Who: Samuel Gearing and Josh Carter. These two professional fragrance specialists are the founders of Fiole, a virtual perfumery that offers the personalised expertise of a fragrance boutique, but from the comfort of your sofa. They are also a perfect example of the innovative thinking that comes from a crisis, in this case Covid-19, grabbing an opportunity to shake up the perfume selling ritual to offer stay at home consumers a more fun and thoughtful home testing experience. We’ve been monitoring many of the lockdown innovations in the perfume world and reckon that Fiole is one of the best, it’s easy to shop from and offers a high quality offering of independent fragrances. We quizzed the charming pair on how they got the idea off the ground.
Josh: Today I’m wearing Crazy Hours by Franck Muller. It’s an ultra-fresh, really simple scent with loads of citrus qualities and some dry herbaceous notes. It’s not overly complex – it’s just really good at what it does. I find this one super invigorating. I like to splash it on in the morning to wake me up. Fragrance in general always makes me feel confident when going about my day.
Samuel: And I’m wearing Fabulous Bukhara by Dali Haute Parfumerie. Bukhara is super rich and opulent with hints of powder and dashes of sweetness. It makes me feel warm in the colder months and as Josh said, also makes me feel confident. To be honest, I also just bloody love it, so…
Josh: Stephen and Tabitha Grey are two of the people behind Franck Muller’s fragrance house and we’ve known them from the days when Stephen was CEO of Clive Christian and Tabitha was with Louis Vuitton. When they moved onto to work with Franck Muller, we both immediately dived in to try the fragrances as we knew that if they were involved then it had to be special. Glad to say we weren’t wrong!
Samuel: I first discovered Dali Haute Parfumerie in Fortnum & Mason when they paired it with the Dali Duchamp Exhibition at the Royal Academy. Unlike a lot of brands, the beauty of their bottles truly reflect the magnificence of the fragrances. I could wear SO many of them – this was just today’s choice.
Josh: Fragrance is important in our lives because firstly, it pays the bills…but it only does that because we both loved it so much that we wanted to make it our everyday. We both think it’s a massively underrated art form in the western world, even though it’s so easy to enjoy. We’re both absolutely determined to bring it to the wider public and get rid of our most hated word in the fragrance industry; ‘niche’.
Samuel: When wearing fragrance we suggest you slap it on and don’t be shy. There are no rules and no need to overcomplicate things. Fragrance is such a pleasure-bringer, we both believe that there’s no need to make a ceremony of it.
We both love home fragrances. There are loads of scents that we adore but wouldn’t necessarily wear, so home scenting is such a great way to be surrounded by other fragrances that you love and enjoy. There’s nothing like that first moment when you walk through your front door and think “Ahh, I’m home”, and having it smell incredible just adds to that feeling!
We have a little trick for using scent to perk up your mood and have been using it quite a lot during lockdown. It’s really simple… when you go on holiday, take a scent you’ve never worn before and only wear that. Then when you get home, stop wearing it. It’ll trigger your emotional recall so that when you’re back home and are feeling a bit blue you can spritz that scent and be taken back to a happier time. The part of your brain that deals with scent, is the same part that deals with memory – they’re completely interlinked and we promise it works.
Josh: Where to begin with how Fiole came about? It is the world’s first virtual perfumery. It’s centred around a virtual consultant called The Fiole Fragrance Finder, which is able to analyse your personal taste, so that we can curate a box of recommendations based solely on your choices.
All the brands we represent are independent, often small and many family run operations. We use Fiole’s unique method to bring these otherwise scarce products to a much wider audience.
Before Fiole we ran an agency that was set up by Samuel to represent independent fragrances brands. After COVID hit and all the shop’s doors closed we quickly realised that no one had any kind of mechanism that could cope once the face-to-face element was taken away. All of our brands businesses came to a complete standstill.
We both started on the shop floor, doing private fragrance consultations for high net worth clients. We have both spent years working for a variety of brands, stores and perfumers, learning about perfumery and, more importantly, about people and their relationships with scent.
Whilst working in store the two of us were always in cahoots. Eventually we developed our own method of consultation that married the two elements; it takes complex perfumery knowledge and presents it in a format that anyone can understand, even if you’ve never worn a fragrance in your life. So when lockdown hit, the answer was obvious; we had to find a way to get that method online.
But the great joy of it being online is that it’s open to anyone, any day, all the time. These precious jewels are no longer tucked away on the higher floors of a luxury department store; they’re available from your own home. The best part of our method is that to find the perfect fragrance for you, you don’t need to know about anything other than yourself.
Samuel: There are challenges to selling on line, the first and biggest problem is the obvious – you can’t smell through a screen. The second biggest problem is one that most people don’t expect; that the names of ingredients can be incredibly misleading.
You don’t hear many people say “I like music with bass guitars”, but you might hear them say “I like Jazz”. It’s the same principle with fragrance, yet most of the industry does it the wrong way round, trying to sell their fragrances by focusing on the components instead of the bigger picture.
Every ingredient used in perfumery can differ in scent based on a huge number of factors; the genus, the area it’s grown in, the climate, how long it’s distilled for, how long it’s aged, sometimes even by WHO picked it. One type of rose can be completely and utterly different to another type, meaning that simply saying ‘Rose’ doesn’t count for much. In the end, lots of people completely disregard scents that they might actually adore, because they’re trying to find it from the wrong way round.
Fiole tries to focus on the bigger picture; your personal taste. It doesn’t focus on anything that could be remotely subjective or changeable. Instead it uses accessible language, to ask you really simple questions. This is so that we can learn what we call your ‘Fragrance Personality’ so that we can build you a personally curated box that you can try in the comfort of your own home.
As the industry has grown there have been a huge numbers of brands trying to make their mark by creating the most obscure scents that they can. To us, fragrance is simply about making yourself feel good, confident, sexy, powerful, invigorated – all the positive things. So we don’t represent, nor do we really wear any brands that are weird for the sake of it.
Josh: That said, we definitely have many fragrances that aren’t particularly run-of-the-mill. ‘Anima Dulcis’ by Arquiste and ‘Gourmet’ by Micallef come to mind; they both have really unique qualities but are still really easy to appreciate. We are all about challenging people by redefining the way they discover scent.
Images by Bertie Taylor-Smith