Fragrance Republ!c through the eyes of Plebeian


Dear readers and friends, before you go on reading this post can you pause for a minute and think what you know about Fragrance Republ!c. Just try to think what you’ve heard about them and what your impression about their business is.

It’s not a trick question. If you’ve heard or read about them, what you can recall will be probably more than you can read on their website. There’s no About Us section. There is not much information about what you’re subscribing to either. The site provides minimum details allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks (and who is better than ourselves to trick us into assuming things that weren’t actually promised?)

Fragrance Republ!c is a new brand, one of co-founders of which is Francois Duquesne, a former President of L’Artisan Parfumeur. The brand operates as a “club”: you need to be a member – albeit a non-paying one – just registered, to purchase their perfumes. They call it “Free People.” With a $35/month, $100/3 months, $200/6 months (why would anybody pay for 6 months in advance when it’s exactly twice the price of 3 months subscription is beyond my understanding) or $350/year “Patricians subscription” you’re going to get every month a 15 ml bottle of a new perfume created by one of six perfumers featured on the site. I’m not sure about that part though since they don’t promise that the list of perfumers is final. And by the time I’m finishing this post the next perfume announced for April has been created by the new, seventh, perfumer, not listed initially. So for all we know it can keep going like that for each next month in one’s subscription.

Brand’s Facebook Page provides a mission statement:

Fragrance Republic Mission Statement

It’s not clear who serves on the Advisory Board in addition to “Senators”, who for $1,500/year get to be on that board for 2 months. How many permanent members are on that Board and how many can pay their way to that body that “determines future fragrance to be released”? It doesn’t say anywhere so I can’t even guess the qualification of the Board that sets the criteria and accepts the final product.

Speaking of the product, other than “no artistic boundaries” and “IFRA compliance” (as if any of these two are necessarily a good thing), there are no promises as to quality of ingredients: for all we know it can be another eccentric-molecule- or not-a-perfume-type creations. And there’s a curious passage about the delivery in Terms and Conditions:

Any merchandise purchased from our Site will be shipped by a third party carrier. As a result, title and risk of loss for such merchandise will pass to you upon our delivery to the carrier.

Nice. I’m not sure I’d want to buy anything from any online store on those terms.

When a couple of years ago Chandler Burr conducted his OpenSky experiment, I was against it. But at least it was somebody who we knew by reputation (either you shared his tastes or not) and who had to persuade us to buy every next episode of his series.

When a year ago Olfactif decided to offer a new sampling program, I was against it. But since I wrote that post, Olfactif has improved by switching from 1 ml dab vials to 2.25 ml spray samples. Also several commenters – mostly those who were new to the niche perfume world – suggested some benefits they saw for themselves in using that type of service.

With Fragrance Republic you’re offered to blind buy 15 ml/$35, 45 ml/$100, 90 ml/$200 or 180ml/$350 of unknown perfume(s) by random perfumers from a new brand, creative director(s) of which haven’t proven yet that they know what they are doing. And I didn’t even mention yet totally unremarkable packaging, completely unmemorable names and, as I suspect, close to 0 resell/swap value of those that you didn’t like.

I stated it more than once: I’m against blind buys and I constantly try to dissuade people from doing that. I understand that the thrill of the blind-buying and the anticipation of the positive outcome for some people might be higher than the disappointment they would experience from the negative result. So within the individual’s money-is-no-object limits it’s probably fine to indulge in that type of irrational behavior from time to time. But to build a business on that vice, encourage it and benefit from it – that is something that I cannot condone.

I do not believe any brand can release 12 (twelve!) great perfumes in twelve months – and keep going (even today, after they’ve released the 7th perfume, you still can subscribe for a year). But even if they are the next Amouage, Frederic Malle and Serge Lutens triune, it’s completely improbable that they will release one after another twelve perfumes that will work for you – so why to pay for something knowing full well you won’t like it? Even if you can easily afford spending $350 on your hobby, isn’t it better to reward brands that have created perfumes that you actually enjoy and want to wear than pay for the fake privilege?

Caesar Palace in Las Vegas

Oh, and in case you decide to participate in their “community of passionate fragrance users”, keep in mind that

By submitting or posting any materials or content on the Site, you grant Fragrance Republic a perpetual, irrevocable, non-terminable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to use, copy, distribute, publicly display, modify, create derivative works, and sublicense such materials or any part of such materials. […]Fragrance Republic will be entitled to use any content submitted by you without incurring obligations of confidentiality, attribution, or compensation to you.

But, after all, it’s the land of the free – so you can become a Senator if you set your mind on it.