Boho Chic? Boho No.

Only $575, boots and mansion not included.

I went with a friend to the Johnny Was boutique downtown – if you’re unfamiliar, they’re a rich-hippie, SoCal boho-chic clothing line for women (with some accessories and home stuff), lots of flowery prints and embroidery and flowy garments. I love a funky print and an embroidered blouse as much as the next person (probably more) but for whatever reason they’re not really my style, which is good because they’re also not my price point. I’d never been in the shop, but my friend wanted to take a gander and I’m always happy to browse. 

 My cursory googling confirms that “Johnny Was” isn’t the founder’s name but taken from a Bob Marley song, they’ve been around since the 1980s (okay, that surprised me), and I smiled when I saw the literal phrase “boho chic” on their website, they’re owning the look. The thing I wanted most in the store was a bespoke (limited edition?) patchwork kimono that cost something like $3,000 which whoa I guess I won’t be buying … failing that, their fleece throw blankets are ridiculously soft and cozy, and they go on sale pretty regularly, I could see myself ending up with one of those since Patty wouldn’t let me steal hers no matter how much I whined during my visit last year. 

Not these hippies.

Anyway. They have their own line of fragrances, I thought they would be fun to write about. And so here we are, only I won’t be taking the angle of approach I’d imagined. 

 I’m fascinated by the relationship of a brand and its perfume … let’s randomly take Chanel. For a lot of people who appreciate/covet the brand, maybe they’re never going to own a Chanel suit or handbag, but they could capture a bit of the brand magic in a bottle of Chanel perfume or some makeup. Buy your own bottle of No. 5 and get your own bit of luxury. When I sniff the Chanel oeuvre they (mostly) make sense – they fit in with what I think the line should smell like. They’re luxe, they can be a little aloof, a little daring, a little chilly … you get the idea. Their “classic” lineup fits the brand like a perfectly made leather glove. 

 So, these Johnny Was fragrances. They’re named things like Desert Moon, and Maui Coast, and hoo boy they are … not great. (Okay, fine, I went and looked: the actual names are Desert Night, Pacific Amber, Malibu Rose and Love 87, plus a couple extra room spray scents, they’re 50ml for $98, making them one of the cheapest things in the store.)

 I mean, I wasn’t expecting to love them. I’d be shocked if I loved them, and then this would also be a very different review. But they were (at best) wan and thin and uninspiring, and at worst were sad and sour, and they seem so disconnected from the brand aesthetic which, love it or hate it, is bold and whimsical and has a strong point of view which is anything but boring. These scents, on the other hand, could have been in a mall shop – a cheap knockoff of something like Crabtree & Evelyn? — in the 1990s. They were bitter, dull, or both. They were muddled. My friend (a fellow perfumista!) confirmed I hadn’t lost my mind. I wish I had a photo of my face when I was smelling the worst one which I think was Love 87. We agreed that if we were forced to wear one it’d be Desert Night, with a runner up nod to Malibu Rose, and those were both slightly better in the rollerball than the spray, but I still wouldn’t wear it except under duress. 

 I’ve already spent more time (and more words, lucky you!) on these than I ever thought I would, but surveying this … situation, I can’t help but be fascinated that they’re so off-target. Maybe they’re for people who hate fragrance? I dunno. Here’s what I think they should smell like, off the top of my head: 


Desert Night – white flowers, incense, heady, the exotic, “dramatic” one 

Pacific Amber – amber and vanilla, perfectly fine if you like that sort of thing, the sweetly sexy one 

Malibu Rose – rose, obviously, maybe a gourmand? Throw some vanilla musk in there, why not. The innocent flower-child one 

Love 87 – patchouli made more current / less interesting, but it’s fine, it’s the “wild” one 


Have you smelled any of these? Own any of the clothes? Is there a fragrance you’ve smelled that is related to a particular brand of clothing or jewelry or whatever that you thought was all wrong, or not what you were expecting? 

images via Pexels and the Johnny Was website

  • Musette says:

    OMG! Those scents sound…. omg.

    I have one JW jacket thingy that A Certain Someone threw at me, as I was packing to go home. I actually like it because it’s so absurdly …different? than anything I usually wear.

    • March says:

      I can imagine myself winding up with one of their boho tops or jackets or something (probably not the dresses) that I found in a thrift store or cheap on eBay, but I won’t be paying retail lol

  • Filomena says:

    I have some tops from Johnnie Was but only bought them when they were on sale. I saw that they now have fragrances but never had the desire to even think of trying any.

