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  1. #1
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    Default How much is perfume a French artifact?

    We all know that a lot of perfume names are French, and it is also true that a lot of perfume terminology, even when translated into English, is of French origin.

    Apart from that, the role assumed by French fragrance and design houses, French noses, and French cultural atmosphere looms very large in the history and development of the whole modern perfumery enterprise. I have to acknowledge that many brilliant perfumers and houses are not French; Italian, Spanish, British, German, American, and Japanese creators are prominent in the modern market as well.

    Nevertheless it seems to me that the French imprint
    is still predominant on the whole perfume scene as it has come down to us today.

    Do you agree with this assessment? Whether your answer is yes or no, it would be very interesting to spark a discussion of pros and cons on the subject, so I'd like to invite all you perfumistas on Basenotes to join the discussion. Please give lots of nifty reasons for your ideas — that makes it so much more fun!

    I'll hold back for a bit, and perhaps chime in again as a discussion develops.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 17th April 2010 at 06:09 AM.
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    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

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  2. #2

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Excellent topic! I've been giving this some thought as well. I can see three main reasons.
    One is that Louis XIV and his minister of finance Colbert deliberately put in place a policy to make France the main purveyor of luxury goods, and to make Paris the hub of fashion for Europe. From that moment, the combination of high-end luxury or trendy goods made in France, and of the prestige they acquired through "marketing", made France the place to turn to for the best, most fashionable items, including perfume and cosmetics.

    The other is that the town of Grasse benefitted from this policy, as well as from its ideal micro-climate, to develop the art -- if there is a constant demand for newer and more refined products, there will be more creativity and technical advances.

    The third reason is the prestige acquired by Paris couture in the early 20th century: at the time, perfume wasn't the couturier's cash cow (they actually made their money with their clothes) and they could afford to experiment, be creative with their perfumers, thus creating several of the templates of modern perfumery.
    Probably also the genius of people like François Coty, who pretty much pulled the whole industry into the 20th century, was also a factor.

    Perfume could have been Italian (it was up to the 16th century), and it could have been English (London was a competing perfumery center in the 19th). Despite the fact that there are major perfume houses/brands in other countries today, "perfume" and "French" are still durably associated and French perfumers are all over the labs in every country... The latter phenomenon is probably also due to the fact that up to recently (the founding of the perfumery school in Versailles, ISIPCA), one of the few ways to break into the industry was growing up in Grasse and being part of a dynasty.

    I'm sure there are other reasons and I'm looking forward to reading them!

  3. #3

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post
    Apart from that, the role assumed by French fragrance and design houses, French noses, and French cultural atmosphere looms very large in the history and development of the whole modern perfumery enterprise. I'll hold back for a bit, and perhaps chime in again as a discussion develops.
    Fragrance has been important since the very dawn of civilization and nowhere more than in ancient Egypt. I have just returned from a cruise down the Nile and am happy to report that if Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tut, I've discovered traces of the first perfumer. Here he is, this nose of the valley of the Kings, already duplicating a flower. You can see several trial bottles in front of him. Please realize that these murals are 4,000 years old. We move next to the temple of Ed Fou where there is a room covered entirely from floor to ceiling with nothing but ancient fragrance formulas. Then we see this farmer who is very happy with the price of jasmin flowers and is giving a wreath of jasmin to his God. Now, we feel that the marketing positions of our fragrances are very sophisticated, but the Egyptians could teach us some tricks. Here you see the back of King Tut's throne with a scene depicting his Queen applying perfume to her husband.
    What we do is part of the fashion world and it must be as up-to-date as the latest clothes. In a new product introduction, the box, the bottle and the perfume must all work together to achieve a certain level of beauty and newness.
    - Bernard Chant http://www.bsp.org.uk/newsarc/creat.html
    I think Bernie sums it up quite well. While, as you state, Jaime, much of the terminology is French, the impulse to create potions to adorn the body is much older than French culture itself. And as Carmencanada points out in her post, from the reign of Louis XIV to Yves St. Laurent, the French have dominated the luxury goods industries for centuries. Their dominance is of course, slowly and steadily being eroded. The break from French tradition begins with things like Estée Lauder, continues with Commes des Garçons and Demeter and by having English, German, American, Swedish, etc. designers taking over the big, 20th century French design houses. The same can be said for the wine industry.
    Quel horreur!
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 17th April 2010 at 03:28 PM.

