Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brief Impressions of the Banana Republic Icon Collection

Is anyone else old enough to remember the origins of Banana Republic? The original stores had a strong travel theme akin to the old Pier One stores before they gentrified. They also had a catalog which I loved to browse, full of mostly safari themed clothing, along with quirky travel stories and reproductions of old travel postcards. As I remember they were the first to really start the whole safari clothing cum colonial era travel trend that ran through the 1980s and culminated with the introduction of Ralph Lauren Safari perfume in 1990. Around 1990 Gap bought Banana Republic and the whole safari theme disappeared, but another company by the name of J. Peterman took up the trend and both copied and embellished the catalogs, writing comical and charming little vignettes to describe each piece of clothing, breathing life and a story into a long dress or leather boots. Movies like Out of Africa played into the popularity of the era. The J. Peterman catalog became such a phenomena that Elaine on the Jerry Seinfield show worked for Mr. Peterman for awhile, directly referencing and gently mocking the company.

Today's sleek Banana Republic storefronts have little to do with the origination of the brand and someone looking at the window displays might wonder what any of it has to do with a banana republic, albeit the fact that it is a catchy name. With the new Icon Collection, Banana Republic references back to the days of it's origins and proceeds through present day by creating fragrances for the different eras through which the store has transitioned. These reviews are based on in-store sprays so will be brief impressions.

78 Vintage Green represents the year the company was founded. I feel a perfume emphasizing green notes is a good choice for the era. Perfumes were big and bold in the 1970s and green perfumes were popular. I love green perfumes and this was the one I was most eager to try.

Perfumer Gino Percontino (say that fast five times, a rhyming name, I love it!) states that, "Vintage Green captures the fantasy of adventure travel with fresh green tea, sensuous fig and smooth vetiver." When I first sprayed Vintage Green I got a whiff of very bitter green and I can't figure out which note that could be. It was not unpleasant, rather it was interesting, and brought visions of some deadly plant like nightshade that would be used as the murder weapon in an Agatha Christie novel. This note doesn't linger long and thank goodness for that, I guess. Like I said, it's a very attention getting opening but one wouldn't want to smell like that all day! As the bitter smell disappears the green notes amp down a bit, maybe this is the green tea note. From this point the green notes continue in a  pleasant but mild manner. I would have liked to see the strength of the green notes maintained but I bow to the fact that this wouldn't serve their demographic very well. Banana Republic sells clothes geared for the young to mid career professional and office-friendly scents fit that demographic, so in that regard I think they've done a good job of identifying what their customer wants. In fact, this particular perfume might be a bit edgy for some of their customer base. I like it, but when I go green I'll always go atomic!

83 Leather Reserve is supposed to convey "the nostalgic warmth of the era". I admit I do look back on the 1980s as such a safe and easy time. Unlike my young adult children, I didn't have to worry about nuclear wars with North Korean or the competitive fight of keeping gainful employment. Perfumer Vince Kuczinski says, "I tried to recreate the feeling of the addictive leathery softness of suede with warm amber and sparkling neroli."

My impression was this scent was okay, but for me personally there are several leather scents I prefer which can also be bought for a reasonable price like Bottega Veneta. This might suit someone looking for just the suggestion of leather in their scent.

90 Pure White, "discover the pure and fresh opens of 1990." Ummm, can we not go there? And what do they mean by "opens"? Is this a typo in the copy or some trend I totally missed out on in the 90s? 

I'm not a fan of the clean fragrance movement which this perfume references. Green tea, grapefruit, jasmine, lavender, amber...all notes I love and I really can't smell any of them. Before I sprayed the perfume I hadn't seen the ad copy and I thought I was going to smell white flowers, but they were definitely going for white the color, as in a blank page. I got a gauzy pleasant cotton smell with a slight touch of sweetness but no discernible florals. It quickly morphs into a skin scent on me. Its not my thing but I know there is a big market out there for this sort of scent, in fact it wouldn't surprise me if this was the most popular with women. It would be an obvious choice for office wear.

06 Black Platinum is also created by the perfumer with my favorite name of the moment, Gino Percontino. The perfume is described as illustrating the classic florals of 2006. It has notes of pink pepper, lemon, cactus pear, orange blossom, oakmoss, jasmine, amber, patchouli, and leather. My testing notes are letting me down. Here is what I wrote, "Would be a great men's work scent. Light but not boring." Not very helpful but it appears I liked it so go spray yourself next time you're in the mall!

17 Oud Mosaic is the final perfume in the series and also my favorite. The copy from perfumer Claude Dir says, "This brings together fruity notes we love in America and Western Europe, combined with the smoky woody warmth of the Middle East, along with the delicate floral freshness expected in Asia." Is it just me, or does this description make anyone else want to link hands and join in a chorus of We Are the World (click here, it's great!) Somehow this attitude of let's please everyone in our world market base works and I find this a very accessible and nice oud to wear. It has notes of white pepper, cardomom, plum, turkish rose, labdanum, saffron oud, amber, and musk. The rose didn't dominate on my skin as other reviewers have mentioned. It just all melded together quite nicely. It reminded me of several of the Berdoues colognes I reviewed earlier this year. This is a great perfume for approaching fall weather and at a very affordable price point.

There is also a coffret of all five perfumes for $35 US. I think these are well done to appeal to the Banana Republic base. For the perfume collector these may be replicas of what you already own but for those with a small collection these scents may offer the opportunity to try something different. Longevity is medium but for the price I can't complain. Nicely done, Banana Republic.

Photo Google image. Perfume sprayed at Banana Republic.


Undina said...

Banana Republic and I were constantly on the wrong sides of equation: first, when I came to the U.S., they were too expensive for me the type of clothes they were selling. Later, when their prices weren't scary any longer, their quality was much lower than I would want to wear so I stopped even checking them out. Recently I saw that the store got a facelift. But with the general problem of the quality going down for the most brands somehow I doubt I'll feel differently about today's BN clothes collection. So I just do not believe that their perfumes might be any good for my taste. Still, the next time I'm in the mall I'll give them a swirl - just because you thought they were interesting enough to write about them.

Cynthia said...

Just judging from what fragrances I've read you like, I'm not sure you'll find anything you like. The Oud was the only one I really would want. My main take away was I think they're very decent quality for a good price. It seems like perfume prices are constantly going up these days.