February 24, 2014

Fragrance Republic

FR! 01/05 reminds me of the ultra green of Prospect Park summer fields,  photo Lucy Raubertas
Fragrance Republic is a cross between a new fragrance house and a subscription service similar to Book of the Month Club, only for perfumes.

There is an exclusive new perfume each month by a different perfumer, and for the base subscription price (which is divided into three, six, twelve month or monthly  choices) subscribers receive the current month's perfume in the mail in a 15ml numbered in order plain flacon.  This is enough to get the true feel of the perfume to see if you'd want to order the full size 75 ml for $95 or another 15 ml for $45. There is also a free option which gives participation and the most expensive ultra "senator" subscription which gives access to the perfumers and some advisory input in the club.

The perfumes themselves are well priced for the fine perfume end of the market, as the advertising and packaging costs are kept to a minimum and the savings put into the perfume itself (a trick that the indie perfumers have employed, ju jitsu-ing a small budget to a positive effect).

There is a forum and a blog to invite participation and communication with the perfumers and club members.  There is a desire to both open up fine perfume to the consumer who may not have geographical access and develop a creative and collaborative outlet for the participating perfumers. There will be free events with the perfumers in person and online.

The perfumers all have freedom to produce whatever they want (no doubt conforming to the price points set within the accessible price range).  There's full information on the Fragrance Republic site about each perfumer and perfume, and how the subscription service works, with prices and levels of membership, biographies of the perfumers, and direct ordering links.

FR! first five perfumes, pboto Fragrantica.com
All five I have received so far have been created by French perfumers trained in the classical European tradition, though I understand that in the coming year there will be indieperfumers participating. Francois Duquesne, formerly of L'Artisan, is a co-founder and has initially drawn from his professional fragrance circle to begin the project, as future possibilities are explored.
It's been especially interesting to delve further into the types of perfumes made by such French/classical perfumers, as I have been learning more about that arcane and elaborately structured world in a class run by Cinquieme Sens at Pratt in New York.

I've spent much more time with indieperfumes, as is evident from this site, though I have many European niche perfume favorites, and I'm now even exploring some of the more mainstream perfumes produced by those responsible for some of my favorite niche perfumes, such as Dominique Ropion and Jean Claude Ellena, as well as the vintage classics through their transformations.  I discovered that you can obtain Kenzo Jungle, created by Dominique Ropion, at three ounces for about $55 online, among other exquisitely beautiful things, such as Dune, which have now become comfort scents for me during this harsh New York winter.

I love all kinds of perfumes from the full range of sources, but sometimes the experience of talking about one side of perfume to the other reminds me of the differences among musicians.  The skills and tastes of those devoted to Opera and classical music contrast with the entirely different skills and aesthetics cultivated by Jazz, Blues, R&B, Folk, and all their myriad and constantly morphing offshoots.

One side might look at the other with a somewhat aghast expression and be unable to relate to how the other performs the magic that they do. Some residing on the extreme end of each scale might only be able to appreciate the products of their own background and training.

I recall on a freelance job I once did (long ago, 20 plus years) at a famous newspaper (that shall remain nameless) one of the older esteemed classical music reporters there remarked that Africa had no true culture because they had no Opera.  Considering this almost mind-blowing statement was made by a highly "educated" person, it goes to show that a narrow focus can sometimes result in a shocking obliviousness or even blindness to other forms of beauty.  We know that this works both ways on every side of every issue or form, including perfume.

But lately in perfume it feels like there is starting to be some cross-pollination between the two worlds, again similarly, as there has been in music for many years now, at least among those who see the benefit of expanding their parameters.  Because of social media there is potential and ability to cultivate an audience open enough to appreciate more than one kind of perfume style and further inflame desires for an accessible relationship to beauty through the sense of smell.

For example, many indieperfumers long devoted to naturals are now using certain aroma chemicals to expand their repertoire of effects, and a number of classically trained European perfumers are exploring ways to present their individually developed fragrance ideas and inspirations directly to a cultivated and appreciative personal following.

All perfumers with their own lines have access to social media, to develop and engage the interested and curious consumer and increase the potential for perfume experimentation.

My favorite so far of the perfumes I have tried from Fragrance Republic is 01/05 by Antoine Lie, with a theme of transcendent green, green on green of many different kinds, expressing pure vitality as it harmoniously arises from the skin.  This one goes straight to the brain with directness and energy enough to trigger the "invincible summer" within.  That phrase "invincible summer" was the first thought that came to mind when trying this perfume.

The full quote from The Stranger by Albert Camus is:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Soulful Filling general fuzz
I think perfumes, like music,  have the potential to re-connect you to your true self, especially when overwhelmed by circumstances, and that's a good reason to remain open to trying perfumes by those who show feeling for the materials and the emotional and imaginative connections they have the power to evoke.

I'm happy to see that there are ever more efforts made and outlets created for perfumers of skill and imagination to reach those who want them, and appreciate what they do, as well as to cultivate new audiences.

Disclosure: I receive 15 ml samples as part of a membership provided by Fragrance Republic. This piece was not commissioned or commercially compensated.

Music I listen to perfume by: Comfort Zone by General Fuzz on Soulful Filling

Text: Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.