  4. #4

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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Nobody should ignore that 99% of modern western perfumery relies on alcohol plus water.
    Eau de Cologne has been the most important novelty of the 18th century which revolutionized perfume manufacturing not only in Germany and Italy but in all of Europe, including France, of course. The pioneers were Italian immigrants in Köln (Cologne), Germany by the name Farina. Their classic, citrussy 'water', Eau de Cologne, stands for a singular success story during centuries.

    From this light perfume to all the variations we have now, the step has been a small one. It's just selecting and mixing different fragrant oils and resins in the same basic mix of alcohol and water. By international agreement 'EDC' is still the proper term for perfumes (clognes) with the lowest concentration of fragrant components. While Europeans speak of 'Colognes' only in context with the classic light-weigts, Americans seem to prefer that term for masculine fragrances which people in (continental?) Europe call parfum (profumo/ perfume/ parfüm...) without hesitation.

    Eau de Cologne marks a new start with fragrances, and how they are applied, in post revolutionary France. From the little I know, I am almost certain that the efforts of Ancien Régimes to strengthen the French perfume industry (Louis XIV, Colbert in particular) could not help its decay during the revolutionary period and a subsequent (political) ban on 'being perfumed'. The revival, instead, coincides with the adoption of les eaux d'Allemagne.

    From then onwards French influence dominates in the West, and also reaches far into the east (Oman). This nose isn't unhappy with the results.
    Last edited by narcus; 17th April 2010 at 05:53 PM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  5. #5

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Guyer View Post
    The break from French tradition begins with things like Estée Lauder, continues with Commes des Garçons and Demeter and by having English, German, American, Swedish, etc. designers taking over the big, 20th century French design houses. The same can be said for the wine industry.
    Quel horreur!
    But don't forget that Comme des Garçons Parfums is art-directed by a Frenchman, Christian Astuguevieille, and that several of the perfumers who worked for the house are French and/or French-trained (Mark Buxton being an exception); Bernard Chant, who composed Aromatics Elixir, Aramis and Azurée for Lauder was French. Und so weiter.
    Not saying this because I'm French (I'm not) but the industry is still dominated by French perfumers working for houses of several nationalities and apart from the in-house schools in big labs like Givaudan (which is is France), the only school for perfumers is in Versailles, with a 100% French faculty, which perpetuates the tradition even though now there are students from different countries.

  6. #6

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    50/50.

  7. #7

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by carmencanada View Post
    But don't forget that Comme des Garçons Parfums is art-directed by a Frenchman, Christian Astuguevieille, and that several of the perfumers who worked for the house are French and/or French-trained (Mark Buxton being an exception); Bernard Chant, who composed Aromatics Elixir, Aramis and Azurée for Lauder was French. Und so weiter.
    Not saying this because I'm French (I'm not) but the industry is still dominated by French perfumers working for houses of several nationalities and apart from the in-house schools in big labs like Givaudan (which is is France), the only school for perfumers is in Versailles, with a 100% French faculty, which perpetuates the tradition even though now there are students from different countries.
    Yes, agree completely. Commes des Garçons, the French named, Japanese company, has quite a bit of French DNA. Their philosophy is rooted in French deconstructionist theory, they show their clothing collections in Paris during the RTW shows, they use French surrealist games to market their anti-perfumes that are made by French noses using aroma chemicals developed in France.
    Of course France is still the headquarters, but like so many dismantled colonial powers, it will always need outsiders to survive, while at the same time clinging to their "tradition". I think Bernard Chant's work for Estée Lauder feels very American in its boldness and simplicity.
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 17th April 2010 at 05:15 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Rather than a French artifact, I would say a standard set by the French: of course, this does not rule out other traditions that are as valid as the French one, albeit less known because France is a reference in terms of fashion and luxury, and being perfume making a spin off of the fashion industry, this explains why they have set this standard. Quel horreur? Not at all, we have more access to alternatives.

