In the major cities of Japan, we do indeed have a few Banana Republic (BR) fashion chains, but they’re not as prominent as Zara, H&M, or TipTop. I don’t frequent these stores because I don’t live in a large city, they only carry Japanese sizes, and because Japan is not a fragrance culture, it’s harder to find much in the way of fragrance. That said, there is now (finally) both a Zara and an H&M in the new(ish) mall on the other side of town, and yes, Zara does have a very small selection of its perfumes there!
In this post I bring to you my review of the first five fragrances in the BR Icon Collection, launched initially in 2017. More fragrances were added to the line in subsequent years. They come in very simple glass jars of 75ml with a simple metal cap, and they’re packaged in little black coffret-style boxes. These original five fragrances all start will numbers, so I’ll talk about them in numerical order.
06 Black Platinum
06 Black Platinum was created by Gino Percontino and is classified as a chypre floral fragrance. It’s unisex, and in fact I think all of these scents are definitely unisex, not that fragrances are even anything other than that – wear what you want to wear, friends. Marketing is all smoke and lights! That said, florals are not my favourite category, so unsurprisingly, this is not my top pick of the bunch.
- pink pepper, cactus and lemon,
- orange blossom, jasmine and moss,
- leather, amber and patchouli
So this is definitely a fresh, citrus floral, and the jasmine in it is not indolic, so the effect is very clean, and as a result, this is a fragrance that will work well in the hotter months. It does have some depth to it, thanks the three solid base notes of leather, amber, and patchouli, which is what you’re left with once the fragrance dries down. If I had to put a temperature on this scent it would be cold, and it’s more cool-toned than warm on the colour spectrum. For this reason the platinum part of the fragrance names works, but not so much the black. Black to me is cold, but it also is too dark. There is nothing remotely evil in this fragrance to me.
17 Oud Mosaic
17 Oud Mosaic classified as an oriental woody fragrance and the perfumer is Claude Dir. It’s very much an oud scent in the spirit of all those oud-rose types fragrances that have hit western markets in full force for the last decade of so. This one takes advantage of the popular oud-rose combination, and I think that If you love scents like Oud Ispahan by Dior or other expensive westernized oudy offerings from the likes of Tom Ford or Killian, you might want to give this one a go. It’s not a scary oud – it has the fruity notes that are loved in North America and Western Europe, and a fresh floral vibe that sells well in Asia, offset by a smoky warmth from the Middle East.
- plum, cardamom, white pepper,
- Turkish rose, saffron, labdanum,
- agarwood (oud), amber, musk
If you are an oud-lover, you would not think this an edgy scent. No, this one might be a little lame for your tastes – not dirty or skanky enough. But it still has that oudy feel that will work for people who are not oud-fans, and I like the plummy-ness of this scent. It makes it different from the regular rose-oud combinations you commonly find in the industry. It does indeed have rose though, and does remind me a little of Oud Ispahan, but it’s lighter and fresher. It’s not comparable performance wise, though – not a surprise considering the price difference.
78 Vintage Green
78 Vintage Green is the third fragrance and it’s in the floral woody musk category. The nose once again is Gino Percontino. It’s named after the year BR was founded, which is 1978. It’s supposed to convey a sense of originality and the cultural landscape of that year – one filled with freedom of expression and freedom of self. It’s a woodsy, leafy scent with a prominent, juicy fig note at the top (and I do love me a good fig) which fades into vetiver later on, rather like Mugler’s Cologne.
- bergamot, leafy greens, mandarin,
- magnolia, jasmine, green tea, fig,
- cedarwood, musk, vetiver
This one is definitely green, and I think it’s beautiful. All phrases of its development are great. It lasts longer than others in the line, and I can get 5 hours out this with soft to moderate projection. It reminds me a lot of Hermes garden collection of fragrances, particularly what is probably my favourite in that line, Un Jardin sur le Nil. Obviously, this is a spring-summer, daytime scent, and for the price, I recommend it.
83 Leather Reserve
83 Leather Reserve is obviously leather fragrance, and nose behind it is Vincent Kuczinski. This was supposed to invoke the year 1983, which was a good year for me personally if my feeble mind recalls correctly – The early 80s was generally an optimistic, bold period and the perfume does carry those scent-iments, along with a splash of nostalgia.
- cypress, bergamot and lemon,
- cedar, neroli,
- suede, vetiver, tonka bean, amber
The main thing I get out of this, once the fresh green calms down, is smooth, suede-like leather notes, with lovely cedar and vetiver in the background. I think this one does lean a little masculine, perhaps due to the vetiver. The performance is half-decent in this one, due to the combination of strong bottom notes.
90 Pure White
Finally, we have 90 Pure White from Patricia Choux, a pure, natural, and slightly sensual scent with its notes of musk and lavender – very classic.
- grapefruit, green tea, bergamot,
- jasmine, violet leaf, lavender,
- musk, vetiver, amber
This has a clean and bright citrus tea opening that moves into a pile of soapy, fresh laundry thrown onto a just made bed. The windows are open, the morning sun is shining in with a gentle breeze, and the birds are singing. It’s a refreshing, pleasing, inoffensive spring-summer time scent that works great in the day, though you will need to respray a lot. It’s probably has the weakest performance in the bunch. If you like Bergamote 22 from LeLabo, you’ll like this, and it’s a good choice for those of you who don’t want their fragrance to definite their personality. It’s a background fragrance, and that’s generally not my thing, unless I want a break from fragrance and just want to smell pleasant.
So my personal rating is 78 Vintage Green first, 17 Oud Mosaic and 06 Black Platinum tied at second, 83 Leather Reserve 4th (although I would rate it higher for me it were a little sweeter) and 90 Pure White last. They’re all honestly good, though.
Indeed, my impression of this collection is positive, and the extremely good retail prices do affect my review. In terms of performance, I don’t feel you’re not getting amazing longevity or sillage on any of these fragrances, but quality-wise, I feel differently. I think they’re all fairly unique, niche-level in fact, even though they are indeed probably inspired by a lot of niche-type fragrances already out there. The fragrances are well-blended, with clearly defined top, middle, and bottom notes that are for the most part appropriate for each level. This means that the fragrances do develop nicely in a classic sequence over time.
I’m surprised that they come from a clothing brand like BR. I don’t know a great deal about BR – this is actually my first purchase of anything from the brand, but I do know that their prices tend to be higher than the likes of other ubiquitous fast fashion houses, and their image appears to very natural and upscale. At the end of the day, though, I have always seen them as a mainstream fashion brand that you find in a typical shopping mall without the upscale fringes like Cartier or Louis Vuitton. And yet these fragrances do not smell like your average mall quality fragrances. That makes them scentgourmand-approved, especially for the budget conscious. I think the 75 ml bottles sell for as little as 40 USD. You can find them online here.