Scents of Nostalgia: Iconic Perfumes of the ’90s and 2000s

From designer scents that were status symbols to celebrity fragrances, here are the perfumes that were all the rage in our heyday.
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Back in the day, before online shopping and easy overseas shipping became the norm, finding your everyday scent was a bit of a challenge. You probably borrowed a classic from your mom’s dresser, got a designer fragrance as a gift, or treated yourself to one, maybe as a birthday present. It’s that scent you just couldn’t resist, maybe because your favorite celeb wore it, making it feel extra special.

Remember the first perfume that stole your heart? Those bottles you proudly toted around, spritzing for a quick refresh during high school and college?

They were more than just scents; they were badges of status, treasured reminders of our journey from awkward teens to young adults finding our way. Many of them have stood the test of time and are still around. Let’s stroll down memory lane and revisit the popular fragrances of the 1990s and 2000s—now considered “vintage,” believe it or not.

CK One

Calvin Klien took the perfume world by storm in 1994 upon releasing its first-ever unisex fragrance, with an unforgettable black-and-white campaign of good-looking young men and women of the grunge era. Wherever you are in the world, and from whichever generation you belong to, CK One is a unique scent that is very much wearable and universally appealing. Not only was its edgy packaging of a simple frosted glass flask and unlaminated cardboard boxing meant to be game-changing and genderless. It was ultimately intended to frontload the clean and fresh scent of citrus green woody accords of bergamot, lemon, lily of the valley, rose, freesia, sandalwood, musk, and green tea.

This iconic scent is created by two of the most renowned master perfumers in the world, Alberto Morilla and Harry Fremont. Since then, CK One has released 10 flankers and annual iterations of the most popular flanker, CK One Summer, from 2004 to 2021. Relive the moment and purchase a bottle.

CK One Eau de Toilette

P5,598, Rustan’s
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Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger

In the late nineties, everybody wanted to wear Tommy Hilfiger. It was a symbol of youthfulness and a fresh take on the classic Western prep style, with its signature branding colors of red, white, and blue. In 1994, the brand came out with its first fragrance for the female market, Tommy Girl, and it went flying off the racks at perfume stores worldwide. It’s a versatile and uplifting scent of apple blossom, mandarin, honeysuckle, and drydown notes of cedar and leather, exuding the playful and energetic spirit that generations of its target audience strongly resonate with the brand to this day.

The perfume’s various ad campaigns through the years were graced by popular supermodels like Christy Turlington and Gigi Hadid, who perfectly embody the image of the strong, youthful, all-American beauty. Tommy Girl was created by Calice Becker (Love Don’t Be Shy By Kilian fame). Go and get yourself the OG clean girl scent.

Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger

P4,020, Perfumes

Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana 

This one was (and still is) in a league of its own when it came to freshies, the moment it surfaced above the global sea of perfumes, like the birth of Venus by Botticelli, in 2001. Way before the designer duo followed up with a version for men six years later, the original Light Blue was a dumb-reach for men and women alike. The addictive aquatic citrus appeal capturing a summer day has stood the test of time and has been seen and followed by doppelgangers from other designer brands such as Lanvin, Moschino, and Anna Sui. 

Light Blue came out with numerous brand extensions as well as flankers, the latter being regional releases and therefore are hard to get. Some of the flankers were inspired by cities in the coastal region of Italy such as Panarea, Capri, and Portofino to name a few. 

Would we still wear it? Definitely! Especially since it’s been hot out 24/7. Thanks, Olivier Cresp. Time to beat the heat with this classic freshie.

Dolce&Gabbana Light Blue Eau de Toilette

P7,300, Rustan’s

Angel by Thierry Mugler

Another groundbreaking perfume from the ’90s is from the designer brand Mugler, known for its penchant for cutting-edge glamour. While it was polarizing for some (who either loved it or hated it), this was probably the first gourmand patchouli fragrance to hit the market, captured in the first ever non-traditional bottle of a star. Confident and complex, Angel by Thierry Mugler is a fragrance where the designer himself was very much hands-on throughout the creation process, and it remains unparalleled. 

The aromatic chocolate honey and focal note of cotton candy are unmistakably distinct and uniquely sexy. Also a creation of Olivier Cresp, this scent is striking to wear in the nighttime, comfortable, and low-key sexy to wear in the daytime. Might we add that this fragrance can go on for a whole day? Own the icon (again!). 

