragrance, what I want it to be, and if I want it to be for women because I’m a female. I did over 60 rounds of testing, I was flying back and forth from LA to New York, I was there for every single meeting. I wanted to be present. I made a small page with different pictures I’m inspired by - clothing, food, hotels, parks, rain, anything that resonated with me, and what I wanted ASH to represent. I brought in probably 20 different fragrances that I enjoy. I had everyone smell them so they can understand who I am as a person through scent. I’m not a very sweet person, I’m between masculine and feminine. I lean towards masculine, but I really wanted to find a happy medium with both fragrances. We are going to start working on the third inspired by another one of my favorite cities, I’m excited. It felt right to do something with those two cities that have been a big part of my life, that not only inspired me creatively but also changed me as a human. Significantly.

I believe you mentioned twice that these cities have changed you a lot as a person. But what about LA?

I’m born and raised in LA. Being here for 26 years, I obviously spent my life in it. I think LA changed my work ethic. I started working in film and TV consistently when I was 12 or 13. I had to become an adult at a very young age because I was working with people in their 20’s. I didn't have the time to have a young mind. I’m grateful for that! It really defined who I am as Ashley, not through my parents, my career, or anything. I’m glad I was surrounded by good mentors and a great friend group that I still have.

Both scents are not only unisex but also vegan and cruelty-free. Was that important for you in the creative process?

I’m a huge animal lover! The first ‘no’ was testing on animals, I wanted the scents to be very clean. A lot of products are going that way and have been for a couple of years, but that was one of the main things I said in the beginning. As for the unisex part, I have thrown the idea out there. The team said it was great! Creating a fragrance for everybody was important to me.

I remember when I saw the announcement and every part of the campaign. It's obvious it is very well thought-through. That's awesome because many people want to do something, but don’t invest that much time and energy in it.

This is the first business venture I have done completely solo. I’ve had other businesses with amazing partners. This time it was important to have it come from me, my brain, my vision, my story. I’m really lucky the team was able to trust me - even down to the bottles, the colors, the campaign. I wanted to show a very feminine side but with some masculinity, as I’m in between the two sometimes. I wanted to see it through my eyes, and not through somebody else’s. It was fun to have full creative control over every aspect.

Ashley Benson

Good thing you mentioned the bottles, they are stunning.

I didn’t want anything crazy. I wanted something simple but also very elegant and upscale. I saw these bottles at the office, and I was, like, ‘Okay, I want this’, but all lacquered, in solid black and this deep red. It took me so long to get that right red! As for the tassels - I’m always away from home so I bring my candles and my perfumes to hotels, everything to make it smell like my apartment or my house in LA. The tassels reminded me of room keys I had over the years in Paris and New York. I thought it will be fun to add that touch. It was sentimental, a reminder you can make a home anywhere through scents. The leather tassel for East 12th is more edgy and masculine, while The Eighth is more feminine, very Parisian, and romantic.

You have already said that these scents tell people more about who you are. What exactly?

I think they are a more intimate way to get to know me. People know me through interviews and who I play on screen, through my characters. I’m very intuitive. I have a very romantic side, I’m feminine but also mysterious, edgy, kind of dark at times. Also, I can always picture what people are going to smell like. It’s so weird.

How does that happen?

I don’t know. (Laughs.) I can spot someone who’s more androgynous and mysterious, they would smell masculine. When I see people on the street, I always play games with my friends. I may be wrong, but most of the time, I’m right.

Ashley Benson

Does this work only in person, or you could also tell me?

I think you are the musky, woodsy type.

There’s some truth in it. It really depends on the day.

I feel like you would smell very European, which is my favorite scent. Anywhere in Europe I go, everyone always smells so good. When I go to Paris, for example, everyone smells expensive. I just think you lived a different life in a different way.

I feel like I already know the answer, but you do see ASH as a brand and not a one-time project, right?

You know, I definitely want to explore different avenues. I want to do it all. It was easy to start with the fragrances. That’s what means the world to me right now. I also enjoy everything beauty, I enjoy everything home, and I’m figuring out where we will go with the brand as a whole. If I’m lucky enough, it will hopefully go much bigger than just one thing.

I know you can’t tell me more about the third fragrance, but where are we going with it?

Europe.

I really hope everything you have planned happens the way you want it.

Thank you sooo much!

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