Here are the answers to some questions I sent to FR! -- please see below for the Q&A:

Fragrance Republic — as a subscription service for original new fragrances — can you tell more about the motivation behind this project ?

Fragrance Republ!c began three years ago, born out of the desire of frustrated perfumers around the world, the concept to bring their unadulterated creations to the public grew and shifted until finally the Fragrance Republ!c club launched in October 2013. Really it was to allow perfumers to create juice that allowed the consumer an intimate and open view of the personality and soul of the artists involved. 

Who do you envision as the subscribers for FR?

A vast array of individuals who are already fragrance enthusiasts, or individuals who want a well rounded introduction into the world of fine fragrances. Men and women who enjoy voicing their opinions, and experiencing their senses in new ways monthly. We are engaging a community of people that already exist, and challenging them to converse with each other. Members are curious as to what a perfumer would create, with out commercial parameters, and perhaps what they themselves wear. Members are thrilled that FR! wants to know how they are enjoying our perfume, and that we want to know what they desire more of. 

Can you please tell more about the selection process for the individual perfumes that will be included? 

We work on the premise that there should be no artistic boundaries for the perfumers. Our only requirements are that they respect the Advisory Board's criteria, create fragrances they are proud of and meet IFRA compliance regulations. We are a Republ!c, therefore once fragrances filter are tried and tested by the founders and main team members, we open up a discussion with our Senators as to whether the fragrance is a good fit for the FR! vision and when it might be possible to produce the fragrance

How do you envision conducting the direct outreach to potential subscribers — assuming the use of social media, will there be more information and interaction with the subscribers online for each perfume or will each one be a surprise, with some follow up, or a combination of the two?

We do intend, along with the use of social media, attempting to connect with future members in a more direct, transparent way. Either through video blogs, FR! introductory events where we preview fragrances and discuss the club. Live google hangouts where an already existing member can chat LIVE with interested individuals and answer their questions from the unique standpoint of an active membership. The fragrances themselves are introduced as they become available from the lab monthly and through members events as samples and product arrive. We are engaging a community of people that already exist, and challenging them to converse with each other

Do you see this as a way, in addition bringing the pleasures of niche perfume to a wider cross section of the public, to reach out and inform more people about niche perfume? 

Yes and no. We don't view ourselves as another niche brand, as we really  aim to bring the educational aspects to the forefront in the upcoming months. However in terms of bringing knowledge of the art of perfumery and perfumers to a wider cross section of the public, of course! The members have access to live and virtual events, essentially adult 'field trips' monthly. This approach allows you not only to have your own personal experience with each fragrance, but also a more exclusive insight into the world of perfumes and their creation. 

The stories of each of the perfumers are  interesting, and also that FR intends to to include a mix of European and American perfumers, so can you tell us more about how they will produce a perfume for FR — I understand that it will be quite independent but will there be interaction between and overall aesthetic to the collection as a whole?  Or is this to be fully wide ranging in aesthetics? 

I'd say it will be fully wide range in aesthetics, but certainly members have a voice when it comes to what time of year certain perfumes would be appreciated most etc. But truly our main goal is to give the perfumers the freedom-with no boundaries-to create exceptional perfumes that they will be proud to show, and supply the highest quality fragrances created by today’s independent, most respected, noses.

Because it is free of the limits of the retail counter, FR has the potential to reach out to many more areas in the US than are not  close to places niche perfumes can be sampled or obtained, so can you tell us more about how your envision those customers might come into the FR? 

At the moment our North America Club Manager, Daisy, is focusing on creating ways to engage our future members through social media and our interactive online forum. There is the potential for clubs to sprout up in areas where there are a concentration of members, which is extremely exciting especially for areas that are not close to places with regular access to niche perfumes! The future of FR! holds Perfumer Master Classes, interactive fragrance events, and FR! education across the Nation... perhaps even world wide. 

Will you be working primarily through an online site or do you envision other forms of media events, or other ways of promoting and educating the public about the FR and niche perfumes?

Our online site is certainly the home of FR! Every aspect of the Republ!c will be accessible there, in terms of an active conversation that members will be engaged in. However, social media and blogger response is a more public avenue for individuals investigating FR! as well as our live events which are free for members, but non members are able to attend by purchasing tickets. 

What is the intention on the pricing and the edition of the perfumes - -will they stay in production past the year of introduction or do you envision this more as a tailored, limited edition for each perfume?

Fragrance Republ!c offers members unique and exclusive fragrances at a reasonable and affordable membership price. We have options like 3 or 6 month membership trials for those who don't wish to commit for a year, but would appreciate the member discount on larger bottles, as well as access to the forum and events. Our fragrances are able to be reproduced, if you fall in love with a particular one, you will in theory be able to access it again, although there may be periods of time when it is not in production. Voting fragrances back into production will perhaps also be an aspect of the Republ!c. And perhaps some will end up being more limited... This question is still up for debate with FR! 

Do you have ideas about eventually expanding into other areas that are interested in niche perfume such as the UK and Australia/New Zealand or Japan?  And then possibly including niche perfumers from those areas as time goes on?

YES Definitely. 

In Nose we Trust,

Daisy Mason
FR! North America Club Manager


Fragrance Republic


Copyright 2014 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.

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