Have you ever wondered how perfume is created? How they actually make it? Or even how they decide on a formula for the scents that we wear every day?
To be perfectly honest, I never really gave it much thought.
When I think about Chanel as a brand, my mind instantly starts throwing out words like luxury, elite, expensive, quality….you get my drift. I’m sure that you are the same. You’ll know by now that last week I was lucky enough (still can’t quite believe it happened) to be invited to the Chanel flower fields in Grasse to see how they create their stunning fragrances. Most notably, the beautiful, fresh & floral scent of Gabrielle Chanel. I hadn’t been to the South of France in years, not since I was about 8 years old. I was very ready to experience it at an age when I could appreciate it for all it had to offer.
From start to finish my experience with Chanel was nothing short of what you would expect. I’d like to think that I can truly appreciate luxury, but this was just a step above.
There’s something so special about going back to the roots of a brand, meeting the creators, the influences & the people who are making it all happen behind the scenes. Seeing the attention to detail across the board was incredible. I never thought I could care so much about this, but now I genuinely do!
Chanel perfumes are created using the flowers that are grown on the Mul family farm in Grasse. Chanel began their partnership with the Mul family in 1987. We met Farmer Joseph Mul who talked us through absolutely everything we could have ever wondered about perfume. You could tell his passion and his love for his flowers straight off the bat, and he was just the sweetest man in general, despite the language barrier! He talked us through the Tuberose and Jasmine fields, and had some of the very best flower gatherers show us exactly how to pick them.
It was amazing to see, smell and be present for. By the way, did you know that Chanel’s flowers are all organic? Of course they are. Before sustainability was something that anyone thought about, the Mul family were a step ahead in their refrain from using pesticides and anything that might compromise the natural scent and structure of their flowers. They literally treat their flowers like their children.
“A perfume is a bouquet assembling flowers and essences together”
After the flower fields, we met with Olivier Polge – Chanel’s “nose”. A nose is another term for a perfumer. Perfumers spend an insane amount of years perfecting their knowledge on hundreds and probably thousands of different scents, so I was so intrigued to meet Olivier.
Hearing his insights into the whole process was so interesting. He talked about how there is no sudden inspiration for a fragrance. It is always a gradual process. When a new fragrance does come about, they trial new elements to introduce into it, but there is always a link back to Chanel. They rigidly follow the brand principles but constantly try to be innovative and modern. The Gabrielle Chanel fragrance took seven years to perfect, SEVEN YEARS! Side note: if you haven’t had a chance to smell this fragrance then add it to your to-do list. It’s so light, subtle and just beautiful.
“A perfume is a bouquet assembling flowers and essences together”, is one of the quotes that stuck with me from that Q&A with Olivier. What a gorgeous idea to associate with perfume. I’m always going to remember that whenever I smell a Chanel fragrance, or any fragrance from now on.
The whole experience was fascinating to me for another reason. As Chanel is first and foremost a fashion house, I was curious as to how perfume tied in, how each of the fragrances came to be, and where they stood in the overall formation of Chanel. Olivier told us that while Chanel is fashion first, the perfume creates the identity. This was a really nice way to look at the overall structure of the brand. I suppose I was really curious about this aspect of it all as I have such a keen in interest in marketing and branding, so this was something I had though about previously. We learned that the No5 fragrance has truly defined grammar and aesthetic of all Chanel perfumes, and this really made sense to me from an overall brand perspective too. The link between No5 and Gabrielle is the floral notes in each perfume.
After meeting and chatting with Olivier, we were brought over to the perfume factory. We witnessed the flowers gatherers weighing the flowers that they had picked that morning, it was a really happy atmosphere. There was such an excitement as everyone watched to see how much they had picked that morning. They work so hard and take such pride in their job. From there we got into the technical elements, and saw first hand how the petals are transformed into the liquid that we spray onto our bodies each day. It truly was so incredible to see.
I wanted to share some of the key facts that we learned about through the whole experience. I don’t know why, but these were probably some of the most captivating pieces for me. It’s crazy to think of the vast quantities of flowers that go into just one bottle of perfume. For me, it brought it all full circle and really helped me to appreciate the luxury of the brand itself.
- 1kg of roses represents 350 flowers
- 1kg of jasmine represents 8,000 flowers
- Each gatherer picks 5kg of roses per hour
- Each gatherer picks 350g of jasmine per hour
- 400kg of rose flowers are needed to produce 1kg of concrete*
- 350kg of jasmine flowers are needed to produce 1kg of concrete
- 1kg of rose concrete only yields 600g of rose absolute
- 1kg of jasmine concrete only yields 550g of jasmine absolute
- The Mul family’s jasmine represents no less than 90% of the jasmine grown in the region
- 100% of this jasmine production is reserved for the N°5 Extract
- A 30ml bottle of the N°5 Extract contains 1.000 jasmine flowers and 12 May rose flowers, all grown in Grasse
*concrete is essentially the solid form of the petals after they have been condensed down to create the perfume.
Ok, so now you know all about how the fragrance comes to be. In a later post, I’m going to talk you through each of the products in the Gabrielle Chanel range. Make sure you come back and check it out because they are so beautifully luxurious, it would be worth looking into them for yourself or for a gift for someone special.
Finally, I need to say a massive thank you to Chanel for allowing me to experience this special place. I will never ever forget it.
Thank you for reading,