rouge a levreIf we think of the art of perfumes, no country ranks more highly than France. This fact proves that France is leader, with 30% of the world market. Many of the greatest names in the perfume industry are known as Chanel, Christian Dior or Estée Lauder are French. In terms of international perfume sales, France is famous for its the greatest luxury-goods companies in the world, and French perfumes and cosmetics are among its most important brands.

However it was not like this always.


Brief history of Perfume

The history of perfume appeared thousand years ago. The word “perfume” comes from the Latin per fume “through smoke”. The earliest use of perfume was by Egyptian and dates to around 1000 BC. They used perfumes in order to burn aromatic herbs or gums from the trees which were used in religious services. The Egyptians, were the first to incorporate perfume into their culture followed by the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Israelites, Carthaginians, Arabs, Greeks, and Romans.

Perfume had huge success during the seventeenth century. The history of perfume in France has started in Grass where the leather makers invented perfumed gloves which became popular in France. In the past time the leather made in Grasse got a reputation for high quality. However the leather smells, and it was something that does not appeal to the nobility who wears gloves in this matter. By this reason in 1656 a tanner of Grasse, Galimard who had the idea to create scented leather gloves. He offers a pair to Catherine de’ Medici, wife of King Henri II, who were seduced by the gift. She credited with having introduced a fashion for perfumes into France. Originally, before the age of running water, perfume and the sweet scent of flowers were principally used to hide the odors’ of unwashed bodies. Henceforth, the product spreads in the high society and made the worldwide reputation of Grasse.

The use of perfume in France grew steadily. The court of Louis XV was even named “the perfumed court” because he liked to use scents which were applied daily not only to the skin but also to clothing, fans and furniture. The 18 century saw a revolutionary advance in perfumery with the invention of eau de Cologne (“Water of Cologne”). This blend of rosemary, neroli, bergamot and lemon was used in a many various ways: diluted in bath water, mixed with wine, eaten on a sugar lump, as a mouthwash directly and so on. In eighteenth-century perfume was kept as sponges soaked in scented vinaigres de toilette were kept in gilded metal vinaigrettes. Just during the rule of beautiful Louis XIV there was created liquid perfume instyle pear-shaped bottles. Glass became increasingly popular, particularly in France with the opening of the Baccarat factory in 1765. As chemical technology began to advance in the 19th century, French perfumes began to grow gradually more complex, as perfume makers developed more complex scents. Synthetic perfume products were used in place of certain hard to find or expensive ingredients.

The French Revolution had in no way diminished the taste for perfume, there was even a fragrance called “Parfum a la Guillotine”. During the Directoire (1795 – 1799) people dared to show preference for luxury articles, and also for perfume. During the empire of Napoleon the use of perfume was finally encouraged again. Napoleon and his court were the heaviest users of the perfume. The emperor liked to use eau de Cologne, manufactured by Jean Marie Farina. The perfumer developed the special bottle for Napoleon, which he could wear in his boot. Usually 60 bottles were used by Napoleon per month, because, as he said, the smell of the water stimulated his brains, and so did the perfume stimulate his physical relations, of which correspondence witnesses.

A profusion of vanity boxes containing perfumes appeared in the 19th century. By the reason of the trade for jasmine, rose and orange-growing trades, the town of Grasse in south of France became developed itself as the largest center for production of raw materials. Paris became the commercial counterpart to Grasse and the world center of perfume. Perfume houses such as Houbigant (Quelques Fleurs, still very popular today), Lubin, Roger & Gallet, and Guerlain were all based in Paris.

At the end of the 19th century nearly 2 000 people were working in the French perfume industry, and with 1/3 of the export profit was made. Step by step a new perception of perfume existed. Besides the scent, other elements became important, such as the bottles, the wrapping and the advertising. Perfumers started to cooperate with famous glass manufacturers such as Lalique and Baccarat, designers and the world of advertising.

chanel-no-5In the year 1911 Paul Poiret a French clothier became famous for becoming the first design house to create a perfume to compliment his fashion line.Gabrielle “ Coco” Channel was the next fashion designer that became famous for creating her own line of perfumes to compliment her clothing line. In 1921 couturier Gabrielle Chanel launches her own brand of perfume, created with Russian perfumer to the Tsars, Ernest Beaux, she calls it Chanel No.5 because it was the fifth in a line of fragrances Ernest Beaux presented her. It has a floral top note of ylang-ylang and neroli, with a heart of blends of jasmine and rose all above a woody base of sandalwood and vetiver. Chanel believed women should wear perfume wherever they hoped to be kissed. Today Chanel No.5 sells a bottle every 30 seconds!