    In my case, I am in debt with Middle East and Indian perfumes and fragrances.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    I am enjoying the informed discussion on this thread. I find the shift from Italian to French cultural leadership interesting. Does anyone think that Catherine de Medici in the 16th century, who introduced many aspects of Italian culture into French society, plays a early role in this process? Cultural appropriations and adaptations are very interesting. Roman empire absorbing the Hellenistic Greek culture being another example.
    odysseusm

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  10. #10

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Not at this point, if you are thinking of most frags that most people considered buying last year, for example. What I mean is that few want the "heavy" frags with animalic jasmine, etc., so I'd need have some clarification. Yes, Stetson must have decent sales and references the traditional French style, but that must be a drop in the bucket compared to the sales of frags that reference the traditional Italian style (or some other one) or a newer one (such as aquatics). If you had written this in the 80s, with all the "heavy" frags (and all the lavender in the "men's" frags) I think a strong case could be made, but a lot has changed since then (even the niche frags are "all over the map" with regard to what's being "referenced," if anything).

    Yes, modern fragrances came into prominence with the French, but I hardly ever consider this connection when I'm thinking of any aspect of fragrance except the historical, obviously. I can't imagine that the average American consumer who buys a few frags a year, at most, thinks of France at all, unless the name of it is in French, perhaps.
    Last edited by Bigsly; 17th April 2010 at 08:58 PM.

  11. #11

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    I don't think there is any doubt about the association of the French and idea of refinement, luxury and art. It is no coincidence that they rank at the top in cuisine, perfumery, Haute Couture, and fine art. It is deeply entrenched in the Western mind that if it is French, it automatically comes with an unspoken seal of approval, deservedly or not. We are all influenced by it, whether we realize it or not. A perfume bearing a French name or connotation somehow seems to carry a mystery and allure not given to the rest. As irrational as that is, I think it taps into the romance that France has developed around itself and it’s culture, and it is still very pervasive in the minds of artistic people.

  12. #12

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    As long as a fragrance is labeled as either an Eau de Cologne, Toilette or Parfum, there will always be a French connection, if in name only. The classification Body Spray certainly severs ties with French tradition.
    Last edited by Kevin Guyer; 18th April 2010 at 04:34 AM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    A very interesting discussion so far. What got me started thinking about this thread was a blog post I made about ISIPCA and the Osmothèque a couple of days ago: you can see it here.

    In that post I make reference to Marie De Médicis and her Italian perfumers, as well as to Grasse, though not to Louis XIV and his minister of finance Colbert. I enjoyed seeing that other people made some of those same observations in this thread.


    I am the first to admit that a lot of good perfumery goes on outside of France and is done by people who are not French. At the same time, I feel the whole concept of the culture of perfume as we have it today owes its greatest debt to the work of French perfumers and their
    maisons. I am not French either, but I did study the French language, literature, history, and culture for many years. While not exclusively so, I am what you could call a Francophile, as well as an admirer of other nations and cultures.

    Living in the United States, I encounter a lot of people who denigrate the French and their culture, and I feel it's a shame that things French are held so cheap here. (Please don't bother to deny this; just remember the whole flap about "freedom fries" from a few years back!)


    Of course perfume didn't originate in France, and I don't think that any country could ever be its exclusive and permanent home. Even so, I don't think the perfume industry would be what it is today without the French contributions to it, in art, business, and technology, as well as in
    le bon goût (good taste). The perfumes themselves, even the least "French" (in the old sense) of them, would not be what they are without the very French themselves.

    Now that Europe has become a single economic community, it will be hard to draw the line between French, Swiss, German, etc. synthetics labs and their contributions to so-called "modern" perfumes. Still, in my estimation, the center of perfumery is still in France. Grasse is still in France, and could only be in France, with its unique microclimate and the agricultural/floricultural production that it makes possible. Moreover, the mere existence of institutions such as ISIPCA and the Osmothèque there rather than anywhere else on earth is, for me at least, evidence of France having a unique relationship to perfumery.