    • March says:

      My friend got a hoodie and she is thrilled, it’s their super soft fleece. You can cross “try their fragrances” off your list though.

  • alityke says:

    Those names reminded me of the recent EL launches in the ridged bottles.

  • cinnamon says:

    This is so not my vibe. As to perfumes and brands, interestingly, Theo Fennell’s Scent was much better than his jewellery looked.Today I read that Victoria Beckham is coming out with three fragrances and they sound really interesting. I like her clothes even if I seriously can’t afford them.

  • Portia says:

    Hey March,
    I might have an unpopular opinion.
    The Tiffany and Co fragrances are perfectly nice but I was expecting them to be utterly awe inspiring.
    Also most of the Boucheron, Trussardi, Chloe and Bulgari prive lines are only OK. Sure there are a few I’d wear but buy them for those $$$$$? Nope. Even at the discounters they’re bloody expensive. Many of them are so close to functional fragrances it’s really upsetting.
    OH! and some of the more recent Vuitton releases have been beautiful but cologne like things that you could get anywhere for 1/50 of the price.
    Portia xx

    • March says:

      WHAT a great example! I know I’ve whinged about a couple of these. I definitely tried one of the Tiffany ones and thought, this is so … wrong, and another jeweler… can’t remember which one. Have not tried the Vuittons. I really liked the Bulgari teas but if I remember correctly they started off as the ambient scent of the store and people wanted it for themselves?

      • Musette says:

        I adore LV’s On the Beach but… it’s weird… I adore it because it smells like a relatively good Cheap & Cheerful beachy frag. Which means the outrageous price is a dissonant note in an otherwise delightful scent.

      • Portia says:

        Oh I love the story of the first Bulgari Green Tea March. Obviously I wasn’t there so this is all hearsay.
        It was made as a gift with purchase for the big spender customers and then their friends went crazy for it. The demand was so great they decided to sell it on the market. The rest, perfume history!

  • Dina C. says:

    I’m surprised the JW scents were so cheap and wan: the rest of the boutique is so upscale. I like some of their embroidered shirts but haven’t bought any. On the other hand, there’s a senior citizen lady at my church who wears St. John suits and their signature fragrance. It smells gorgeous on her, and I’ve told her so several times. It totally fits that wealthy, mature lady with class vibe.

    • March says:

      Ooooh, I can’t remember what it smelled like, pretty sure I smelled it and loved it! What a perfect example. Glad to hear it fits the brand!

  • Tom says:

    I went into the store in Century City, between Kate Spade and Warby Parker. It was a while ago and I wasn’t in the mood I guess. It seemed to me a Boho pseudo-hippie sort of deal- but for people who think an actual thrift store would give them rabies or something. Like Shabby Chic- where you’d spend $2k on a wicker credenza that looked somewhat like it was pulled out of a dumpster, sprayed with white Rustoleum and decorated with old shelf paper. I don’t even remember if they HAD fragrances. I just thought Johnny Was wasn’t, and I needed a frappuccino, stat. Haven’t thought of it since.

    Glad you took care of any urge investigate further.

    • March says:

      I really did enjoy going in there (my friend got a hoodie she’s thrilled with, we’d gone to investigate) and I’d be very happy with one of those throws. Mostly though it’s all a bit Stevie Nicks for me in terms of flowy fabric and whatnot.

    • Alison says:

      Hahahaha! I own that wicker credenza, the one pulled out of the dumpster and spray painted not the $2K one. AND there is lots of Johnny Was on eBay for 10% of the retail price.

      • March says:

        OH yeah, my shabby chic stuff is probably (literally) from the curb on heavy trash day lol. I knew JW was on eBay, my friend’s been stalking some pieces!

      • Tom says:

        Thing is, I love the wicker credenza pulled off the street and painted. That’s the real shabby chic. I’m glad for Rachel Whathername that she made a fortune off selling the simulacrum for a fortune to people who think going south of Montana Avenue is slumming, but it’s not for me.

  • rosarita says:

    That’s interesting about Johnny Was, I discovered the brand on Poshmark where it’s more affordable but still beyond me. I haven’t heard anything about the perfumes but Zara has a line of perfumes that I’ve seen some favorable talk about from folks I trust about perfume. The Zara perfumes are affordable too. I don’t know how you sample them, I live in the sticks and there’s nothing like a Zara store.

    • March says:

      I used to have a Zara near my office in my DC life and I remember sniffing a fragrance or three there and thinking they were pretty darn good! I miss Zara, occasionally I bought something fun there that wasn’t too fast fashion, their quality for the price was generally good!