The 1930’s saw the arrival of the leather family of perfume fragrance, and florals also became quite popular with the emergence of Worth’s Je Reviens (1932), Caron’s Fleurs de Rocaille (1933) and Jean Patou’s Joy perfume (1935). With French perfumery at it’s peak in the 1950’s, other designers such as Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Nina Ricci, Pierre Balmain and so on, started creating their own scents.

More than 100 years France has been the centre of production, skill, creativity related to perfume expertise and production. This does not mean that you cannot find extraordinary perfumes in other countries: you can. But it is a fact that many of the world’s most skilled noses and most famous brands are French. If they are not, then they usually will have studied in Grasse, which is situated in Provence, south of France.

Nowadays, there are more than 20 Perfume companies in Grasse and Nice. Chanel, Obsession and Giorgio are all created here as well as many other famous perfumes. In Provence farms are dedicated to producing 20 tons of Jasmine and 50 tons of May Rose each year just for Chanel.

Perfume is a harmony of scents

The art of making perfume is compared to playing music, its very important to create harmony with combining different notes. Each of the notes creates is its own scent, yet blends with the others to create a smell, an emotion. Perfumes are composed of three notes:

Top Notes: Top notes are evident as soon as the liquid touches your skin. These are usually lighter than the other ingredients, and function by shaping the primary fragrance burst.

Heart or Middle Notes: Shortly after application, the top notes give way to the heart notes. These are usually floral, as most fruity notes are too light for this layer. These middle notes make up the core perfume as it sits on the skin, and it is these layers that define the ultimate dry down, when the perfume settles on to the skin.

Base notes: The base notes determine how long a fragrance will last, and provide a background on which the heart notes can be appreciated. Interestingly, most fragrances have similar base notes, often including sandalwood, amber, musk and vanilla. This is because there are only a certain number of notes that will last long enough on the skin to form the base of a fragrance.

Composition of perfume

Perfume is made from about 78% to 95% of specially denatured ethyl alcohol and a remainder of essential oils.

Perfume is the costliest form of fragrance with 22% of essential oils.

Eau de Parfum (EDP), comes next with between 15 and 22% essential oils.

That’s followed by Eau de Toilette (EDT) with 8 to 15% oils.

The weaker Eau de Cologne has just 4% essential oils.

For those who crave super subtlety Eau Fraiche with 1 to 3% essential oils, is the lightest dilution of fragrance.

Many new perfumes are promoted as EDPs and an EDT is not always produced as there has been a vogue for Eau de Parfum as individuals want a more lasting signature.

There are major fragrance categories – Floral, Oriental, Floriental, Chypre, Green Marine and Fruit. Typical plant products include anise, bay leaf, bergamot, cardamom, cedar wood, eucalyptus, frankincense, gardenia, geranium, iris, jasmine, lavender, lemon, lilac, lily, lily of the valley, magnolia, moss, neroli, orange, orris, patchouli, pine, raspberry, rose, sage, sandalwood, tuberose, vanilla, violet and ylang-ylang.

Typical animal products used in perfume include musk from the male musk deer, ambergris from sperm whales, castoreum a secretion of the beaver and civet from the civet cat. All are used as fixatives and add an indefinable mystery to the smell at the same time.

Famous brands

Chanel is a Parisian fashion house founded by the late couturier Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, recognized as one of the most established in haute couture, specializing in luxury goods (haute couture, ready-to-wear, handbags, perfumery, and cosmetics among others).

Parfums Chanel was founded in 1924 by Pierre Wertheimer to produce and sell perfumes and beauty products. Chanel offers many different perfumes including No5, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Chance, Cristalle, Allure, No19, Chance Eau Fraiche, and Allure Sensuelle.