    Thanks again to all who are responding to this thread. Among my other motivations for posting this thread,
    I wanted to see some thoughtful discussion of the industry in this board among all the other (also interesting and necessary) stuff.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 18th April 2010 at 05:33 AM.
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by JaimeB View Post
    Still, in my estimation, the center of perfumery is still in France. Grasse is still in France, and could only be in France, with its unique microclimate and the agricultural/floricultural production that it makes possible. Moreover, the mere existence of institutions such as ISIPCA and the Osmothèque there rather than anywhere else on earth is, for me at least, evidence of France has a unique relationship to perfumery.
    I feel exactly the same and agree with you on this very strongly.

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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    I'd compare the modern state of perfumery with opera in the 1800's, and replace French with Italian. Despite emerging national traditions all across Europe, it was a tradition bound by Italian terminology, Italian singers, and often exported Italian operas themselves. With France and perfumery, it's no longer the A to Z of western perfumery, but its history and influence so far outstrips the contributions of other nations it can still be called the world leader.

  16. #16

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Good post, JaimeB!

    I tend to think of the association of the French culture with perfume is the French domination of the making of perfume in the 19th century, so I agree with Galamb: the Italian opera, the Russian ballet, Italian sportscars, French couture...and French perfume. I think of Grasse as the centre of perfumery.

    I can't help but point out again that the French Comte d'Orsay--who used quite a bit of scent--took perfume when he, his wife and mother-in-law moved from Paris to London. I guess the English were not known for having perfume of the quality that the Comte appreciated, so the family stockpiled a good quantity of orange blossom water.
    Last edited by Primrose; 18th April 2010 at 03:40 AM.
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    It feels to me like there's a slow movement away from the French-ness of perfumes, though. Like Kevin said about "body spray", there seems to be a slow rejection of associations with French culture. Huge mass market releases are rarely named in French any more. Even the French perfumers mentioned above often eschew traditional French perfumery and techniques in favor of styles aimed more at American tastes.

    If you add to that the rather disturbing current trend where people consider perfume to be an offensive attack on personal space, but then buy everything scented except perfume (soap, lotion, detergent, fabric softener, body spritz, etc), there's a further step away from France. The basic techniques of creating a fine perfume are not the same as creating a scent for shampoo or laundry products, and that's where a lot of people get their scents from now.

    But I suppose you could balance that with niche houses or designer exclusif collections using French names (even when they're not from France) in order to subtly lend an air of sophistication to their products. The French carries a certain gravitas in the world of perfume. My question is whether that will last...
    Last edited by rogalal; 18th April 2010 at 05:09 AM.
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    D'accord.

    I see a paralel between french perfume and german/austrian classical music.

    No matter if there are plenty of great orchestras all around the world, everybody wants to listen to the Berlin Philarmonic.

    No matter if there were great composers from other countries, names like Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are universally admired.

    When it comes to perfume, I believe there aren't non-french equivalents to institutions like Guerlain, Caron, Grasse, etc.

  19. #19

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    As Bigsly and Rogalal have noted, perfumery has been steadily moving away from French taste, and the classical French style, for going on three decades now: in fact, ever since the industry itself moved away from top-down creations (there must be a marketing term: I mean the era when couturiers or perfumers took the creative decisions and offered them to the public) and towards marketing-driven products in the 80s. At that point, styles shifted towards aquatics, fruity florals, innocuous citruses, which broke with the classical style and were more orientated towards international tastes.

    But whether you look at aquatics (Cool Water = Pierre Bourdon), gourmands (Angel = Olivier Cresp), transparent eaux (Bulgari eau parfumée au thé vert = Jean-Claude Ellena), etc., the templates for the new styles came from French perfumers, and in the case of those three particular scents, were developed by them without going through the marketing grind.