Mugler Angel Star 

P8,070, Art of Scent

Glow by Jennifer Lopez

Recorded as one of the first and most successful celebrity fragrances of all time, it inspired dozens of Hollywood celebrities in the early 2000s to follow suit, but none hardly came as close and unique. Glow is a timeless soapy floral musk fragrance that rose above its celebrity appeal, making it the second-highest seller in the American market upon its release. 

The grown-up, clean, sensual yet versatile “skin scent” as the star herself called it, has gorgeous notes of neroli, grapefruit, rose, and musk, to name a few. We think it’s a true standout compared to the floral and candy-like fragrances one would usually expect from celebrity perfumes.

Jennifer Lopez said it herself: “I wanted Glow to be fresh and clean, but still sexy and sensual—something that feels like you just came out of the shower and are the sexiest person in the world.”

Glow by Jennifer Lopez 

P1,400, Fragrance X

Clinique Happy

We think we can all agree that this was the epitome of the “female college school girl” or kolehiyala fragrance of the late ’90s and early 2000s. It’s the kind of smell we’d love to wear throughout our school days in our tropical weather.  Not only is it the brand’s best-selling and most popular scent, Clinique Happy was one of the best-selling fragrances of its time. It’s easy to fall in love with this scent: A spritz gives you that optimistic and cheerful vibe that can last for hours.

Clinique Happy is composed of citrus top notes of bergamot, apple, mandarin, and orange with a hint of plum. It’s got heart notes of freesia, rose, lily of the valley; and base notes of musk and amber. It’s the perfect entry-level fragrance for teenagers and young adults who appreciate perfumes even to this very day.

A fun fact: Clinique Happy is created by Jean Claude Delville and Rodrigo Flores-Roux, who are actually known for their top-selling freshie fragrances Jo Malone Orange Blossom (Delville) and Tom Ford Neroli Portofino (Flores-Roux). Own happiness in a bottle again, yes?

Clinique Happy Perfume Spray

P3,300, Rustan’s

Escada Island Kiss

We go way back when Hed Kandi was more than just a thing–—it was practically a culture! From the music, the beach parties, and the colorful vector art of hot girls vibing on a pool or at the beach, the look and style were simply too hard to miss. Now, which designer brand got on the aesthetic bandwagon with every look of their summer collection of perfumes for women between the late 90s and the 2000s? That’s got to be Escada, for sure! Each year since the early ’90s, the high fashion brand known for its vibrant and luxurious style came out with fruity floral offerings, each bottled in elongated heart-shaped flasks of different colors by the year.   

One of the most memorable flankers of the summer collection that comes to mind is Escada Island Kiss, which is deliciously made up of juicy and feminine floral notes of mango, orange, peach, and magnolia. The nose behind this belle-of-the-ball perfume is Philippe Romano. Best known for Island Kiss and three more flankers in the summer collection, he is also a regular perfumer for Bon Parfumeur (201 and 501). Time to bring it back, sing it back, and get on the waiting list!

Escada Island Kiss 

Available at Fragrance X

J’adore Dior

Back in the day, if you were already the young lass in your class with a taste for the finer things in life, J’adore was a perfume you had to have. Launched in 1999, it’s a luxurious and modern take on the floral fruity fragrance trend that was riding high at the time. Since then, it has released several flankers or variants and limited editions, all well-received globally even in present times for its timeless appeal. J’adore Dior has notes of pear, peach, magnolia, jasmine, tuberose, orchid, and vanilla, and the scent is chicly captured in a bottle shaped like the traditional Greek amphora.

J’adore is one of the classic bestsellers of the old days that you would want to revisit and take a whiff of again. Only to discover what a beautifully textured and contrasting fragrance it actually is, because of how some of its many notes, both fruity and floral, are likewise delicate and close to nature in scent. The fragrance has won several industry awards for its innovation and craftsmanship, as well as repeat features in Allure magazine’s Best of Beauty Awards list. Calice Becker, creator of the famed Love Don’t Be Shy by Kilian and Tommy Girl, is the nose behind J’adore. Stay classy and relive your yesteryears with J’adore Dior. 

