Fiole, the world's first virtual perfumery, is determined to introduce scent-sational fragrances to the UK
Lovers of luxury can now enjoy the virtual perfumery experience designed to pick out your ideal fragrance, but can such a personalised process be achieved online?
A year unlike any other, 2020 has seen companies change tack almost overnight as they adapt to the unprecedented impact of Covid-19. Tasks that used to be easily achievable are no longer feasible due to lockdown restrictions and social distancing. While the pandemic may have seen many businesses out of action, creators of the world's first virtual perfumery, Josh Carter and Samuel Gearing saw the closure of stores as an opportunity to launch their company, Fiole.
Carter and Gearing both trained at highly regarded perfumeries before launching Fiole: Gearing trained on the floor of Fortnum & Mason before managing the prestigious Micallef account –perfume ambassadors for the Mayor of Grasse, France – and the UK; Carter trained under British Master-Perfumer Roja Dove at the British Fragrance House. It was while Carter was managing the Roja Perfumes account at Fortnum & Mason that he met Gearing, and the idea of Fiole was born.
“Sam and I had talked about doing something in fragrance together for a long time. It wasn’t until lockdown hit and Sam had been working with SG Brands, [a brand agency specialising in perfumery], that we suddenly realised there needed to be a new way for people to find their right fragrance because the business for most perfumeries fell off a cliff as soon as the ability to shop in-store stopped,” explains Carter.
“Also, we had a strong opinion that Brits didn’t know much about independent niche perfume, and we wanted to educate on it as it's the most wonderful world full of the most marvellous fragrances. We wanted to push this further out into the British public’s spheres of knowledge,” adds Gearing.
Fiole’s concept is elegant in its simplicity, designed to match perfume lovers with their signature scent by offering prestige fragrances they will love – all created by independent brands – chosen via an online quiz. Launching during lockdown, at time when at-home luxuries have become more popular than ever, is a savvy move by the founders. But while restaurant deliveries and virtual tasting experiences have become something more de rigueur, can that really translate to something as unique and personal as our scent?
I set out to find out whether an online test could really be accurate enough to help me find a fragrance I didn't just like, but loved.
Part of of Fiole’s success is in removing all distractions, such as brand names and bottles. "We try as much as possible to remove subjectivity," says Carter. "Perfume always comes in beautiful bottles and packaging but that doesn't have relevance to the subjective smell. The fragrance finder can ask you anywhere between six to 12 questions out of a possible 250. The fragrance finder is a huge decision tree with loads of different roots, which put you in a family and then a sub-category of that family. We then choose a box of six perfectly matched fragrances from that so that you can find one you love."
What Carter and Gearing are trying to achieve is a process free of human error – as the fragrance finder works only by following the answers that you input – before selecting one of fifty variations of the Fiole box.
Taking the test, I was asked to choose between women’s, men’s and gender neutral scents before narrowing my preferences down through a series of 'would you rather' style questions. Do I prefer the scent of freshly squeeze citrus or earthy moss? Autumn leaves or summer florals? Soft leather or spring flowers? After taking my time to contemplate my answers I finished all 12 questions – and now had to endure the two-day wait for my Fiole box to arrive.
Enclosed inside the recyclable box, six anonymous fragrances, all very similar in colour, were waiting in their test bottles for me to sample. The box includes foolproof instructions on how to test your fragrances and, and how to narrow the six down through a process of elimination to highlight the one you prefer before opening the sealed envelop that reveals the identity of your perfume of choice.
I found the experience was not dissimilar to an in-store process, though made all the more enjoyable by eliminating the overcrowded department stores where you’re distracted by competing scents and commission hungry staff. Instead, from the comfort of my own home, I could trial each scent at my leisure and take my time to decide whether it was the one for me. After narrowing down the selection of six to my two favourite fragrances, I was thrilled to take the final step – reveal the names of my new scents. I had discovered not one, but two stunningly niche fragrances; Golden Chypre by Grossmith – described as fresh, citrusy and earthy with notes of citrus, cardamom and vetiver – and Black Jade by Lubin – a fresh, warm and dry scent with ingredients of rose, cardamom and cinnamon.
A major takeaway of the experience was understanding the similarities of the perfumes that suit me best – fresh scents with heart notes of cardamom are clearly the perfect signature scent for my skin. Perhaps equally importantly, I have discovered what I do not like in a scent which, on paper, should suit me well. It is an experience that Carter and Gearing hope the majority of the UK will enjoy.
"Our message of education on niche fragrance is important: we want people to know about [independent brands]," says Gearing. "Brits are good at supporting small businesses; it just needs to be put out there."
I leave the experience a convert to the concept of home fragrance testing, and with a new passion for niche fragrance brands. Fiole is a wonderful concept that delivers results that speak for themselves. With most of my questions answered by the experience, I was left with one final intrigue – what is Fiole’s best seller?
Carter and Gearing declined to disclose such information – and rightly so! after all, the point of this process is to remove bias and subjectivity to a deeply personal experience, and that it does successfully.