Fragrance Republic was a perfume line that attempted to create a new model for producing and purchasing perfume. In 2014 nine perfumes by nine perfumers were released simultaneously. Fragrance Republic was a subscription service with different packages and pricepoints as well as the option to buy any perfume individually. The subscription/purchase plan was complicated and statements of art direction that fostered artistic expression didn’t seem to match the perfumes themselves. If perfumers were given the liberty to decide the direction of their work, how did so many fruity-florals find their way into the line?
The perfumes in 20 words or less:
n° 1 “Iris Safran” by Nathalie Feisthauer: Pear and musk opening reminds me of the Duriez Patou perfumes. Backpedals to a muguet/musk smoothie.
n° 2 “Vapeur de Tubereuse” by Julie Massé: A chemical venn diagram of fruity thing, floral thing and musky thing. Advantage: short lived and weak. Vapor? Yes. Tuberose? (oh, damn. reached my word limit.)
n° 3 “Down in One 14” by Cécile Matton: Mojito as functional fragrance product.
n° 4 “Magnol’art 3” by Amélie Bourgeois: Rubberized burnt sesame seeds, but not in a good way. Latex-charred halvah.
n° 5 “Eau Verte” by Antoine Lie: Convergence of green. Grass, vegetal fig, vetiver. Bittersweet and cold. Chemistry summons botany at a séance. Balanced and Interesting.
n° 6 “Lime Absolue” by Karin Chevallier: Lime, fig, vetiver. Should be green, but smells like an imaginary purple spice. The highpoint of the line.
n° 7 Jean Claude Delville: The least common denominator of the fruity floral, tropical drink flavoring and fabric softener.
n° 8 Jean-Christophe Herault: Dusty, peachy, gummy, leathery patchouli osmanthus. Not a pairing I’d imagine. A solid fruitchouli. (Not something I’d ever imagined writing.)
n° 9 Constance Georges-Picot: Notes: “Rare Orchid, Fresh Waterlily, Luminous Rose, Pink Frangipani.” Adjectives without connection to the nouns/perfumes they describe. Floridian fruity-floral.
Ostensibly the perfumers were given great leeway and a hefty budget to create freely but the majority of the perfumes were unexceptional and the line itself indifferent. Were the perfumers limited to or steered toward certain materials? Were there a set of aromachems or bases that they were obliged to use? Was this set of perfumes created like the IFF Speed Smelling exercises where perfumers were tasked with showcasing new captive materials? I’m left wondering whether there was interactive art direction or a set of directives and list of materials.
I applaud innovation in perfumery and am encouraged that perfume is finding new models of production and distribution, but I found that Fragrance Republic lacked direction. It drastically overemphasized one particular genre. Eight out of nine, all but Amélie Bourgeois’s sesame fragrance, were fruity florals. That said, Antoine Lie’s vegetal fruity-floral was an interesting experiment I’d like to see in greater detail and Jean-Christophe Herault’s osmanthus had a pop-frag appeal, like a peach/apricot version of Juicy Couture’s tuberose. Karin Chevallier’s trippy spiced fruity wood was my pick for the one I’d keep.
I hope that the experiment of Fragrance Republic will pave the way for continued exploration of new model of perfumery.
(image source, Desert House Party, Slim Aarons.)