    Of course, to succeed now perfumes need to have a name that can be pronounced in a lot of languages, and a smell that can please the major markets; in addition, even in France tastes have often moved away from the grand classical styles except for an older age group who's faithful to their classic Guerlains. So that there is a move away from "frenchness", but that move is partly orchestrated by the French perfume industry itself: again, French names still dominate the industry on the creative side of things and probably will for the next decade, because there's such a culture of the industry in France that it'll take a while for perfumers of other nationalities to catch up.

    I'll be curious to see whether a new generation of Indian or Chinese perfumers will crop up: whenever I do a perfume primer course or talk at the London College of Fashion, I see a lot of receptiveness and interest in my Indian and Chinese students. There's a real olfactory culture there which hasn't yet found its expression in Western perfumery terms.

    And Jaime: you're right in mentioning Catherine of Medicis, she was indeed the one to launch the Italian fashion for perfumed leather items in France, which led to the development of the perfume industry in Grasse, primarily focused on the tanning industry at the time.
    We could also note that Montpellier was also a major perfumery center up to the 18th century because of the medical faculty: apothicaries were often also perfumers, and vice versa, and there was a lot of work done on distillation. In fact, the university of Montpellier is still a major center of research on aromatics.

  20. #20

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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    What is a decade of shifting trends when France can look back on five centuries? Nowhere in the world has the modern perfume industry been as solidly rooted, and nowhere is it as firmly installed as in France.

    Right from the beginning, and far into our days, French manufacturers and the industry have been able to adapt to innovations, also from abroad. French perfumes wouldn't be what they are without natural resources from southern countries and the tropical zones around the globe, or without the development of synthetic fragrant components which are often being discovered in other countries (Germany, Switzerland, USA, etc.).

    What remains French for decades to come is the French school of perfumery, no matter whether that is located in Versailles or associated with/ being taught at French universities, or abroad. Givaudan, the world's leading fragrance producer-developer (in Vernier, Switzerland), have their own school of perfumery. Students are from everywhere, lessons are in French but what's most important: methods taught are the ones that have already been successful in the past century, or longer.
    Last edited by narcus; 21st April 2010 at 08:46 AM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi è un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  21. #21

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Jaime, your comment about Grasse and it's specific microclimate brought up a thought I have often had.
    If you were to parallel perfume and wine, you would find a similar theme as you have discussed here. Wine being made all over the world, but with a couple of historical hotbeds (France of course being one of them). Then look at the more modern history, particularly the emergence of US wines (California), and the subtle changes that occured with that. I remember a big wine tasting event within the last couple of decades where a Cal Cab beat out top wines from top wineries (including the big French houses), and the stir that caused in the wine industry. My guess is that the stock grape vines used here may have come from France, and they may grow well here due to some similarities in climate.

    My whole point, after all the rambling, is that I wonder if Grasse really has a one of a kind climate. Could the same quality products be grown in other places if the effort was spent, and if economic benefit were there. Could California become the next great producer of perfume ingredients, and therefore put it's mark on perfume history from this point forward? Hmm, I don't know.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by cello View Post
    Jaime, your comment about Grasse and it's specific microclimate brought up a thought I have often had.
    If you were to parallel perfume and wine, you would find a similar theme as you have discussed here. Wine being made all over the world, but with a couple of historical hotbeds (France of course being one of them). Then look at the more modern history, particularly the emergence of US wines (California), and the subtle changes that occured with that. I remember a big wine tasting event within the last couple of decades where a Cal Cab beat out top wines from top wineries (including the big French houses), and the stir that caused in the wine industry. My guess is that the stock grape vines used here may have come from France, and they may grow well here due to some similarities in climate.

    My whole point, after all the rambling, is that I wonder if Grasse really has a one of a kind climate. Could the same quality products be grown in other places if the effort was spent, and if economic benefit were there. Could California become the next great producer of perfume ingredients, and therefore put it's mark on perfume history from this point forward? Hmm, I don't know.
    I think very good points are raised here.

