A thin haze enveloped the backstage at Willy Chavarria's latest New York Fashion Week show. No, it wasn't slow-moving fog clouds rolling in from the runway a few feet away. Instead, it was a cloud of Axe body spray, a meteorological phenomenon known to just about anyone who hit puberty in the 2000s when trigger-happy teenagers would turn the ostensibly palatable body-freshener into a pungent poison.
And so Axe became something you grow out of — or should. Adults, the logic goes, should be seeking finer scents: liquids that come in fancy bottles, with notes of bergamot, leather and vetiver.
But nostalgia is a hell of a drug. Nowadays, many men — in conjunction with newfound affection for fashion from the '90s and '00s — are fantasizing about simpler times, when Axe was the only option, and many are eager to remaster the "Double Pits to Chesty."
This includes Chavarria, a CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year nominee. For his eponymous brand's latest New York Fashion Week show, he turned to Axe for aromatic support. He sprayed the models with a healthy dose before they strutted out onto the runway. Then, there were cans of it caddied all across his after-party. To the surprise of many, Axe found itself at the center of the fashion world once again.
"I was looking for partners for the SS23 show – but they had to make sense," Chavarria tells GP. "When I learned that Axe was coming back to the scene, I was so excited because this is a product I actually have used and enjoyed. It brings me back to my younger days."
Axe has certainly changed since Chavarria, now 55, last wore one of its scents, but the new formulas — Apollo, in particular — appealed, because they're a blend of Axe's past and present: masculine and fresh but slightly different, grown-up, even. And Axe is betting that if someone like Chavarria can appreciate it, you will too. After all, if gas station sunglasses and tank tops can make comebacks, so can Axe. That is, if it ever even went away at all: Axe still makes over $1 billion in revenue annually.
"To me, Axe is a product for the people. They have something for everyone," he says. The cast, made up of models, the models' friends and the assistants of the show, were eager to reactivate muscle memories of spraying the aerosol can across their chests. "I mean the cast couldn't stop spraying it," Chavarria explains. "I think that speaks for itself."