Bernardo Möller was 13 when he started collecting fragrance. “I was the only kid in school that would wear white jeans and was drenched in perfume,” he says. “Everybody knew me for that: obsessed with smells.” Möller, whose collection is now over 500 scents strong, always knew that fragrance was his passion — but up until 2020, he believed working in the business of smell was “unattainable.”
So Möller pursued a career as a real estate agent, a job that afforded him financial freedom and a comfortable lifestyle. Then the pandemic hit, forcing him to reevaluate everything. “When my father passed away from COVID, that really changed everything for me,” Möller says. “He had such an inspiring, beautiful life… He died happy because he was following his passion to the very end.”
The loss instilled a new sense of urgency in Möller. Privately, he had always wanted to launch a fragrance brand — he already had a name and concept tucked away in the back of his mind. A month after his father died, he confided in his life partner, Giancarlo Perez: “I want to do this fragrance line that I’ve always dreamed of.” Perez, a neurosurgeon, immediately agreed to helm its business operations, with Möller leading all things creative. Suddenly, Möller’s brand — a luxury perfume house called House of Bō — was born.
Two months after its launch in October 2021, House of Bō clinched a coveted retail partnership with Neiman Marcus. By 2023, one of the brand’s scents, Infinitoud, by perfumer Carlos Benaïm, was nominated for Men’s Luxury Fragrance of the Year at the Fragrance Foundation Awards. In an industry that tends to oscillate between two extremes — either hyper-glamorous or hyper-conceptual — House of Bō occupies a comfortable middle ground that’s both commercial and niche, an attribute that’s less the making of a clever marketing strategy and more the result of Möller’s unwavering belief in honoring one’s authentic self.
“When you stop identifying with this fictional character that we all create — we all create it from a very young age — and you really focus on who you are, all of a sudden you experience these beautiful life experiences and connections,” he says. “When you live that way, life just opens up doors. That’s basically the message of Bō: to be your raw, unaltered, natural self.”
In the age of social media, there’s unrelenting pressure to create the next viral thing. But Möller is wary of making too much noise. “I do see a lot of fragrances these days that are very extreme, where the purpose is maybe to be a little bit divisive,” he says. House of Bō is perfectly content to be a crowd-pleaser, sticking to scents that Möller describes as “very easy to like… not offensive.”
One can appreciate the playfulness and subversion of olfactive novelties like D.S. & Durga’s tennis ball perfume and Etat Libre d’Orange’s Secretions Magnifiques, inspired by semen and sweat. But there’s something sublime about classically beautiful fragrances like House of Bō’s Rosario — conjuring an icy glass of lemonade garnished with pomegranate and rose petals, formulated by the legendary Olivier Cresp — and Espirítu, a leather satchel filled with herbs and wildflowers, by Rodrigo Flores-Roux. The brand’s fragrances (a total of six) are inspired by Möller’s memories of growing up in Sayulita, Mexico, a beachside town that was once a hub of the coconut trade. Paying further homage to Möller’s roots, the heavy, semi-circle caps that top each bottle of perfume are hand-carved by Mexican artisans out of stones like white quartz and tiger’s eye.
Möller suspects House of Bō’s astonishingly swift success has something to do with his quiet confidence in the brand, a steadfastness that the death of his father helped inspire. “People gravitate towards genuinity. I wouldn’t be doing a fragrance line that was about something that isn’t me,” he says. “Customers, even though they have such a short attention span, they’re not dumb — they want to see true, authentic storytelling.”