    Something worth noting is that due to urban development, decline in the use of naturals, and increased labor costs, very, very little of what goes into fragrances is from Grasse these days. A favorable climate and long history means that a lot of the French fragrance industry is still based there, but foreign ingredients have been making vast inroads for decades.

    As for similar climates, looking at Grasse's climate averages, it looks like a Mediterranean climate - California, Chile, South Africa and Australia could offer similar growing conditions. Given labor costs, I think it could only really be a growth industry in the third world or if market conditions changed considerably from what they are now, so I think - comparatively - lower-income countries like South Africa and Chile might be the best places for growing and harvesting a Grasse-ish product. I know similar, albeit more extreme Mediterranean climates in Turkey and Morocco produce a lot of rose otto and rose absolute used in today's perfumery.

    It's also worth noting that extraction methods with greater yields have emerged over this past century or so. Maybe at some point they'll find a way to make it great enough to make it profitable by first world standards once again...

  23. #23
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Some very good replies here, and it's quite gratifying to see this thread go on so long, and with such varied and intelligent comment!

    About the uniqueness of Grasse as a center of fragrance-oriented agriculture: I think the variables in Grasse have to do with more than just the temperature and rainfall patterns which many "Mediterranean" climates share. For one thing, the range of elevation is remarkable: in only 44.44 sq km (17.16 sq mi) of land area in the commune of Grasse, elevation varies from 80 m to 1061 m (260-3480 ft). Furthermore, the influence of a marine climate — Grasse is only 20 km (12 mi) from the sea — probably has a significant effect on growing conditions. Add to that a type of soil that is especially suited to flower cultivation, and a markedly high number of sunny days during the growing season, and you have a set of conditions not so very easy to duplicate, even among other "Mediterranean" climate areas.

    Of course, the centuries of agronomic expertise which has supported the perfume industry there is nothing to sneeze at either. Just as it took California about a hundred years from the first introduction of European vines until it began to rival France and Italy in wine-making, it might take a similarly long time to develop a new Grasse, even if the natural, human resources, and financial conditions were in place.

    It is true that Grasse's production is small compared to other sources of both natural and artificial perfume ingredients. Nevertheless, even a relatively small amount of high-quality natural absolute or concrete can turn a combination of cheaper or synthetic materials into a believable accord in a much closer impression of the imitation of nature. Small in quantity, but not at all insignificant in their impact on the best perfumes, these ingredients could still make Grasse an important perfume center for the high-end industry.
    Last edited by JaimeB; 19th April 2010 at 07:58 AM.
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  24. #24
    NillaGoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    This is indeed an interesting discussion.

    In addition to France's historical and current dominance of the fragrance industry, it seems to me that there's quite a bit of faux-Frenchness in the perfume world as well. For example, as near as I can tell, Miller Harris is an English company and Lyn Harris is an English woman; yet most Miller Harris fragrances have Francophone names. It's true that Harris studied in France, but is there any other actual connection to France other than marketing?

  25. #25

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Very little is grown in Grasse these days, though lots of materials are still processed there. But it think it's not as much a matter of agriculture as of culture: five centuries of fine fragrance-making is a very long time!

  26. #26

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    While I'm not very knowledgeable about perfume industry, I'll chime in. Take it as an outsider's view if you will.

    In today's world where material and information is so easily accessible, I don't think raw ingredients / super cool local garden is that important. For that aspect only, Grasse or any other place can not be the capital of any multi-level produce. Aouds for example, are not Indian or Cambodian. They are arabian. It has to do with alembics, access to silk road, and marketing. Technology, logistics and... marketing.

    In reply to the original question, I think western perfume has its roots firmly in France, and people are used to this. Even though VW can make a car like Phaeton, even though Hyundai tries so hard to please, it won't be easy to make people buy them for what they are supposed to imply. It's easier for VW to focus on Audi, buy Bugatti and so forth. It's easier for a non-french producer/brand to put a french image to their line. Even in today's high information world.

    It would take a paradigm shift -in the most shallow sense- to change this I think.