Colognes: Allure pour Homme, Antaeus, Bleu de Chanel, Égoïste, Pour Monsieur.

Cacharel is a French brand of ready-to-wear clothing, perfume and accessories. It was created in 1962 by Jean Bousquet, in Nîmes, who founded the company of the same name in 1964. Cacharel is named after the local name of the garganey (Anas querquedula, a small duck) in the Camargue (cacharel, standard French sarcelle d’été).

In 1975 Bousquet commissioned L’Oréal to create a perfume for his brand; the successful Anaïs Anaïs was launched in 1978. It was followed by Cacharel pour l’Homme, Loulou, Eden, Loulou Blue, Eau d’Eden, Noa, Nemo, Gloria, Amor Amor,Amor Amor Eau Fraiche, Noa Fleur, Noa Perle, Promesse and Amor pour homme. The latest perfume to be launched is “Liberté”, an orange chypre with fresh citrous top notes inspired by a traditional French cake called ‘chamonix’ and woody heart and base notes with patchouli.

Givenchy is a luxury French brand of clothing, accessories, perfumes and cosmetics .The house of Givenchy was founded in 1952 by designer Hubert de Givenchy and is a member of Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Pret-a-Porte.Givenchy perfumes include Ysatis, launched in 1984 then Amarige in 1991, and Organza, in 1996.

In 2003 the company launched Very Irrésistible Givenchy, one of Givenchy’s first commissioned scents in the fruity-floral olfactory category.

Beginning with Monsieur de Givenchy in 1959, the men’s perfumes have aimed to express a gentleman’s attitude, for example Givenchy Gentleman in 1975, Xeryus in the ’80s and Pi in the ’90s. More recently, Givenchy pour Homme, Givenchy Blue Label and Very Irrésistible Givenchy for Men have been launched.

Hermès is a French company founded by Thierry Hermès as a saddelry company in 1837, fashion house and fragrance manufacturer they soon added boots, jewelry, home decor items, and silk scarves to its line of luxury goods. In 1920, Thierry Hermès’ grandson Emile added luggage. After opening its first store in Paris in the 1930’s, the company’s scarf collection soon became the dominant segment in the collection. Hermès started its perfume line in 1951. Since then, the company has created several scents for both men and women. Women’s include the recently created Kelly Calèche; others have been Eau des Merveilles, 24, Faubourg, Calèche, Rouge Hermès, Hiris, Parfum d’Hermès and Amazone. Men’s perfumes include Terre D’Hermès, Rocabar, équipage, and Bel Ami. perfumes for both men and women include Eau d’Orange Verte, Un Jardin sur le Nil, Un Jardin en Méditerranée, Eau D’Hermès.

Lancôme Paris is a luxury beauty brand. Originally a fragrance house, Lancôme was founded by a French chap named Armand Petitjean back in 1935. Owned by L’Oréal since 1964, Lancôme is part of the Luxury Products division, which offers skin care, perfumes, and makeup at higher-end price points.

Lancome perfumes include Tresor, Tresor In Love, Magnifique, Poeme, Magie Noire, O De Lancome, O Oui and Miracle but perhaps the most popular in their current lineup is the Lancome Hypnose collection.

Lancôme‘s La Vie Est Belle is one of the major launches of pre-fall 2012, complete with big-name perfumers, Julia Roberts as its “ambassadress”. Its composition includes notes of Florentine Iris pallida, iris aldehyde, jasmine sambac, Tunisian orange blossom, Indonesian patchouli, and a “gourmand accord” of vanilla, tonka bean, praline, black currant and pear. According to Lancôme, La Vie Est Belle represents “a new era” and “the choice to live one’s life and fill it with beauty.”

Christian Dior was a designer in France and is famous for creation of the “New Look”—voluminous dresses that emphasized a woman’s curvy feminine shape.Dior’s fashion background included working for or alongside other well-known fashion and perfume legends of the mid-twentieth century. Dior introduced the “New Look” in 1947. It represented a radical departure from the simple, fabric-conserving styles of World War II and was hugely influential in women’s fashion, as well as helping to make Paris as a fashion capital of the world. The house of Dior issued perfumes to match its new fashions, launching company Parfums Dior and its first fragrance in 1947: Miss Dior, devoted to the designer’s sister Catherine. The Dior brand name is known worldwide for its haute couture collections, luxurious ready-to-wear fashions, cosmetics and fragrances.