DIOR J’adore Eau de Parfum

P12,100, Rustan’s

Ralph by Ralph Lauren

As if we couldn’t get any more into the high fashion and perfumery world of the ’80s and ’90s, Ralph Lauren set the bar when it comes to timeless American style, being a brand that focused on straightforward, classic lines, and high-quality materials. It allowed fans of the brand to connect with them on a whole new level through their perfumery. 

In the 2000s, Ralph by Ralph Lauren was launched to cater to a younger demographic that resonated with the brand’s classic Americana persona, but in a more lighthearted way. It starts with an aquamarine glass bottle offering a versatile floral fruity fragrance for women that’s perfect to wear on the daily, as it is also composed of apple leaf, mandarin, magnolia, and musk notes. 

Millennials will strongly remember this sweet, watery, and juicy yet clean fragrance from their youth quite strongly, a dumb-reach for hot summer days (might we say, the current weather we’re in!). It’s easily a gateway perfume for preteens with a budding affection for fragrance. Many Hollywood A-listers and celebrities fondly look to Ralph (Blue) as a memoir of their early years. And by the way, Lauren Conrad is a fan. Sweet and happy summers of yore are found here in your repurchase of this iconic scent.

Ralph Eau de Toilette

$95, Ralph Lauren

Bulgari Omnia Amethyste

While we stocked up and lovingly displayed our daytime dumb-reaches of Ralph by Ralph Lauren and Clinique Happy on our dressers, this next number is a fresh floral fragrance with a touch of sophistication, wearable for the warm days and a true crowd pleaser at prom night. 

Housed in a unique bottle shaped after the famous Bulgari B Zero ring inspired by Greco-Roman architecture, Amethyste is possibly the most successful flanker of the Bulgari Omnia Crystalline perfume collection. It was launched in 2006, created by the master perfumer himself, Alberto Morillas. Amethyste, true to its name, is inspired by the amethyst crystal, popularly regarded for attracting tranquility and spiritual balance. It breaks away from the commonly fruity floral sweet fragrances of its time with a minimalist approach. It’s composed of a few notes that include grapefruit, iris, rose, heliotrope, and woodsy notes. We loved it before, and we admittedly still love wearing it to this very day. 

Bulgari Omnia Amethyste Eau de Toilette

€74, Bulgari

Paris Hilton

This trailblazer of a woman needs no introduction. And back in the early 2000s, there were a number of us who wanted to be her (and to secretly be followed around by camera flashes). 

Paris Hilton was the perfume we wore to parties on the weekends. There was no need to keep it in our bag because the scent lasted through to curfew time. It gives off strong fruity top notes of melon, apple, and peach that are almost candy-like, greeting a medley of floral accords in the heart notes before dropping into a musky sandalwood base. 

Upon its launch in 2005, its perfume company Parlux Fragrance enjoyed a significant rise in sales of over 40 percent. The late ’90s and early to mid-2000s saw a boom in floral fruity fragrances for celebrity perfumes, and just like this perfume’s namesake, the debut fragrance started it all, hence the nostalgia. Since then, the heiress’ fragrance line came out with 25 different perfume offerings inspired by the many facets and fantasies of Paris Hilton herself.  Smell like a heiress and shop this frag.

Paris Hilton for Women

P4,100, Paris Hilton

Davidoff Cool Water 

Introducing an aquatic fragrance in a sea of heady chypres and saccharine sweet floral fruity perfumes of the ’90s was a game-changer, and that’s exactly what Davidoff Cool Water Woman did. 

Watery scents could either take you away or give you a headache, and Cool Water was just the right balance, integrating aromatics such as mint and lavender while keeping that freshness in its top notes of citruses, lotus, and pineapple. Born in the year 1996, Cool Water reshaped the traditional fougere accord that fans continued to love for years to come. The legendary crossover gender perfume by Pierre Bourdon (of the iconic Creed Silver Mountain Water), which was initially intended for women, has dished out several iterations adjusting to the taste of the times for aquatic perfume appreciation. Is it high time to release the freshness and purchase a bottle again?  

Davidoff Cool Water Woman EDT

P5,498, Watson’s
Collage by Dannah Valdezco. Woman in 90’s fashion by © Junessa Rendon. Hill by © Maki Hayashida. Black and white checkered floor by © yudhistirama. Vintage Spray Bottle by © Boris Tumakov. Cloudy pink skies by © kichigin via

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