  27. #27
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    I'd be curious if any working perfumers can answer this - how do Grasse-based materials stack up against those from elsewhere in the world? Is Grasse jasmine better than Egyptian and Indian, etc?

    I know Rose de Mai is actually a different variety than grown elsewhere; not sure if Grasse has some sort of "copyright" or if it's just more profitable to grow damask roses...

    The problem working from the "fan" end rather than the "maker" end is that most of what goes into fragrances is an educated guess on our part, unless we've been involved in the industry. It would be great if some Grasse-y people could drop by this thread!

  28. #28

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by Galamb_Borong View Post
    I'd be curious if any working perfumers can answer this - how do Grasse-based materials stack up against those from elsewhere in the world? Is Grasse jasmine better than Egyptian and Indian, etc?

    I know Rose de Mai is actually a different variety than grown elsewhere; not sure if Grasse has some sort of "copyright" or if it's just more profitable to grow damask roses...

    The problem working from the "fan" end rather than the "maker" end is that most of what goes into fragrances is an educated guess on our part, unless we've been involved in the industry. It would be great if some Grasse-y people could drop by this thread!
    Actually, for jasmine and rose, it's easy: the only two houses who can afford the ones grown in Grasse are Chanel and Patou, for N°5 and Joy in the extrait. That's it.
    The jasmin de Grasse does have a different olfactory quality to others: just pop into the Jean Patou flagship store on the rue de Castiglione in Paris and you'll be able to smell it in comparison with Indian jasmine and jasmine sambac, all of which are on the counter.

    Again, it's not so much what's grown in Grasse nowadays as the experience, expertise and history. The actual perfumers' labs are almost all in Paris, and materials come from all over the world...

  29. #29
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    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by carmencanada View Post
    Actually, for jasmine and rose, it's easy: the only two houses who can afford the ones grown in Grasse are Chanel and Patou, for N°5 and Joy in the extrait. That's it.
    The jasmin de Grasse does have a different olfactory quality to others: just pop into the Jean Patou flagship store on the rue de Castiglione in Paris and you'll be able to smell it in comparison with Indian jasmine and jasmine sambac, all of which are on the counter.

    Again, it's not so much what's grown in Grasse nowadays as the experience, expertise and history. The actual perfumers' labs are almost all in Paris, and materials come from all over the world...
    So, then, the materials from Grasse, at least some of them, do have unique qualities that some perfumers still want to exploit. I have read (although I don't know how long ago this was written) that Grasse lavender was also sought out by certain houses. And I thought I read about cassie (Acacia Farnesiana) from Grasse being prized above many others.

    Of course, as natural materials become more and more restricted with IFRA and EC regulation, the profitability of small-scale extraction becomes more and more dependent on very high prices to sustain the operation. That much stands to reason...
    Last edited by JaimeB; 19th April 2010 at 07:55 AM.
    Yr good bud,

    JaimeB

    "Why spend life seeking that which does not satisfy? Why remain a slave, when freedom waits? Let your life shine; illumine the world with your truth!"

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    Fiat justitia ruat cælum.

    Let justice be done, even if the sky should fall.

    Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus

    Qui nihil potest sperare, desperet nihil.
    Let him who can hope for nothing despair of nothing.

    Male irato ferrum committitur.
    It is an evil thing to arm an angry man.
    —Seneca

  30. #30

    Default Re: How much is perfume a French artifact?

    Quote Originally Posted by NillaGoon View Post
    This is indeed an interesting discussion.

    In addition to France's historical and current dominance of the fragrance industry, it seems to me that there's quite a bit of faux-Frenchness in the perfume world as well. For example, as near as I can tell, Miller Harris is an English company and Lyn Harris is an English woman; yet most Miller Harris fragrances have Francophone names. It's true that Harris studied in France, but is there any other actual connection to France other than marketing?
    Good observation. Think of L'Eau Ambree by Prada. French name, Italian company...and I think the juice is made in Spain. (The Infusion d'Iris is made in Spain.)
    "No elegance is possible without it...perfume is a part of you." Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
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