The most popular Dior perfumes are J’adore, Addict, Poison, Homme and more.

Guerlain is among the oldest perfume houses in the world. It has a large and loyal customer following, and is held in high esteem in the perfume industry. Perfumes by Guerlain are often said to be characterized by an accord known as “Guerlinade”. A perfume by the same name was launched by Guerlain in 1921. Since its foundation in 1828, Guerlain has created over 300 fragrances. Its most notable fragrances are as follows:

Famous perfumes include Eau de Cologne Impériale 1853, Jicky 1889, Eau de Cologne du coq 1894, Mouchoir de Monsieur 1904, Voilette de Madame 1904, Parfum des Champs-Élysées 1904, Après l’ondée 1906, Kadine 1911, L’Heure bleue 1912, Mitsouko 1919, Eau de Fleurs de Cédrat 1920, Shalimar 1925, Liù 1929, Sous le Vent 1933, Vol de Nuit 1933, Vega 1936, Ode 1955, Vetiver 1956, Chant d’Arômes 1962,Habit Rouge 1965,Chamade 1969,Eau de Guerlain 1974,Parure 1975,Nahéma 1979,Jardins de Bagatelle 1983,Derby 1985,Samsara1989, Héritage 1992,Champs-Élysées1996,Coriolan / L’Âme d’un Héros 1998,Cherry Blossom 1999,Aqua Allegoria Pamplelune1999,Aqua Allegoria Herba Fresca 1999,Philtre d’Amour 1999,Mahora / Mayotte 2000,L’Instant de Guerlain 2003,Insolence 2006,Guerlain Homme 2008,Idylle 2010,Shalimar Parfum Initial 2011, La Petite Robe Noir 2012.

Caron is a legendary French perfume house founded by Ernest Daltroff in 1904. Its very easy recognized for its unique blends of pure essences encased in the most luxurious flacons. Parfums Caron offers 34 perfumes (including 13 exclusive Boutique fragrances) for men and women. The house of Caron is unique in that it continues to offer the original creations of Ernest Daltroff, many of which are still produced in the same or similar packaging today. It is the only perfume house that is perfume led, not fashion led. Narcisse Noir (1911) was the first scent from the house to gain notoriety. This iconic fragrance was later immortalized in the film “Sunset Boulevard,” cradled in the hands of screen siren Gloria. Modern creations of Caron consist of : Parfum Sacre (1990), Fleur de Rocaille (1993), Aimez Moi (1996), L’Anarchiste (2000), Lady Caron (2000), Tubereuse (2003), Miss Rocaille (2004), Impact Pour Homme (2005), Eau de Reglisse (2006), Montaigne (2007, reissue of a 1986 scent), Les plus Belles Lavandes de Caron (2008), Parfum Sacre Intense (2010), Secret Oud & Oud (2010), Yuzu Man (2011), Délire de Roses (2011), L’Accord Code 119 (2012).

Guy Laroche was a French fashion designer (16 July 1921 in La Rochelle, France – 17 February 1989 in Paris) and founder of the eponymous company. Laroche began his career making hats and from 1949, Laroche worked for Jean Desses and eventually became his assistant. After visiting the USA he founded a high-fashion atelier in 1956, he founded at 37 avenue Franklin Roosevelt, Paris. In his first collection that was favorably received, he reintroduced vibrant colors such as pink, orange, coral, topaz and turquoise.In 1966, Laroche introduced Fidji, his first women’s fragrance. Fidji has become incredibly popular, because it is the perfume from the sunny islands, far and attractive. The fresh wave of galbanum, hyacinth, lemon, bergamot and meet the floral heart across rose, jasmine, violet, ylang-ylang. Spicy floral nuance of carnation gives its harshness and makes the character of the composition stronger. The base is combined of: musk, patchouli, sandal, amber, vetiver, moss.

He created other fragrances such as: 1972 Drakkar,1977 J’ai Osé,1982 Drakkar Noir, 1986 Clandestine,1993 Horizon,1999 Drakkar Dynamik.

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