Perfume was first created in Ancient Egypt, in the form of resin fumes sent to the gods. But it was later reborn in the flower fields of Grasse, the modern cradle of perfumery.
The fame of Grasse develops during the Renaissance, thanks to the tanneries. Although leather gloves were very fashionable at the Court of Versailles, their powerful smell was unpleasant. The tanners then had the idea of immersing these skins in baths of rose, lavender or verbena essence, from local cultures, to impregnate them with musk, civet or balms.
In the wake of Catherine de Medici who had introduced herbaceous waters in France, perfumed leather gloves became very popular at court. This fashion led King Louis XIV to officially name the tanners “Master Perfumers and Glovemakers” in the 17th century. This was the beginning of a prosperous era for these trades as well as for the city of Grasse, now famous for its rose, jasmine and tuberose crops.
If strong and animal smells were in fashion under Louis XIV who no longer practiced bathing, the following century marked a return to hygiene. It was time for fresher, more flowery and refined scents. Although the 18th century was affected by the economic crisis of the leather industry, the activity of the master perfumers and glove makers of Grasse flourished with perfumery.
The cultivation of plants in Grasse remained flourishing until the 1930s, but then gradually declined. Numerous plots of land intended for perfume production were sold in favor of the more lucrative real estate industry.
Partnerships with local producers by Chanel in the 1980s, and more recently by Dior, revived the industry. Grasse’s perfume-related know-how was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2018. In recent years, the city has again attracted luxury brands in search of authenticity.