La vie en rose, Chanel style: There’s a reason why Grasse in Provence is revered by perfumers – for more than a century its diverse heady scented blooms have powered the world’s finest fragrances, says Alice Robertson
- Grasse, in the hills north of Cannes, is renowned as perfume capital of the world
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In a few weeks, in the hills north of Cannes, between the shores of the French Riviera and the mountains of Provence, the roses will be in bloom, as you see here.
Each morning in May they will be harvested for exclusive use in Chanel’s celebrated No 5 scent.
But there’s more; jasmine, tuberose, mimosa, orange blossom and geranium all flourish, too.
Where are we? Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.
The town used to be known for leather tanning, but the work produced such an unpleasant smell that the tanners began to scent their wares with local flowers.
In a few weeks, in the hills north of Cannes, between the shores of the French Riviera and the mountains of Provence, the roses will be in bloom, as you see here
And the fields around Grasse – sheltered from the wind, with nutrient-rich soil and an ideal climate – were the perfect environment for those blooms to grow.
Their quality speaks for itself.
In 1921, when Coco Chanel asked Grasse perfumer Ernest Beaux to create a fragrance, he chose jasmine from those fields for what was to become Chanel No 5.
In the mid 1980s Chanel agreed a partnership with the largest flower producer in Grasse, reserving 20 hectares from the Mul family, and in 2021 expanded with ten more hectares of its own.
It’s not just Chanel; some of the biggest hitters in the premium fragrance market, including Dior and Lancôme, have either exclusive partnerships with local farms or their own fields.
With no chemical fertilisers used, and fallow years between harvests, Grasse’s contribution to the fragrance world is set to remain an enduring legacy.
FROM BLOOM TO BOTTLE
50,000 = rosebushes grown for Chanel
400 = flowerheads to make 1kg of roses
400kg = roses for 600g of rose absolute
20 = roses in 30ml of Chanel No 5
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